After 12 years of idleness in port, U.S. Navy’s amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) deployed this year for a busy 2016.
After six months underway, the ship is now set to return to Norfolk on December 24.
Once there, Wasp will undergo a planned maintenance availability that is expected to be finished by May 2017.
The ship will then forward deploy to Japan as part of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific rebalance. Accompanying the ship will be a Surface Action Group and an embarked squadron of Marine F-35B Lighting II jets.
The new, improved, expeditionary strike group will combine a three-ship amphibious ready group (ARG) with a three ship guided-missile destroyer surface action group (SAG).
This surface action group which could be considered to be more of an upgraded expeditionary strike than a carrier strike group is envisioned as a bridge between the 10 carrier strike groups the U.S. Navy currently has and the 15 it would like/need to operate.
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 a shore.
The ship has also received upgrades to the combat systems suite to include upgrades to MK 2 Ship Self Defense System, SPQ-9B horizon search radar, MK 57 NATO Sea Sparrow missile system, and upgrades to the shipboard local area network (LAN) and data link capability.
In order to prepare for their Japan deployment, Wasp’s crew completed a certification validation (CV) enabling the ship to forward deploy to Sasebo, Japan, next year.
“This crew did their jobs in amazing fashion during this deployment,” said Wasp Commanding Officer Capt. Andrew Smith. “They often had to do deployment certification drills part of the day and fight ISIL the other. Not to mention, we simultaneously carried out the massive day-to-day operations that are required to run a deployed Navy warship.”
Areas tested during the CV included navigation, seamanship, communications, explosive safety, search-and-rescue plotting, engineering, and damage control.
A large portion of the drills were completed while the crew was simultaneously carrying out operation Odyssey Lightning (OOL). On Aug. 1 the 22nd MEU was ordered carry to out precision air strikes against ISIL targets in Sirte, Libya, in support of the Government of National Accord (GNA) forces fighting there.
Wasp was initially on station supporting OOL for 100 consecutive days before being relieved by the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17), another ship in the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group (ARG).
Over the course of the 180-day deployment, Wasp transited more than 34,000 nautical miles, and logged more than 14,300 flight hours. The crew also took on more than 1,280 pallets of cargo during 18 replenishment-at-sea evolutions.