USS Wasp (LHD 1) file photo. (U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Ryan G. Coleman)

NORFOLK, Va. - Amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) departed for Sasebo, Japan, Aug. 30, where it will assume duties as the forward-deployed flagship of the amphibious force of the U.S. 7th Fleet.

The shift will introduce an F-35B Joint Strike Fighter-capable amphibious assault ship to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, pairing it with the F-35Bs of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121.

"This move ensures that our most technologically-advanced air warfare platforms are forward deployed," said Wasp Commanding Officer Capt. Andrew Smith. "Our capabilities, paired with the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, increases our Navy's precision strike capabilities within the 7th Fleet region. Wasp will help America's commitment to the maritime security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific."

Wasp completed a six-month deployment late last year, during which the crew completed a certification validation, ensuring the ship's readiness to join 7th Fleet. The ship represents the naval centerpiece of the Up-Gunned Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) concept, which increases the capability of the traditional three-ship amphibious ready group to defend itself and project power.

As Wasp takes over for USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) for a regularly-scheduled deployment next year, the crew will serve as the flagship for the Wasp ESG, which will include amphibious transport dock USS Green Bay (LPD 20) and one of two forward-deployed amphibious dock landing ships. The ESG also embarks Naval Beach Unit 7, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25 and ground, air, and logistics elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The Up-Gunned ESG-MEU team is the premiere crisis response force in the Western Pacific. In addition to maintaining security in the region through presence and deterrence, the Wasp ESG will respond at a moment's notice to any type of contingency, to include humanitarian aid and disaster relief.

The 31st MEU and forward-deployed amphibious ships like Wasp combine to form U.S. Pacific Command's premier crisis response force. Together, the U.S. Navy-Marine Corps team has the capability to conduct stability operations or deliver disaster relief at a moment's notice.

An F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter lands on USS Wasp (LHD 1) during certifications in July. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Sean Galbreath)