Home » Aviation » International F-35 Symposium Gathers Operators To Plan Future Collaboration in Pacific

International F-35 Symposium Gathers Operators To Plan Future Collaboration in Pacific

An F-35 Lightning II stationed at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., departs the runway during the Australian International Airshow and Aerospace & Defence Exposition (AVALON) on March 4, 2017, in Geelong, Australia. US Air Force photo.

This post has been updated to include information from U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific.

Current and future F-35 Joint Strike Fighter operators met this week to discuss plans for leveraging the fifth-generation airplane in the Pacific.

About 90 representatives from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, as well as from the Australian, Japanese and South Korean militaries, attended Pacific Air Forces’ (PACAF) inaugural F-35 Symposium to discuss “enhancing F-35 operations in the Pacific, sharing fifth-generation lessons learned and building a foundation for future F-35 bilateral and multilateral engagements” more broadly, and specifically “bed down, integration, logistics, sustainment and combat operations,” according to a PACAF news release.

“This symposium marks an exciting new chapter in Pacific combat capability,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Craig Wills, PACAF’s strategy, plans and programs director, said in the news release.
“Together, our joint and international partners have introduced the most capable combat aircraft in the world to the Pacific.”

The Marine Corps permanently moved its first squadron of F-35Bs to Japan at the beginning of the year, and many more developments for JSF operations in the Pacific are set to take place soon. By the end of next year, the Republic of Korea will have received its first F-35; Japan will have its first domestically built F-35A, after the Japan Air Self Defense Force completed a first solo F-35 sortie by a Japanese pilot, crew chief and team of maintainers last month out of Luke Air Force Base in Arizona; and Australia will have its own F-35s stationed in the country, after two Australian F-35As flew from Luke AFB and debuted at the Avalon Airshow outside of Melbourne earlier this month.

An F-35B Lightning II with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121, lands at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Jan. 18, 2017. VMFA-121 conducted a permanent change of station to MCAS Iwakuni, from MCAS Yuma, Ariz., and now belongs to Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. US Marine Corps photo.

In part due to these milestones, it is “a perfect time to have a meeting to discuss ways to enhance interoperability and cooperation amongst the F-35 community,” JSF program office spokesman Joe DellaVedova told USNI News.
“The F-35 will be the backbone of future joint and combined air operations, enabling critical interoperability. When pilots from different nations fly the same platform, they talk the same language. Successful joint and combined operations are assured well into the future through the F-35’s foundational interoperability.”

For the Marine Corps, which is furthest along in operating its F-35s forward, “we’re in both soak-up and transmit mode,” Lt. Col. Mark Bortnem, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific Training and Operations (G-3) Air Officer, told USNI News by email this week.

“There are different discussion groups at the symposium, with topics ranging from initial delivery of aircraft and setup of squadrons to deployments and maintenance. We’re looking for the Air Force’s perspective on how to establish information-sharing roles with key partners in the Pacific,” he said.
“At the same time, we’re looking to share information that the Marine Corps has learned as the first forward-deployed operating force. Our objective is to share what we’ve learned over the past five years since we first stood up in Yuma, Arizona, on how we got to where we are.”

Particularly being the first service to operate in the Pacific, the Marine Corps’ ability to develop the right relationships will be important, Bortnem said.

“I view the F-35 symposium as the beginning of what I anticipate will be an enduring relationship between the U.S. services involved and with foreign partners,” he wrote.
“We are beginning the conversation of how to continue to introduce this incredible weapon system, and how that ties into planning exercises and bilateral/ multilateral engagements, and fostering relationships, both joint and combined.”

Eleven countries will eventually join the U.S. in F-35 operations, including Canada, Israel and six European partners. Six of the 12 countries have already received their first jets, according to manufacturer Lockheed Martin, and all nine of the original participants’ industrial bases are involved in production.

For Bortnem, having so many important partners – let alone the sister services – operating the same airplane will create countless opportunities for collaboration that were never possible before.

