The USS Wasp (mini-aircraft carrier) and its strike group went out for its first regional patrol since arriving in Japan earlier this year.
The US could have spent half the money for a larger carrier like the UK Queen Elizabeth and put out more F35b with longer short takeoff range instead of vertical takeoff and landing.
More than 2,300 members of the Okinawa-based 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit are embarked with the strike group, which includes the 844-foot flattop Wasp, the guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey, the dock-landing ship USS Ashland and the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay.
The USS Wasp mini-aircraft carrier still cost about $7 billion and the F35b can only land on two specially reinforced locations. The reinforcement was needed to prevent the vertical landing jets from cutting through the deck.
The heat modifications added extra structure below the deck means moved other large components deeper into the ship.
40 weeks of upgrades were needed to enable the ship to handle a dozen or so F35b stealth fighters.
Normally, a Wasp– or America-class assault ship embarks an air wing composed of six-to-eight AV-8B Harrier jump jets or F-35Bs, up to 10 MV-22 tiltrotors and four CH-53E heavylift helicopters. The Corps believes that by eliminating the CH-53s from the air wing and cutting the number of V-22s to just four, it can boost the F-35 complement to at least 16, and as many as 20.
The larger UK Queen Elizabeth carriers could also handle F35b but use a short takeoff off of a sloped runway. The UK aircraft carriers are about $4 to 4.5 billion apiece and can handle 24 F35bs plus other helicopters. the British carriers are 65,000 tons displacement versus about 40,000 tons for the US Wasp.
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