The "distributed laydown" in the Pacific, which dovetails with the Marine Corps' expeditionary nature and ability to rapidly move forces from one place to another, calls for moving more than 4,000 Marines from Okinawa, Japan, to Guam. Whelden said hundreds of millions of dollars already have been invested on Guam, with wharves to support amphibious ready group ships already completed and ramp and hangar work ongoing for Ospreys and the new F-35B Lightning II, which the Corps called the "world's first operational supersonic short takeoff and vertical landing fighter." "We aren't basing F-35s in Guam, but we train on Guam a lot," Whelden said. Ten of the stealth fighters this week were sent to Iwakuni, Japan, with six more expected to arrive this summer. Whelden said the relocation of about 2,700 Marines from Okinawa to Hawaii is about 10 years away.
the Air Force says steps are being taken to minimise the environmental impact, without providing further details.
In a 2012 agreement, the United States said it would pull 9,000 Marines out of Okinawa — 4,000 of whom would go to Guam and 5,000 to Hawaii and on rotations to Australia — as it seeks to ease a long-running standoff over the future of its huge military presence in one of its top Asian allies.
Mr Shear told a special congressional hearing on the South China Sea the deployment of air assets to Australia was in addition to the doubling of US marines bound for Darwin, leaving their current base in Japan. "We will be moving significant numbers of Marines to Hawaii, Guam and Australia," he said. "So we will have a very strong presence, very strong continued posture throughout the region to back our commitments to our allies, to protect and work with our partners and to continue ensuring peace and stability in the region.
The rotation follows speculation the growing US military presence in Darwin could cause tensions with China. Lt Col Dougherty would not comment on what impact another rotation of US Marines would have on relations with China. Last year for the first time Chinese soldiers trained on Australian soil with the Australian Army and US Marines, but Lt Col Dougherty said no training was planned with China on this rotation. He said the Marines were keen to start sporting teams, including trying their hand at rugby union.