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US Assault Ship Loaded with Joint Strike Fighters Heads to North Korea

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The USS Wasp is sailing from its homeport in Virginia to Sasebo, Japan, to join the US Navy’s 7th Fleet and bring Washington’s most advanced fighter jets to North Korea’s backyard.

The Wasp, an Amphibious Assault Ship and lead ship of her class, doesn’t have quite as much surface area for jets to take off and land as the larger Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, but the ship will still bring a new squadron of carrier-compatible F-35B aircraft to the 7th Fleet’s area of operations. 

The F-35B jets have the AV-8B Harrier’s capability of taking off vertically, as a helicopter does, while also being able to operate in the air like fighter jets. 

Placing the Amphibious Assault Ship in proximity to the Korean Peninsula “ensured that our most technologically-advanced air warfare platforms are forward deployed,” USS Wasp Cmdr. Andrew Smith said in an August 30 release. 

“Our capabilities, paired with the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, increases our Navy’s precision strike capabilities within the 7th Fleet region,” Smith said. “Wasp will help America’s commitment to maritime security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.”

The Wasp inserts a second squadron of F-35s into the region. The first arrived at Marine Corps Air Station Okinawa in March, the eight-plane squadron’s new permanent home. Another cadre of Joint Strike Fighters arrived in July, the Marine Corps said.

Up to 100 F-35 aircraft are set to fly near the Korean Peninsula over the coming years, as Seoul and Tokyo have each agreed to buy more than 40 of them from Lockheed Martin.