US Navy’s amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) pulled into Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, on December 28 for a final port call en route to her new homeport of Sasebo, Japan.
Wasp departed Norfolk, Virginia, August 30, but was diverted to the Caribbean in the wake of hurricanes Irma and Maria, Sept. 4.
The crew spent the next two months providing humanitarian assistance to the US Virgin Islands and the island nation of Dominica, and worked extensively to assist with repairing the devastated infrastructure of Puerto Rico.
Once in Japan, Wasp will replace the forward-deployed USS Bonhomme Richard. Wasp will also be the US 7th Fleet’s first F-35B Joint Strike Fighter-capable amphibious assault ship, pairing with the F-35Bs of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121).
During her Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Planned Maintenance Availability, which was completed in June this year, Wasp’s flight deck was resurfaced to enable F-35B operation.
Zone four of the flight deck is designated as the launch and recovery area for the F-35B. The zone is unique in that it contains Thermion, a coating system designed for landing and takeoff operations of the JSF. Without this heat resistant coating protecting the deck of the ship, when the thrusters of the JSF turned down, they could potentially cause severe damage to the deck.
Once USS Wasp becomes part of the US 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.