The first deployment of the USS Wasp and F-35B Lightning II fighters to the Philippines for this month’s Balikatan exercise shows the value that the U.S. places on military ties to the island nation, according to the commander of a Navy amphibious squadron participating in the drills.
Capt. Jim McGovern, commodore of Amphibious Squadron 11, which comprises four warships including the Wasp, spoke about the importance of the mission during a call from aboard the flat-deck amphibious assault ship in the South China Sea on Monday.
“Nothing says ‘you’re important’ like sending a ship with the capability of the Wasp,” he said of the vessel, which deployed to Sasebo, Japan, in January 2018.
Navy officials declined to disclose the number of servicemembers or the assets aboard the Wasp due to operational security concerns.
The vessel typically includes a crew of about 1,000 sailors and can embark more than 1,600 Marines. The 844-foot ship employs 31 aircraft and can launch Marine amphibious craft from its well deck.
Photographs of the warship on its current mission show it’s carrying at least 10 F-35Bs, four MV-22 Ospreys and two MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopters.
“We have a lot of capability on this ship,” McGovern said.
Philippine military personnel have been aboard this week and seem impressed by its capabilities, he said. (end of excerpt)
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