|An Australian F-35 Lightning II|
By Air Force Staff Sgt. Kamaile Chan
Pacific Air Forces
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii, March 17, 2017 — Senior military officers from nations throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region gathered here this week for the first Pacific Air Forces-hosted F-35 Symposium to discuss the future of the joint strike fighter’s operations in the Pacific.
"The F-35 is not just a new fighter, it's a fundamentally different capability," Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander, said during his opening remarks. "From the technology to the integrated training, it brings an unprecedented combination of lethality, survivability and adaptability to the fight. The F-35 is the backbone of future joint and combined air operations."
As the Pacific's center of excellence, Pacific Air Forces will shape all aspects of employment and integration for fifth-generation aircraft in the region, enhancing bilateral relations among Pacific allies.
Subject-matter experts from Japan, Australia and South Korea -- as well as the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force -- participated in open discussions, briefings and expert panels focused on setting the stage for future F-35 operations in the Pacific.
The two-day symposium March 14 and 15 provided an opportunity for U.S. Pacific allies to meet with experts from the F-35 Joint Program Office, Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Air Force and Marine Corps to learn more about fifth-generation aviation.
Forming Baseline for Future Operations
Participating nations formed the baseline of future F-35 operations and engagements through discussion on F-35 beddown, integration, logistics, sustainment and combat operations. O'Shaughnessy noted that the symposium would not be a one-off event, but rather the first in a recurring schedule of forums that bring F-35 stakeholders together.
"We have a rare face-to-face opportunity to dive into an extremely sophisticated jet, as a joint and multinational team, to maximize the interoperability of the most lethal weapons system to grace the skies," O'Shaughnessy said. "The F-35's ability to fuse multidomain information is a game-changing capability that will give us a tactical advantage. It's because of the F-35's fusing capability that we must enhance the interoperability among all partners and allies who fly it."
The F-35 is a multirole fighter that combines advanced stealth with speed, agility and a 360-degree view of the battlespace. The symposium served as a springboard for F-35's future in the Pacific by strengthening the forces involved, leading to a better, more fully interoperable joint and coalition team, officials said.
A Clear Message
"Together with our Pacific allies and partners, we're sending a clear message to our neighbors and friends in the region," said Air Force Brig. Gen. Craig Wills, the strategy, plans and programs director for Pacific Air Forces. "We will continue to invest in the combat capability required to assure our ability to defend the security and stability in this region and to uphold the rules-based international order."
This inaugural symposium featured the largest gathering of fifth-generation warfighters in history, drawing more than 90 senior officers and F-35 experts from a variety of organizations, including U.S. Pacific Command, Air Combat Command, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Marine Corps Forces Pacific and the Air Force Integration Office.
"The scale of participation we've seen with the F-35 Symposium accentuates just how important the F-35 is to us and our allies,” Wills said. “The Lightning II is a phenomenal fighter and an incredible investment in our warfighting capability and ability to defend freedom."
U.S. F-35s have reached initial operational capability, with Marines and airmen both flying operational and combat-ready aircraft. In addition to the F-35A’s with the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, 10 F-35B’s from the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing out of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, are deployed to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, with six more scheduled to arrive later this year.
Japan started its pilot training program in late 2016, South Korea is scheduled to receive its first aircraft in 2018, and Australia has been training pilots in two Royal Australian Air Force F-35s in Arizona since late 2014.