US displays new fighter jets ahead of S.Korea drills

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Tokyo, March 27 (IANS) Roaring off the deck of a 40,000-tonne amphibious assault ship, new F-35B fighter jets piloted by American Marines soared over the Pacific Ocean near the Japanese island of Okinawa as a show of force by the US military, the media reported.

Monday’s display comes ahead of its annual war games — Foal Eagle and Key Resolve — with South Korea starting April 1, reports CNN.

The fifth-generation F-35B Lightning II jets — warplanes equipped with stealth technology to avoid radar and detection — have just started their first maritime deployment on board the USS Wasp, a warship sometimes dubbed a baby aircraft carrier that will take part in the joint exercises.

The F-35B is one of three variants of the F-35 aircraft and the only one with the ability to land vertically like a helicopter. It can also takeoff in a much shorter space than other fighter jets, which is why it can operate off the Wasp, a warship only half the size of the 100,000-tonne aircraft carriers in the US fleet.

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“It really is an historic deployment, bringing this capability of the F-35 and the USS Wasp together to create the most significant increase in our capability the Navy and Marine Corps team has seen in our lifetime,” Rear Adm. Brad Cooper told CNN onboard the Wasp.

With a projected price tag of a trillion dollars over the lifetime of the program, the F-35 fleet is the most expensive weapons system in history.

The F-35 stealth fighters have been sold around the world to countries including the UK, Japan, and Israel.

South Korea has also ordered 40 F-35A stealth fighters, a move which has angered North Korea according to an article on state news agency KCNA published Sunday, which called it a “perilous move against the rare atmosphere of reconciliation”.

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