USS Wasp to eventually replace Bonhomme Richard in Japan
By ERIK SLAVIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 24, 2016
Starting next fall, the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp will homeport at Sasebo Naval Base, Japan, where it will eventually replace the USS Bonhomme Richard, Navy officials said Tuesday.
The Norfolk, Va.-based Wasp can support the next-generation F-35B Lightning II fighter, which is capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings. U.S. Forces Japan said Japan was formally notified on Oct. 13 that Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni will receive 16 F-35B aircraft next year.
The Bonhomme Richard will remain in Sasebo along with Wasp for an undetermined period in 2018 before heading to its new home in San Diego, where the ship will undergo maintenance and upgrades.
The Bonhomme Richard crew will leave along with the ship when the transfer takes place, Commander Naval Forces Japan officials said Tuesday.
The transfer is another step for the Navy’s plan of placing its most advanced ships and aircraft in the Asia-Pacific region, Navy officials said.
Wasp is now operating in the 6th Fleet area of responsibility, where it had been conducting air strikes against Islamic State targets in Libya, a Navy statement said.
Wasp typically includes a crew of about 1,000 sailors and can embark more than 1,600 Marines. The 844-foot flattop ship employs 31 aircraft, as well as Marine amphibious craft out of its well deck.
Wasp was commissioned in 1989 but has received upgrades to its MK2 Ship Self-Defense System, SPQ-9B horizon search radar and MK 57 Sea Sparrow missile system, as well as added network and data capability, officials said Tuesday.