‘Up-gunned’ Wasp ARG ships stop in Okinawa after concluding amphibious, F-35B certifications

Ships from the US Navy’s Wasp amphibious ready group made a stop in Okinawa, Japan, on March 15 following two weeks of certifications.

Amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) and amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) arrived at White Beach, Okinawa, to embark the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) as part of a regularly scheduled patrol in the Indo-Pacific.

Since deploying from Sasebo earlier this month, Wasp completed a dedicated period of flight operations with F-35B Lighting II from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121) while the Ashland wrapped up an amphibious warfare (AMW) certification, which includes several events that consist of small boat operations, ballasting and de-ballasting, cargo handling, crane operations, and a wide range of amphibious landing craft drills.

Wasp embarked the F-35B, March 5, and has been conducting a series of landings and launches both during the day and at night, to increase proficiency of both the pilots and the flight deck crew to operate the aircraft at sea.

While much of the initial phase of patrol was focused on F-35B flight operations, Wasp also integrated with the guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105). The San Diego-based Dewey is assigned to the Wasp Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG), providing multi-mission capability that leverages advanced radars and weapons systems.

In addition to making history by becoming the first ship to embark the fifth-generation fighter for a deployment in the Indo-Pacific, USS Wasp is advancing the up-gunned ESG concept, which combines 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 US Navy currently has and the 15 it would like/need to operate.

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