Asia Defense

US F-35-Carrying Warship Holds 1st Naval Drill With Japanese Navy

The U.S. Navy flattop trained with a Japanese warship for the first time since arriving in Japan earlier this year.

US F-35-Carrying Warship Holds 1st Naval Drill With Japanese Navy
Credit: U.S. Navy

The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Wasp, one of the U.S. Navy’s largest surface warships, trained alongside the Japan Maritime Self Defense’s (JMSDF) Osumi-class amphibious transport dock JS Shimokita for the first time on April 9.

The two ships, sailing in formation, conducted “navigational maneuvers” in the Sea of Japan, according to a U.S. Navy statement. “Coordinating rendezvous points and using universal tactical signals provided opportunities for building understanding and interoperability,” the statement reads. Furthermore, the brief naval exercise demonstrated the “commitment to the U.S.-Japan alliance and security of the region.”

This was the first time the USS Wasp trained with the JMSDF since its arrival at the naval port of Sasebo, Japan on January 14, replacing its sister ship USS Bonhomme Richard as the biggest forward-deployed amphibious assault ship in the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet. It is the first operational deployment of the warship in the Indo-Pacific region.

“For the JMSDF, this is the first time to conduct exercise with Wasp ESG [expeditionary strike group] and 31st MEU [Marine Expeditionary Unit]. I am sure this exercise is a valuable experience for JMSDF,” said Rear Admiral Tsutomu Shirane, the commander of the JMSDF Mine Warfare Force. “We welcome the deployment of USS Wasp in this region, and I hope we continue to work together with Wasp.”

The USS Wasp is carrying a detachment of F-35Bs, the U.S. Marine Corps’ short take-off and vertical landing  variant of the supersonic fifth-generation F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. As I reported in March:

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Wasp-class amphibious assault ships are the size of small aircraft carriers and can deploy around 31 military aircraft including the AV-8B Harrier IIs, MH-60S Knighthawk helicopters, AH-1Z Viper helicopters, and MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft. The ship can also can embark up to 2,200 assault troops. The USS Wasp underwent retrofitting last year to be capable of accommodating and launching F-35B stealth fighters.

The USS Wasp can accommodate up to six F-35Bs. The amphibious assault ship features a new combat system. In addition, the Wasp’s MK 2 Ship Self Defense System, SPQ-9B horizon search radar, and MK 57 NATO Sea Sparrow Missile System were upgraded.

The JS Shimokita is one of three Osumi-class amphibious transport docks operated by the JMSDF and can carry up to eight helicopters. The U.S. Navy San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Green Bay also took part in the naval exercise. The Green Bay can carry MV-22s and up to four Ch-46 Sea Knight helicopters.