Twenty-Six F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters are operating aboard US Navy ships in the Indo-Pacific amid heightened tensions between the US and China

Twenty-Six F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters are operating aboard US Navy ships in the Indo-Pacific amid heightened tensions between the US and China

By Dario Leone
Jan 24 2022
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This represents the largest assembly of deployed US naval F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters to date.

Taken on Jan. 22, 2022 the photos in this post feature aircraft assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2 and CVW 9 fly over a formation consisting of USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) JS Hyuga (DDH 181), USS America (LHA 6), USS Essex (LHD 2), USS Spruance (DDG 111), USS Chafee (DDG 90), USS Gridley (DDG 101), and USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) and USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) while transiting the Philippine Sea.

Operating as part of US Pacific Fleet, units assigned to Carl Vinson and Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Groups, America and Essex Amphibious Ready Groups alongside Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), are conducting training to preserve and protect a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

Currently, more than two dozen Navy and Marine F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters are operating aboard US Navy ships in the Indo-Pacific, amid heightened tensions between the US and China.

Twenty-Six F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters are operating aboard US Navy ships in the Indo-Pacific amid heightened tensions between the US and China
Aircraft assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2 and CVW 9 fly over a formation consisting of Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Hyuga-class helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga (DDH 181), America-class amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Spruance (DDG 111), USS Chafee (DDG 90), USS Gridley (DDG 101), and Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) and USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) transit the Philippine Sea, Jan. 22, 2022.

As a US Navy spokesman told to USNI News, ten Navy F-35Cs belonging to the “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron 147 (VFA-147) based at Naval Air Station Lemoore are embarked aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), while 10 Marine Corps F-35Cs from the “Black Knights” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 (VMFA-314) from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., are aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72).

Moreover, a Marine Corps spokesman confirmed to USNI News that meanwhile, six Marine F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing variant aircraft are operating aboard USS America (LHA-6). This makes the total number of naval F-35s operating in the region 26.

This represents the largest assembly of deployed US naval F-35s to date. In 2021, the US and UK deployed 18 F-35Bs aboard Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R06).

Twenty-Six F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters are operating aboard US Navy ships in the Indo-Pacific amid heightened tensions between the US and China
An F-35C Lightning II, assigned to the “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, launches off the flight deck of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) while an F-35C Lightning II, assigned to the “Black Knights” of Marine Strike Fighter Squadron (VMFA) 314, launches off the flight deck of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), Jan. 22, 2022.

The massing of fifth-generation American fighter jets in the region comes as the Navy begins deploying its new blended carrier air wing. The Carl Vinson CSG with Carrier Air Wing 2 embarked features the first F-35Cs and CMV-22B Ospreys to deploy together aboard an aircraft carrier.

As we have previously reported, VMFA-314’s deployment on Abraham Lincoln is the first Marine F-35C squadron to deploy on a carrier.

Asked recently how he feels about Marine F-35s on carriers, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro said “I’m all for it.”

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“We are doing it now. And not only are we doing it now, but we’ve deployed the F-35Bs on the Izumo, which is the Japanese converted destroyer version of their aircraft carrier. And did it very very successfully. And so, this is the way of the future,” Del Toro told the Navy Memorial SITREP speaker series on Jan. 18, 2022 referring to the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s JS Izumo (DDH183).

Lawmakers on the House Armed Services seapower and project forces subcommittee recently cited the potential for China to invade Taiwan within the next five years in making the case for a larger naval fleet with consistent presence in the Indo-Pacific.

Photo credit: MC2 Haydn N. Smith, MCSN Larissa T. Dougherty, MCSN Elizabeth Grubbs, MCSA Leon Vonguyen

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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