"Pairing F-35B Lightning II's with the Wasp represents one of the most significant leaps in warfighting capability for the Navy-Marine Corps team in our lifetime", said Rear Admiral Brad Cooper, the commanding officer of USS Wasp strike group.
"This is a historic deployment", Colonel Tye R. Wallace said in a press release.
The F-35B, assigned under the Okinawa-based 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, will provide a robust set of sea-based capabilities that will enhance Navy-Marine Corps expeditionary operations. On Monday, the head of the Pentagon's F-35 office confirmed that some 49 percent of the 280 planes delivered to the USA military by Lockheed Martin are suffering from a series of hardware and software problems.
The F-35B is the vertical takeoff, maritime version of the United States stealth warplane. By adding these enabling capabilities, the amphibious force can more effectively defend against adversarial threats in the undersea, surface and air domains, as well provide offensive firepower to strike from the sea.
"You're about to put for the first time ever fifth-generation fighters on a ship at sea and put it into a highly contested area that is fraught with geopolitical risk and controversy and tensions", retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, a former F-35B squadron commander, previously told Business Insider.
The fifth-generation stealth fighters have both air superiority and ground attack capabilities, and could be used for precision strikes inland, supporting Marines coming ashore and providing air defense for naval ships.
The retrofitted amphibious assault ship, which departed Sasebo Naval Base in Japan on March 3 for its first operational deployment since arriving in the Indo-Pacific region in January, features an upgraded flight deck to operate the F-35B.
The F-35B can takeoff in full stealth mode to penetrate enemy airspaces, it can carry scores of heavy bombs when stealth is no longer an issue, it can tank up with fuel and a detachable gun on the jet's belly, it can use its futuristic sensors and communications to guide ship-fired missiles to targets on land. The ship completed an overhaul past year, and on Saturday departed Sasebo, Japan, where it is forward deployed. "With the specific upgrades Wasp has received, the Navy Marine Corps team in the Pacific is better positioned than ever before to support our commitment to the security of Japan and the Region".