F-35B Sailors arrive on USS Wasp for first shipboard deployment

The F-35B Joint Strike Fighter deploys for the first time aboard a US Navy ship, marking a historic milestone for the Pentagon’s deadliest jet as the Marine variant begins operational exercises in The pacific.

The short-take-off and vertical-landing F-35s from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 arrived aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp for patrols in the area on Monday, according to an announcement from the Navy’s 7th Fleet.

The arrival of the stealth jet also marks the start of the first deployment of the F-35, a Marine expeditionary unit. The squadron will sail the Pacific aboard Okinawa-based 31st MEU ships this spring.

“Pairing of the F-35B Lightning II [aircraft] with the Wasp represents one of the most significant leaps in the combat capability of the Navy-Marine Corps team in our lifetime, “Rear Admiral Brad Cooper, commander of Expeditionary Group 7, said in a statement.” This 5th generation stealth jet is extremely versatile and will significantly improve and expand our operational capabilities. “

VMFA-121 pilots will first train and perform qualifying flights for the first few weeks before departing on mission as part of the 31st MEU, the only MEU forward deployed to the Pacific.

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The exercises are part of a multi-mission program [expeditionary strike group]”, which combines the lethality of the MEU, the F-35s and the offensive capabilities of surface ships, according to the statement.

“This is a historic deployment,” Colonel Tye R. Wallace, commander of the 31st MEU, said in a statement. “The F-35B is the most capable aircraft ever to support a marine rifle on the ground. It brings a range of new capabilities to the MEU that make us a more lethal and effective air-to-ground task force.”

The amphibious assault ship Wasp – one of the few specially hardened and modernized amphibians to carry the F-35B – entered the U.S. 7th Fleet in January.

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The Wasp departed for Sasebo, Japan on August 30 from its home port of Norfolk, Va., But was diverted to the Caribbean on September 4 to assist with relief efforts after Hurricane Maria.

After completing its relief mission at the end of October, the Wasp called in Rio de Janeiro and Joint Naval Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, as it transited from the Atlantic to the Peaceful. The ship left Hawaii on January 2 for Sasebo.

“The deployment of the versatile F-35B enhances the full range of Expeditionary Strike Group capabilities with one of the most advanced air warfare platforms in the world,” said Captain Colby Howard, commander of Wasp, in the press release.

“With the specific enhancements Wasp has received, the Navy-Marine Corps team in the Pacific is better positioned than ever to support our commitment to the security of Japan and the region,” he said.

Last year, the Marine Corps deployed an F-35B squadron to Iwakuni, Japan, which flew on August 31 alongside Japanese and South Korean B-1B bombers and F-15 fighters during a show of force in North Korea.

Meanwhile, a dozen F-35As are currently deployed to Kadena Air Base, Japan, as part of the first-ever F-35A Theater Security Package, or TSP, which are air units deployed to the before who carry out missions to reassure the forces of partners and allies. and maintain security and stability in a region.

In October, days after an F-35A landed in Seoul, South Korea for the International Aerospace and Defense Expo, known as Seoul ADEX 2017, the Army the air has announced its intention to deploy a dozen joint strike fighter jets to Japan.

– Oriana Pawlyk can be contacted at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @ oriana0214.

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