US amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) got underway from Norfolk on August 30 heading for Sasebo, Japan, where she will become the forward-deployed flagship of the amphibious force of the U.S. 7th Fleet.
The shift will introduce an F-35B Joint Strike Fighter-capable amphibious assault ship to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, pairing it with the F-35Bs of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121).
Wasp will be replacing the forward-deployed USS Bonhomme Richard.
“This move ensures that our most technologically-advanced air warfare platforms are forward deployed,” said Wasp Commanding Officer Capt. Andrew Smith. “Our capabilities, paired with the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, increases our Navy’s precision strike capabilities within the 7th Fleet region. Wasp will help America’s commitment to the maritime security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.”
Wasp completed a six-month deployment late last year, during which the crew completed a certification validation, ensuring the ship’s readiness to join 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.
Once USS Wasp becomes part of the U.S. 7th Fleet, it is scheduled to deploy as part of a new, improved, Expeditionary Strike Group that will combine a three-ship Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) with a three ship guided-missile destroyer surface action group (SAG).
The Wasp ESG 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.
The Up-Gunned ESG-MEU team is the premiere crisis response force in the western Pacific. In addition to maintaining security in the region through presence and deterrence, the Wasp ESG will respond at a moment’s notice to any type of contingency, to include humanitarian aid and disaster relief.