PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, HI. --- Military senior officers from nations throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region gathered March 14 and 15, during the first-ever Pacific Air Forces-hosted F-35 Symposium, to discuss the future of F-35 operations in the Pacific.
"The F-35 is not just a new fighter, it's a fundamentally different capability," said U.S. Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, PACAF commander, 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 5th Generation Center of Excellence, PACAF will shape all aspects of employment and integration for fifth-generation aircraft in the region, enhancing bilateral relations between Pacific allies.
Subject matter experts from Japan, Australia and the Republic of Korea as well as the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. 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 delivered an occasion for the U.S.'s Pacific allies to fuse with experts with the F-35 Joint Program Office, Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps to learn more about fifth-generation aviation.
Sharing information and lessons learned was the centerpiece to the event. Participating nations formed the baseline of future F-35 operations and engagements through discussion on F-35 bed down, integration, logistics, sustainment and combat operations. O'Shaughnessy noted that the symposium would not be a one-off event, but the first in a reoccurring 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," added O'Shaughnessy. "The F-35's ability to fuse multi-domain 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 next-generation multi-role fighter that combines advanced stealth with speed, agility and a 360-degree view of the battlespace and will form the backbone of air combat superiority for decades to come. The two-day 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.
"Together with our Pacific allies and partners, we're sending a clear message to our neighbors and friends in the region," said Brig. Gen. Craig Wills, PACAF's Strategy, Plans and Programs director. "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 Pacific F-35 Symposium featured the largest gathering of fifth-generation warfighters in history. Approximately 91 senior officers and F-35 experts from a variety of organizations participated. Among the organizations represented were 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. The Lightning II is a phenomenal fighter and an incredible investment in our warfighting capability and ability to defend freedom," Wills said.
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-35As with the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, ten F-35Bs from the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing out of Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma, Ariz., 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, the Republic of 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.