A Lockheed Martin F-35B operated by the US Marine Corps (USMC) has conducted a landing and take off from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) ship JS Izumo.

The work took place on 3 October, according to Japan’s defence ministry.

A JMSDF video shows the aircraft making a slow pass, before approaching from the vessel’s stern and landing. The fighter subsequently makes a rolling take-off.

The operation marks the first time a fixed-wing combat aircraft has operated from a Japanese carrier since the Second World War.

The defence ministry says that the work will strengthen the close alliance between the USA and Japan, improve interoperability, and strengthen deterrence.

In late July, Japanese media reported that USMC F-35Bs would conduct flights to the Izumo.

The 27,000t Izumo is designated a helicopter destroyer, as the country’s pacifist constitution precludes the acquisition of aircraft carriers. The vessel underwent work to its flight deck to allow it to operate the F-35B. Sister ship JS Kaga will also be updated to operate the short take-off and vertical landing type, of which Japan aims to operate 42 examples. 

News of the F-35B landing aboard the Izumo coincides with the presence of the 65,000t carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth in the Asia-Pacific, herself carrying a compliment of Royal Air Force and USMC F-35Bs. The British ship is on a seven-month global deployment after departing Portsmouth, England on 22 May.

The JMSDF published an image of the helicopter carrier JS Ise operating alongside Queen Elizabeth as well as two US Navy aircraft carriers, the USS Ronald Reagan and the USS Carl Vinson, in the Philippine Sea during a recent fleet exercise.

The naval activity comes amid increasing tensions with China, which continues to send waves of combat aircraft to probe the southwest air defence identification zone of Taiwan. On 4 October, Beijing sent a record 56 aircraft to probe the island’s defences.

This followed a month of near daily intrusions, comprising some 209 individual sorties.