The Commandant of the Marine Corps, General David H. Berger, told the September Maritime Security Dialogue that the Marine Corps will operate F-35B Joint Strike Fighters from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) ship Izumo in November. In 2020, Marine F-35Bs first deployed on board the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The Izumo is officially classified as a DDH—a “multipurpose operation destroyer”—a classification with no analog in the U.S. Navy, although it closely resembles an amphibious assault ship. Japan has sometimes formally objected to the usual description of the ship as a “helicopter carrier,” because aircraft carriers are usually thought of as offensive in nature, and Japan’s post–World War II constitution forbids it from engaging in offensive military operations. But in 2020, Japan began modifying the ship to permit operation of the very-short-takeoff/vertical-landing variant of the F-35, which would make the ship in effect a light aircraft carrier comparable to the USS America (LHA-6) or South Korea’s forthcoming LPX-II light carrier.
General Berger says the operations will not amount to a deployment like the 2020–21 deployment of the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 Wake Island Defenders on board the Queen Elizabeth. In that case, the Marines operated as a fully integrated part of the British ship’s air wing, traveling with the ship and the Royal Air Force’s 617 Squadron Dambusters’ F-35Bs across the Mediterranean, Middle East, and the Indo-Pacific.
Instead, the Marine Corps will join the JMSDF for operational testing to help Japanese sailors validate the modifications to the ship.
The Maritime Security Dialogue was sponsored by the U.S. Naval Institute and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.