OKINAWA, Japan --- The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) arrived in White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, March 15, after completing a completing a dedicated period of flight operations with F-35B Lighting II from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121).
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.
"The last two weeks at sea have been extremely significant for both the crew and the Navy-Marine Corps team," said Capt. Colby Howard, Wasp commanding officer. "We have taken a giant step forward in the full operational deployment of the F-35B, and we're looking forward to continuing our integration with the 31st MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit)."
During the time in White Beach, Wasp will embark more than 1,500 Marines of the Okinawa-based 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit to serve side-by-side as part of regularly scheduled Indo-Pacific patrol.
"The 31st MEU is excited to train on this historic deployment," said Marine Corps Col. Tye R. Wallace, commanding officer, 31st MEU. "The new F-35B Lightning II is a great addition to the team. It's a flexible aircraft, which is what the 31st MEU is all about. We're always prepared and can adapt to any situation."
Wasp departed Sasebo, Japan, March 3, and wrapped up a Ready for Sea Assessment (RFSA) and took on ammunition before heading out for operations.
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.
The Wasp ESG is deployed in the region in order to strengthen regional alliances, provide rapid-response capability, and advance the Up-Gunned ESG concept.