F-35. Photo: US Marine Corps via Reuters
An F-35 fighter jet in flight. Photo: US Marine Corps

The USS Wasp, a US Navy amphibious assault ship that recently docked at its new homeport in Sasebo, Japan will reportedly be the first ship in the region to operate the shipboard version of the F-35 stealth fighter.

Shipboard deployment by the US of the F-35B comes as both Japan and South Korea mull purchasing the F-35’s maritime version for use with similar vessels in their navies.

The Wasp, a small carrier that accommodates helicopters and vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft like the F-35B, will undertake patrols with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters on board.

The Marine fighter attack squadron relocated to its base in Iwakuni, Japan, in early 2017. The squadron is the first operational Marine Corps F-35B unit and currently has 16 aircraft. The planes  can alternately operate from land or from ships with appropriate decks.

The Wasp replaces the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) as the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship in US 7th Fleet which is part of the US Pacific Fleet.

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