The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most expensive and one of the most controversial weapons systems in US history, is on its way to Japan to be “the cornerstone” of US defense in the Pacific.

The first of 16 US Marine Corps F-35Bs left Arizona Monday on the initial overseas deployment for the stealth jets.The planes are heading for Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, not far from Hiroshima, on the Japanese main island of Honshu.Sending the $104 million jets to Iwakuni shows Washington’s “commitment to the defense of Japan with the most capable and modern equipment in the U.S. inventory,” 1st Lt. Karoline Foote of the III Marine Expeditionary Force in Japan told CNN in an email.“It will be the cornerstone of a multi-mission joint force possessing improved mission flexibility and unprecedented effectiveness to engage and destroy both air and ground threats,” Foote said.

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