In early December 2018, USNI reported that the older USS Wasp (LHD-1) would be returning to the US East Coast sometime in 2019. It served as the flagship for about a year after just arriving in Japan in January 2018 to serve as the flagship of the amphibious fleet in the U.S. 7th Fleet region.
USNI News cited the head of US surface forces who said that USS America (LHA-6) would take its place.
“[Wasp] is coming around because of maintenance – her time in [the Forward-Deployed Naval Force] is over out in Japan, America‘s going out there. She’s coming back because of maintenance and dock loading and stuff like that,” Vice Adm. Richard Brown, commander of Naval Surface Forces and Naval Surface Force Pacific said in a January 11th phone call with reporters.
Another unnamed source told USNI News that the US Navy plans to send the USS America to Japan as USS Wasp’s replacement.
Two anonymous Navy officers offered no response to USNI News’ requests for comment on the timing of the move. No comment was provided on preparations that would have to be made in Japan to accommodate the new amphibious warship.
The outlet further reported that the US Navy currently has 9 amphibious assault ships in service: eight Wasp-class LHDs, and America.
The second America-class ship, the USS Tripoli (LHA-7) will commission in Fall 2019 in Pensacola, according to local media.
The USS Wasp and the USS Essex (LHD-2) are the two oldest big-deck amphibious assault ships in the fleet and are the only two that currently support F-35B Joint Strike Fighter squadrons in the Marine Corps.
During the Surface Navy Association annual national symposium that took place between January 15-17th, Marine Maj. Gen. David Coffman, expeditionary warfare director on the chief of naval operations’ staff (OPNAV N95), said “aviation-optimized America and Tripoli, LHA-6 and 7, are not like the rest” and that the Navy hoped to bring them “out of rotation.”
“Wasp and Essex are current stand-ins” after having undergone F-35 compatibility upgrades during recent maintenance availabilities, but regarding America and Tripoli, “best case scenario, we’ve got one of those forward with Brad Cooper aboard as CTF-76” and “the other one is back in San Diego, most likely, in the yard, getting spiral development for some more wicked stuff, being bed on a daily basis what’s working and not working with CTF-76, with the most capable CTF flagship on the planet for expeditionary strike groups.”
The plans for the USS Tripoli are yet unannounced. It is yet to pass its at-sea tests.