Marines’ New F-35 Jets Begin Flying from USS Wasp in Historic Deployment

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Marine Corps officers aboard the USS Wasp watch as an F-35B maneuvers Monday near the flight deck. Navy photo

A detachment of the Marine F-35B Lightning II jets have begun flying from the USS Wasp, marking the new stealth fighter’s first deployment aboard an amphibious assault ship.

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The planes from Fighter Attack Squadron 121 are deployed aboard the Sasebo, Japan-based Wasp, which is accompanied by the San Diego-based destroyers USS Dewey and USS Sterett in the East China Sea.

The F-35B is the vertical takeoff version of the Joint Strike Fighter. It will replace the 1970s-era AV-8B Harrier II jets aboard the Navy’s fleet of nine amphibious assault ships.

“Pairing F-35B Lightning II’s with the Wasp represents one of the most significant leaps in warfighting capability for the Navy-Marine Corps team in our lifetime,” said Rear Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 7. “This 5th generation stealth jet is extremely versatile and will greatly enhance and expand our operational capabilities.”

The arrival of the F-35B culminates testing and shipboard structural modifications on Wasp that began in 2013. Wasp completed an overhaul in 2017 and subsequently departed Norfolk to forward deploy in Japan, as part of a Defense Department effort to place the most advanced warships in the Indo-Pacific region.

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