F-35B Begins First Shipboard Deployment
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
ARLINGTON — The Marine Corps’ F-35B Lightning II strike fighter began its first operational shipboard deployment on March 19, Navy officials said.
A six-aircraft detachment of Marine Fighter-Attack Squadron 121, based at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, was on board the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp as it began its spring patrol in the Western Pacific. The Wasp Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG), with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Group embarked, is on a routine patrol of the Indo-Pacific region.
“For the first time, the 31st MEU will conduct its missions utilizing the F-35B Lighting II, which flew aboard amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1), March 5,” a March 20 release from Amphibious Squadron 11 noted. “The fifth-generation aircraft can support precision strike, close-air support for Marines inserted inland, and relay over-the-horizon information to aid the commander’s battlefield awareness.”
The Wasp ESG include Wasp, amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland, amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay and the guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey.
Dewey “will support operations and practice missions that benefit the overall capability of the landing forces and survival ability of amphibious ships in the blue water domain,” the release said. “The addition of Dewey and the F-35B advances U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Up-Gunned ESG that leverages advanced sensors and weapons systems to allow expeditionary forces to operate in multi-threat maritime environments.”
The F-35Bs replace the AV-8B Harrier II attack aircraft that have deployed for decades on amphibious assault ships.