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USS America forward deploys to Japan as USMC faces F-35B parts issues

The amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) is slated to join US Navy (USN) 7th Fleet forward-deployed naval forces (FDNF) in Sasebo, Japan, to replace the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1), which will head to Norfolk, Virginia, to undergo scheduled maintenance, USN officials confirmed.

        Amphibious assault ship USS
        (LHA 6) will be forward-deployed to Japan.

Amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) will be forward-deployed to Japan. (USN)

America is one of the USN’s few aviation-centric amphibious assault ships, trading off well-deck space for more aircraft capability. Like Wasp , USN officials say, America will also deploy with Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, which, the US Marine Corps (USMC) says, will anchor future USMC air operations.

However, the USMC has faced parts and associated readiness challenges with F-35Bs for its forward-deployed operations, according to the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, ‘F-35 Aircraft Sustainment, DOD [Defense Department] Needs to Address Substantial Supply Chain Challenges’, released on 25 April.

“DOD [Department of Defense] purchases certain sets of F-35 parts years ahead of time to support aircraft on deployments, including on ships,” the GAO reported. “But the parts do not fully match the military services’ needs because F-35 aircraft have been modified over time. For example, 44% of purchased parts were incompatible with aircraft the Marine Corps took on a recent deployment.”

The GAO reported 382 of 886 parts were incompatible – relative to total parts in the packages – in the Wasp Afloat Spare Parts Package for the deployment between March and April 2018, while 339 of 768 parts were incompatible in a package for another amphibious assault ship, USS Essex (LHD 2), which deployed with the F-35Bs between July 2018 and February 2019.

        An F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter prepares for operations aboard the amphibious assault ship USS
        (LHD 1). Recent
        F-35B operations underscored aircraft parts issues.

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