MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan. — Two F-16 Fighting Falcon jets from the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing escorted the first Japanese-built F-35A Lighting II fighter jet as it flew to the United States last month.
Maj. Elijah Supper, a Defense Contract Management Agency government flight representative, piloted the aircraft from its Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Komaki South F-35 Final Assembly and Check Out facility. Although the aircraft belongs to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, it is required to go through final function tests in the United States to ensure all future F-35A’s produced in Japan are up to standard.
The 115th Fighter Wing escort aircraft were on deployment to Kunsan Air Base in South Korea at the time of the Nov. 2 flight across the Pacific Ocean.
“This F-35 is one of the most clean and well-built aircraft I have ever seen,” Supper remarked. “The Japanese take great pride in this aircraft and have ensured it’s made to the highest standard.”
After final inspections, Supper said the Japan Air Self-Defense Force would roll out the F-35 in their fleet.
“This will only further enhance our strong bilateral ties,” Supper said, “allowing us to win future wars.”
The escort flight underscores the 115th Fighter Wing’s dual role — in this case, as part of America’s primary combat reserve, but also part of Wisconsin’s first military responders.