Marine Corps. F-35 lands on Japanese carrier in interoperability test


In the words of an experienced U.S. Marine Corps. pilot, landing on a carrier in an F-35B Lightning II is “surprisingly easy.”

“It’s simply pushing the stick forward to go down,” Lt. Col. Robert Guyette told the Stars and Stripes newspaper of the historic landing that “felt identical” to others he had carried out in the short-takeoff, vertical-landing F-35B.

What wasn’t identical: The October 3, 2021, touchdown was the first aboard a Japanese carrier, the JS Izumo, by a fixed-wing aircraft since World War II.

(Pictured: A U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II conducts a vertical landing aboard the Japanese Ship Izumo off the coast of Japan.)

The Izumo was just the latest non-U.S. warship to host the F-35B.

The Marine Corps jets deployed to the Pacific in 2021 with the Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth as part of the United Kingdom Carrier Strike Group. For the first time in modern history during that voyage, the U.S. “cross-decked” aircraft utilizing a foreign carrier, according to the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS). On August 20, fighters from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 launched from the Queen Elizabeth and landed on the amphibious assault ship USS America.

U.S. jets also conducted sea trials aboard the Italian carrier Cavour in 2021, according to DVIDS.

On the Izumo, Sailors from the USS America amphibious assault ship helped guide Guyette and his wingman as they touched down on deck and launched their fighters once each during the one-day exercise. Pilots typically hover 40 to 70 feet above a ship before landing, Guyette told Stars and Stripes.

Guyette is the executive officer for Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 242 at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and has flown all three variants of the F-35.

“I did a lot of testing for the U.S. ships,” Guyette told Stars and Stripes of the F-35.

The focus of the Izumo test was on providing interoperability with a partner nation’s warship, such as collecting noise and deck temperature data to validate engineering work done on it for
F-35 operations, according to a November 3, 2021, DVIDS story by the F-25 Joint Program Office Public Affairs. JS Kaga, the second Izumo-class ship, is set for a similar conversion.

Japan is an F-35 Foreign Military Sales customer and has ordered 42 F-35Bs, adding to its order for 105 F-35As, according to the Joint Program Office story.

The vertical landings were the culmination of months of detailed planning, training and rehearsals between the two nations.

“As a test pilot, to do something for the first time and make it look like it’s easy … that’s pretty cool,” Guyette told Stars and Stripes.

“I don’t know that it’s at the Chuck Yeager level,” he said of the significance of the feat,

“but there was a fair amount of work that went into making this happen.”