The U.S. Navy has announced that the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1), which is capable of operating the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, will become part of the U.S. 7th Fleet Forward Deployed Naval Forces (FDNF) in autumn 2017. The USS Wasp will support the first F-35 squadron to be permanently based in Japan — Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121, which is scheduled to relocate to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, in early 2017. A total of 16 F-35s are due to deploy to Japan in 2017.
As part of the rebalance strategy to increase the Navy’s presence in the Pacific Fleet, USS Wasp will move from Norfolk, Va., to Sasebo, Japan. USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) will relocate to San Diego, Calif. to undergo modernization. Specific timelines will be announced at a date closer to the actual movement of the ships.
USS Wasp has been recently modernized to accommodate the Marine Corps variant of the Joint Strike Fighter (F-35B), which is capable of Short Take-off Vertical Landing (STOVL), enabling it to operate out of a wide range of bases, both afloat and ashore. The USMC F-35B reached Initial Operational Capability in July 2015.
Wasp has also received upgrades to the combat systems suite, including the MK 2 Ship Self Defense System, SPQ-9B horizon search radar, MK 57 NATO Sea Sparrow Missile System, as well as upgrades to the shipboard local area network (LAN) and data link capability.