Tag Archives: USS Wasp

U.S. Marine Corps Planning F-35B Deployment to CENTCOM Area Of Responsibility To Get “First Taste Of Combat” In 2018

The USMC may have their “baptism of fire” with the F-35B next year.

The F-35B, the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Lightning II 5th generation aircraft is expected to deploy to the Pacific and Central Command theaters in 2018, the Marine Corps Times reported.

According to Jeff Schogol, the F-35B, that can operate from amphibious assault ships, “is expected to deploy with two Marine expeditionary units to the Pacific and Central Command theaters in the spring and summer. […]  The first deployment will be with the 31st MEU aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp and the second will be with the 13th MEU aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex, said spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Burns.”

The first deployment to the U.S. Central Command AOR (area of responsibility) – that includes Iraq, Syria, Iran, Yemen and Afghanistan – has long been anticipated. In 2016, Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, head of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, told reporters that the service was planning to deploy the F-35B to the CENTCOM area of operations aboard the USS Essex (six more F-35Bs were to deploy to the Pacific aboard the USS Wasp).

The 2018 deployment follows the relocation of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121), an F-35B squadron with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, from MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Yuma, Arizona, on Jan. 9, 2017. Since then, the F-35B have started operating in the region, taking part in local drills as well as some routine “shows of force” near the Korean Peninsula: for instance, on Aug. 30, four U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II joined two USAF B-1B Lancers from Guam onf a 10-hour mission that brought the “package” over waters near Kyushu, Japan, then across the Korean Peninsula. Interestingly, during that mission, the F-35Bs flew with the radar reflectors used to make LO (Low Observable) aircraft clearly visible on radars and also dropped their 1,000-lb GBU-32 JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) on Pilsung firing range. On a subsequent mission on Sept. 18, the aircraft took part in a “sequenced bilateral show of force” over the Korean peninsula carrying “live” AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles in the internal weapons bays.

A U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 departs Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Sept. 18, 2017. The F-35B Lightning II aircraft joined United States Air Force, Japan and Republic of Korea Air Force aircraft in a sequenced bilateral show of force over the Korean peninsula. This show-of-force mission demonstrated sequenced bilateral cooperation, which is essential to defending U.S. allies, partners and the U.S. homeland against any regional threat. Note the AIM-120 barely visible inside the weapons bay (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron Henson)

As already reported, the F-35s would be probably involved in the Phase 4 of an eventual pre-emptive air strike on Pyongyang, the phase during which tactical assets would be called to hunt road-mobile ballistic missiles and any other artillery target that North Korea could use to launch a retaliatory attack (even a nuclear one) against Seoul.

Moreover, during the opening stages of an air war, the F-35Bs would be able to act as real-time data coordinators able to correlate and disseminate information gathered from their on board sensors to other assets contributing to achieve the “Information Superiority” required to geo-locate the threats and target them effectively.

Considered that Marine aviation officials have said that up to half of the current F/A-18 Hornets are not ready for combat, the deployment to the CENTCOM AOR a key step in the long-term plan to replace the legacy F/A-18 Hornet, EA-6B Prowler, and AV-8B Harrier fleets with a total of 353 F-35Bs and 67 F-35Cs by 2032.

Touchdown imminent during “Proof of Concept” demonstration on the USS America (LHA-6) November 19, 2016. (Todd Miller)

In October 2016, a contingent of 12 F-35Bs took part in Developmental Test III aboard USS America followed by the Lightning Carrier “Proof of Concept” demonstration on the carrier on Nov. 19, 2016. During the POC, the aircraft proved it can operate at-sea, employing a wide array of weapons loadouts with the newest software variant and some of the most experienced F-35B pilots said that “the platform is performing exceptionally.” The eventual participation in a real operation such as Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) over Syria and Iraq, albeit rather symbolic, will also be the first opportunity  to assess the capabilities of the platform in real combat. As for the Israeli F-35s, the airspace over the Middle East (or Central Asia) could be a test bed for validating the tactical procedures to be used by the new aircraft in the CAS (Close Air Support) mission with added Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) and Command & Control (C2) capability.
If committed to support OIR, the F-35B will probably operate in a “first day of war” configuration carrying weapons internally to maintain low radar cross-section and observability from sensors playing both the “combat battlefield coordinators” role, collecting, managing and distributing intelligence data, and the “kinetic attack platform” role, dropping their ordnance on the targets and passing targeting data to older 4th Gen. aircraft via Link-16. More or less what done by the USMC F-35Bs during Red Flag 17-3 earlier in 2017; but next year it will be for the real thing.

Top image credit: U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Becky Calhoun

Meanwhile, U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier jump jets continue to pound Daesh in Libya

USMC Harriers aboard USS Wasp launch “frequent” airstrikes against ISIS in Libya.

Operation Odyssey Lightning kicked off on Aug. 1, when the U.S. launched a new round of air strikes against Islamic State positions in northern Libya following a request by the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) to support GNA-affiliated forces seeking to defeat Daesh in Sirte.

