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31st MEU CO, XO, board USS Wasp

10 March 2018

"Pairing F-35B Lightning IIs with the Wasp represents one of the most significant leaps in warfighting capability for the Navy-Marine Corps team in our lifetime", Rear Adm. Brad Cooper, Task Force 76 commander, said in a statement.

"This is a historic deployment", said Col. Tye R. Wallace, 31st MEU Commanding Officer.

The F-35 will become a fixture on aircraft carriers and air bases around the U.S., ushering in a new era of sea and air power.

The jets are meant to both make precision strikes inland and to support Marines inserting ashore, the Navy said.

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North Korea, not a powerful nation in terms of air power, will now feel the added pressure of stealth jets it can not track sitting near its shores in Okinawa or on deployment around the region.

The pilots of the fighter attack squadron are scheduled to conduct a series of qualification flights on the Wasp in upcoming days, the Navy said.

The US Marine Corps now has F-35Bs operating on US Navy ships in the Pacific, something no other military on earth comes close to.

The arrival of the F-35B onboard the L-class ships mark a massive boost in striking power for the roughly 40,000-ton vessels-effectively turning them into light carriers.

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"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.

Multi-mission guided-missile destroyers USS Dewey (DDG 105), with embarked Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 35 "Magicians", and USS Sterett (DDG 104), with embarked Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 49 "Scorpions", are scheduled to support a range of operations and training with the Wasp Expeditionary Strike Group for varying stretches during the patrol.

But nobody has anything like the F-35B out at sea, and starting this month no smart United States adversary will ever look at naval warfare the same again. As the Marine Corps' only continuously forward-deployed MEU, the 31st MEU provides a flexible force ready to perform a wide range of military operations. The ship completed an overhaul previous year, and on Saturday departed Sasebo, Japan, where it is forward deployed.

On Sunday, fighter jets landed on an amphibious assault ship at an undisclosed location in the Pacific.

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31st MEU CO, XO, board USS Wasp