US F-35Bs deploy for first time aboard US Navy ship in Indo-Pacific
Stealth fighters from Marine Okinawa unit
The US Navy’s 7th Fleet has announced that a detachment of F-35Bs arrived aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp on March 5, marking the first time the aircraft has deployed aboard a US Navy ship and with a Marine Expeditionary Unit in the Indo-Pacific region.
The planes are from Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121) and are under the Okinawa-based 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
The F-35B is the vertical takeoff, maritime version of the US stealth warplane. The navy says the plane is capable of conducting precision land strikes, supporting Marine amphibious landings and providing air cover for the Navy Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) to which it’s been deployed.
“Pairing F-35B Lightning II’s with the Wasp represents one of the most significant leaps in war-fighting capability for the Navy-Marine Corps team in our lifetime,” said Rear Adm. Brad Cooper, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7. “This 5th generation stealth jet is extremely versatile, and will greatly enhance and expand our operational capabilities.”
The navy says the Wasp ESG is currently on a routine patrol in the “Indo-Pacific.” But it’s still believed to be near Japanese waters. USNI News reports the Wasp and its supporting warships departed from Sasebo, Japan, on March 3, 2018 as part of a mission that involves working with allied naval units and providing a rapid-response capability for various military contingencies.