F-35B-capable USS Wasp departs for Japan
The move will introduce an amphibious assault ship capable of operating with the F-35B to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, pairing it with the F-35Bs of Japan-based Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121.
Amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) departed for Sasebo, Japan, on 30th August, where it will assume duties as the forward-deployed flagship of the amphibious force of the U.S. 7th Fleet. The move was announced in October 2016.
The shift will introduce an F-35B-capable amphibious assault ship to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, pairing it with the F-35Bs of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121). The squadron was transferred from MCAS Yuma, Arizona to Iwakuni, Japan in January — the first overseas deployment for the F-35B — and now belongs to Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
Wasp Commanding Officer Capt. Andrew Smith said the move would increase the U.S. Navy's precision strike capabilities within the 7th Fleet region.
Wasp completed a six-month deployment late last year, during which the crew completed a certification validation, ensuring the ship's readiness to join the 7th Fleet. The ship represents the naval centerpiece of the Up-Gunned Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) concept, which increases the capability of the traditional three-ship amphibious ready group to defend itself and project power.
As Wasp takes over for USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) for a regularly-scheduled deployment next year, the crew will serve as the flagship for the Wasp ESG, which will include amphibious transport dock USS Green Bay (LPD 20) and one of two forward-deployed amphibious dock landing ships. The ESG also embarks Naval Beach Unit 7, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25 and ground, air, and logistics elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.