Lockheed Martin’s F-35 will expand its presence in the Asia-Pacific region this year, as Australia, Japan, and South Korea begin populating their first Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) bases.

As a prelude to the coming expansion of the F-35 in Asia, two U.S. Marine Corps F-35Bs belonging to the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron-121 “Green Knights” arrived at Changi on Feb. 3 as part of the U.S. delegation to the Singapore Airshow.

Steve Over, Lockheed’s director of F-35 international business development, tells ShowNews this is the first time the JSF has appeared at the show. A full-scale mockup of the aircraft has visited in the past and is on display again this year.

The F-35s are being joined by two U.S. Air Force 525th Fighter Sqdn. F-22 Raptors, also built by Lockheed, which are coming in from Elmendorf AFB, Alaska.

Although not stated by the U.S. Defense Department, the presence of America’s two most sophisticated fifth-generation stealth fighters at the show sends a powerful message to friend and foe alike that Washington will defend its interests, and allies, in the region.

For Lockheed (CS02), the stealth show is an invaluable chance to tout progress on the F-35 and talk up its expanding presence in the region. Although F-22 assembly ended in 2012, production of the F-35 is scaling up to satisfy hundreds of orders from the U.S. military, eight partner nations and three foreign military sales customers (Israel, Japan and South Korea).

Over says there are presently 165 JSFs in various stages of production, and the delivery target for 2018 is 91 aircraft: a 37% increase compared to last year’s delivery of 66.

In 2019, production throughput across the three F-35 assembly lines in the U.S. (Fort Worth), Italy (Cameri), and Japan (Nagoya) will increase another 54%, with a target of about 140 units.

Lockheed has not yet booked orders from Singapore, but the nation remains an active security-cooperative participant. Singapore has been evaluating both the F-35A and F-35B, but no orders seem imminent.

Rather than pining over the lack of orders by Singapore, Over says Lockheed is keenly focused on executing existing programs and making good on commitments. “We’re focused on ramping this global supply chain to full-rate production and figuring out how to deliver sustainment affordably,” he says.

After 17 years of development, the aircraft is about one month away from completing development and transitioning into operational test and evaluation. Australia, Japan and South Korea also have significant milestones coming up.

On Jan. 26, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force 3rd Air Wing’s first operational F-35A, aircraft No. 6 (AX-6), arrived at Misawa Air Base to begin forming the nation’s first JSF squadron. A ceremony marking the milestone is planned for Feb. 24.

Nine more aircraft are expected to follow within Japan’s 2018 fiscal year. This is the second of 38 F-35As to be delivered from Japan’s Nagoya final assembly and checkout facility. Tokyo ordered a total of 42 aircraft, and the first four built in Fort Worth are now supporting training operations at Luke AFB, Arizona. Aircraft No. 5, the first built in Nagoya, is presently at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, undergoing electromagnetic environmental effects testing.

Meanwhile, the first six of 40 F-35As for South Korea are marching down the assembly line in Fort Worth, with a rollout ceremony expected in late March. Lockheed expects to build 40 airplanes for Seoul over the next four years.

Initially, South Korea’s aircraft will go to Luke for pilot training but this year, at least one aircraft will make its way to the first operational base in Cheongju. The base right now hosts McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantoms.

In another major milestone, the first operational aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force will arrive down under at RAAF Base Williamtown in December. The initial batch of Aussie F-35s are supporting multinational training at Luke, but Owens says another eight are now under construction.

The Australian parliament has approved the purchase of 72 F-35As, although Canberra has previously considered buying as many as 100. The first operational RAAF squadron will be ready for combat around 2020.