“The F-35 symposium highlights an important characteristic of the F-35 itself – it’s a weapon system shared between not only U.S. military services, but also foreign militaries, in a way that no other aviation system has ever been shared. The U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps haven’t operated the same aircraft as each other before, for example, the USAF with the F-16 or A-10 and the USMC with the F-18,” he wrote.
“This time, we’re all flying different variants of the same aircraft. We are sharing information among U.S. services and with key foreign partners in a way we’ve never done before. The symposium facilitates discussion on how we’re going to set up the way we share information, of course between the U.S. Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, but also with our partners, in this case, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Australia.”

  • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

    ….. delete “Canada” from above Megan

    They’ve opted for that retro charm of running the aging Rhino for the next half century.

    • Duane

      The Canadians aren’t officially out of the F-35 program … the new government ran in part on ditching the F-35, but their own military chiefs strongly disagree, and the current regime won’t be in power forever. They may take a breather on orders, but if they want to stay relevant as a militarily capable nation and NATO member, they will have to change course. It’s only a matter of when, not if.

    • muzzleloader

      Actually, the nickname “Rhino” refers to the E, F, +G models of the Hornet to distinguish it from the legacy models which the Canadiens fly.

      • E1 Kabong

        The USN call the F/A-18E/F’s Rhinos…..

        The EA-18G’s are Growlers.

        • muzzleloader

          They are the same airframe though, and that info is crucial to arresting gear and cat crews for the sake of weight settings.

          • E1 Kabong



            They have DIFFERENT weights.

            Fighters can return with no stores, routinely.
            Growlers will have their ECM pods.

            Do your research, boy.

  • Duane

    The F-35 is all about integrated battle management in multiple domains. Integrating the F-35 with other platforms (fourth gens, drones, arsenal aircraft, ground forces, and surface warfare combatants, and aircraft/missile defenses) as well as integration between allies, as described here. The F-35 is so revolutionary in its transformational capabilities that it’s one of those things in life that for most folks, you can’t possibly imagine it until you’ve experienced it … either by flying it or integrating with it. What is obvious is that every time a new unit touches the F-35, it becomes an instant fan.

    The F-35 isn’t a mere aircraft – it’s a complete integrated multi-domain battle system.

  • Matt

    Congratulations to all who help make this plane take off and dominate in the name of the USA. The value of peace or victory makes this plane well worth the price.

  • Curtis Conway

    I hope discussions surface on the utility of the USS America (LHA-6) large amphibious platform with the F-35B Lightning IIs on board, particularly when operating in the Fighter Heavy (18+ fighter aircraft) MAGTF configuration. Further, I hope discussions surface that evaluate the potential utility of a VSTOL/STOVL AEW&C aircraft that could operate off of ANY US Navy flight deck in the fleet, in any theater or environment, and bring additional surveillance tools to the equation including fire control solutions to a greater Over The Horizon environment . . . with shooters present . . . and how that would bring greater utility in expanding the USN Distributed Lethality equation. The VSTOL/STOVL AEW&C aircraft is worth much more than the investment to turn it into a reality.

  • omegatalon

    It’s time for Western nations to begin joining the United States in making larger purchase orders of the F-35 as it was one thing to be gun-shy when the F-35 was over $120 per jet; but with a price of $85-95M per aircraft, each country who ‘claim’ to be a US ally needs to abandon the fighter jets they have and replace them with the F-35.

  • Jeff

    Has LCOL Bortnem never heard of the F-4 Phantom? His statement that, “the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps haven’t operated the same aircraft as each other before…” is demonstrably false. Currently, they both operate the C-130 and C-40. Other common types include various helicopters as well as some aggressor/adversary types. Is he uninformed or is the requirement to promote the F-35 so paramount that it means ignoring facts? Oh wait, maybe these are “alternative facts” or we “shouldn’t take it literally” when ridiculous claims are made?