Although the first raids were conducted by U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drones as well as by AH-1W helicopters operating from the U.S. amphibious assault ship USS Wasp, since then, the majority of the attacks were launched by the AV-8B and AV-8B+ Harriers with the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 264 (Reinforced) – VMM-264, the composite squadron that constitute the Aviation Combat Element of the 22nd MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit).

From the beginning of Operation Odyssey Lightning to Aug. 29, the U.S. aircraft have completed 92 airstrikes.

The STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) aircraft have carried out Precision Guided Munition attacks on a wide variety of targets, including Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device, trucks with mounted heavy artillery, supply trucks and many “enemy fighting positions.”

Based on the images released by AFRICOM so far, the Jump Jets (both AV-8B and AV-8B+ variants) have almost always carried 500-pound GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) along with two drop tanks (with the AV-8B+ carrying also the Litening targeting pod) during day and night missions.

The following videos show some interesting footage filmed on the flight deck of USS Wasp during the Libya air campaign.

Noteworthy, six British handlers from Culdrose, UK, are serving aboard the amphibious assault ship to get real life experience of safely operating fast jets and helicopters on a flight deck and prepare to what they’ll be doing on HMS Queen Elizabeth in a couple of time.

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U.S. Marine Corps helicopters aboard amphibious assault ship and USAF drones lead new round of U.S. air strikes on ISIS in Libya

Manned and unmanned aircraft have taken part in the air strikes launched on Aug. 1, against Daesh targets around Sirte, in Libya.

On Aug. 1, the U.S. launched a new round of air strikes against Islamic State positions around Sirte, in northern Libya, mid-way between Tripoli and Benghazi.

According to the Pentagon, the raid was conducted following a request by the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) to support GNA-affiliated forces seeking to defeat Daesh in its primary stronghold in Libya.

The raids were just the final stage of a three-phase operation planned and managed by AFRICOM, MilitaryTimes has reported: the first element of this plan was dubbed Operation Odyssey Resolve, consisting of ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) flights in the region; the second, Operation Junction Serpent, provided targeting information; while the third element, Operation Odyssey Lightning, saw the actual air strikes take place.

The latter ones were reportedly launched by a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone based at Sigonella airbase, in Sicily, Italy, as well as by helicopters aboard the U.S. amphibious assault ship USS Wasp.

USS Wasp, with an Aviation Combat Element of the 22nd MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit), consisting of a composite squadron, the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 264 (Reinforced) – VMM-264, containing MV-22B, CH-53E, AH-1W, UH-1Y helicopters and AV-8B+ Harrier II jets, played a major role in Operation Odyssey Lightning.

160626-N-JW440-229 ATLANTIC OCEAN (June 26, 2016) Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Markgerald Zagala signals an AH-1W Super Cobra to land aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). Wasp is deployed with the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group to support maritime security and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Rawad Madanat/Released)

160626-N-JW440-229 ATLANTIC OCEAN (June 26, 2016) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Markgerald Zagala signals an AH-1W Super Cobra to land aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). Wasp is deployed with the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group to support maritime security and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Rawad Madanat/Released)

In particular, at least two Super Cobra from HMLA-269 were launched from USS Wasp and used their AGM-114 Hellfire missiles to destroy some ground vehicles and two T-72 tanks.Here below an interesting infographic put together by Middle East expert, military aviation journalist Babak Taghvaee who has collected some details about the first raid in Libya.According to the details available at the moment, the AV-8B Harriers have not been involved in the air strikes yet.USS Wasp activity infographic

Top image credit: U.S. Marine Corps

 

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RAF pilot performs first UK takeoff of F-35B Lightning at sea

Beginning in 2018, according to the current schedule, the F-35B, the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) version of the Lockheed Martin’s Joint Strike Fighter, will operate from Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth aircraft carriers.

Whereas pilots and ground crews are working alongside their U.S. Marine Corps counterparts at Eglin Air Force Base, in Florida, a UK pilot, Sqn Ldr Jim Schofield, performed the first UK takeoff of an F-35B at sea on USS Wasp.

As part of the testing campaign aimed at expanding the plane’s flight envelope, the F-35B conducted vertical night landings on USS Wasp off the Florida coast.

Noteworthy, the pilot explains how easy to fly is the STOVL JSF, compared to the legendary Harrier Jump Jet.

 

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NVG video: F-35B Accomplishes First Night Vertical Landing Aboard USS WASP

On Aug. 14, the first DT-II (Developmental Test Phase Two – the second of three planned tests aimed at expanding the F-35B’s shipboard operating envelope for the U.S. Marine Corps) night vertical landing was executed by F-35 Marine Corps test pilot, Lt. Col. C.R. “Jimi” Clift. Clift, a Harrier pilot.

The F-35B is the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) of the JSF, destined to replace all the USMC assets, including the Harrier jump jet and the F/A-18 Hornet.

Image credit: U.S. Marine Corps

 

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