F-35 Bolsters Allied Deterrence in 2023

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F-35 Bolsters Allied Deterrence in 2023

Throughout 2023, the F-35 demonstrated its value to the U.S. and allies. We delivered 98 F-35s in 2023, bringing the global fleet to more than 980 aircraft strong. With more than 2,250 F-35 pilots and 15,125 maintainers trained, the fleet has flown more than 768,000 cumulative flight hours.

That training and experience enabled F-35s to conduct more than 30 deployments and detachments, many of which featured U.S. and international F-35s operating together. 

The Wisconsin Air National Guard received their first F-35s, the U.S. Marine Corps’ first East Coast operational F-35B squadron accepted their first aircraft, and the first F-35s arrived at Tyndall Air Force Base – the U.S. Air Force’s “Installation of the Future.” 

The F-35 program continued to expand with Canada’s announcement it is procuring F-35s, and celebrated Belgium’s first aircraft rollout, along with the first in-country aircraft arrival in Denmark.  

On the operational front, U.S. officials noted that Israeli F-35s have achieved “exceptional mission capability rates and the aircraft is proving resilient.” Many demonstrations of partnership and F-35 delivering on the promise of interconnected security were displayed in 2023. Here is a look back at some of the highlights. 

F-35s in Europe, NATO

The F-35’s growing presence across Europe is a powerful example of alliance-based deterrence that is setting the foundation for NATO’s next generation air power capability.  

In January, U.S. Air Force F-35As deployed to Greenland for Operation Noble Defender and trained with Royal Netherlands Air Force personnel in the United Kingdom. Dutch F-35As deployed to Poland for NATO Air Policing. 

Photo: Ole Andreas Vekve - Royal Norwegian Air Force
In March, Norwegian F-35s intercepted Russian aircraft operating near Norway, and joined exercise Joint Viking 2023. Dutch F-35As trained with Poland and France along NATO’s eastern front, and Italian F-35s trained with American B-52s over the Mediterranean.  
Photo: Master Sgt. Andrew Sinclair - Air Force
In June, Norwegian F-35s intercepted Russian military aircraft over the Barents Sea, and U.S., British and Dutch F-35s joined NATO’s largest-ever air force exercise. Italian F-35s joined NATO’s Neptune Strike 23-2 the following month. 
In September, Italian F-35s intercepted a pair of Russian fighter jets over the Baltic Sea. American, British and Norwegian F-35s, meanwhile, joined exercise Cobra Warrior 23-2. That same month, Denmark’s first four locally based F-35As landed on home soil, Norwegian F-35As landed on a highway in Finland, and the Czech government approved plans to procure 24 F-35s. 
Photo: Ole Andreas Vekve - Royal Norwegian Air Force
In October, British and Norwegian F-35s jointly intercepted a Russian maritime patrol aircraft, and U.S. and British F-35s joined Atlantic Trident 2023.
Photo: Jesper Sundström - The Swedish Armed Forces
Flight trials aboard U.K. aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales broadened the scope of F-35B capabilities and allied naval aviation.
In November, Italian F-35s returned to Poland for NATO enhanced air policing. “The F-35 aircraft we deployed here constitute the most advanced weapon system available to the [Italian] Air Force,” said Col. Antonio Vergallo, commander of Italy's F-35 detachment at Malbork Air Base, Poland.
Photo: Cpl Ben Mayfield RAF

“The growth of the F-35 in Europe strengthens international partnerships, interoperability and warfighting capability, and emphasizes the importance the aircraft provides as a deterrent against potential adversaries,” said Lt. Gen. Michael Schmidt, program executive officer for the F-35 Joint Program Office.  

By the 2030s, more than 600 F-35s will be stationed on the European continent across NATO member bases. 

F-35s in the Indo-Pacific

The F-35 is the fighter of choice for key allies across the Indo-Pacific region. Numerous allies in the region are committed to and invested in the F-35, including Australia, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore.  

In January, U.S. Marine F-35Bs conducted expeditionary training in Japan. The following month, South Korean F-35As conducted bilateral training with American F-22s and B-1 bombers.

Photo: Pacific Air Forces

In March, U.S. Air Force F-35s deployed to Japan, U.S. Marine F-35Bs operated aboard amphibious assault carriers USS Makin Island and USS America in the East China Sea and supported Exercise Cobra Gold 2023; and Australian F-35s joined Exercise Tasman Shield 2023.  

The following month, American F-35As trained with Japan, where U.S. Marine F-35Bs also conducted expeditionary operations.   

In July, American F-35As conducted a marathon sortie to Japan for exercise Northern Edge 23-2. U.S. Air Force F-35As also trained with Marine F-35Cs and Australian F-35s Down Under, while Italian F-35s supported NATO training over the Adriatic Sea.

Photo: Staff Sgt. Dwane R. Young - Air Force

In August, Italian F-35s trained with Japan, Australian F-35As supported Exercise Malabar, and American and Australian F-35s joined forces during Red Flag-Alaska 23-3. Japanese deployed F-35 overseas for the first time, to Australia. 

In October, U.S. and South Korean F-35s trained together over the Korean Peninsula, and American F-35s trained with Japan over the East China Sea. 

In November, U.S. Air Force F-35As deployed to Japan to bolster allied defense and deter threats in the Indo-Pacific. By 2035, more than 300 F-35s will be stationed across the Indo-Pacific.  

“The continuous growth of F-35 interoperability in the Indo-Pacific was on full display this year.  The F-35 is boosting allied deterrence, continuing to strengthen national security and international alliances across militaries, governments, and industry in the region,” said Bridget Lauderdale, vice president and general manager of the F-35 Program with Lockheed Martin.   

Operating from 42 bases and ships around the globe, the F-35 will continue to play a critical role in the integrated deterrence of the U.S. and allies.  

Step Onto the Flight Line and “Into the Cockpit”

In 2023, we released a never-before-seen look inside the F-35 cockpit. The video explains the F-35’s differentiating capabilities, such as stealth, advanced sensors, information fusion, and network connectivity.   

Looking forward, Block 4 upgrades will provide the most significant evolution capabilities for F-35 to date, including increased missile-carriage capacity, advanced non-kinetic electronic warfare capabilities and improved target recognition.