As usual, the U.S. Air Force and other organizations present in Japan for Iron Dagger missed no opportunity of snapping the hardware in action on film, to be shared at a later date with the general public. Thanks to this, we got to see, for instance, an impressive formation flight with a B-52H Stratofortress, seven F-35A Lightning IIs, and four of those new Zeroes we were talking about above.
The pic we have on the menu today was taken during the same exercise, as one of those F-35s was flying over Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan. Somewhat ironically, this angle makes the plane look like some sort of blunt iron dagger as it moves through the air.
This particular airplane is deployed with the 356th Fighter Squadron, a unit of the 354th Air Expeditionary Wing. Based over in Alaska, the squadron has had a very bumpy ride, having been created in 1942 and disbanded in 1946, then reinstated in 1956 and shut down in 1992, and most recently revived in 2019 to operate F-35s.
The unit was sent to Japan as a means to show “the 354th AEW’s ability to rapidly mobilize and deploy fifth-generation airpower across the Indo-Pacific theater,” which loosely translated can be seen as a move to keep China on its toes.