July 09, 2013
Credit: Amy Butler
The amphibious ship LHD-1 USS Wasp passed its aviation certification earlier this month and is getting ready for its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Developmental Testing Phase II to occur later this summer.
To prepare for the certification, sailors spent their time between LHD-5 USS Bataan and numerous training courses to reacquaint themselves with the different types of aircraft slated to operate on the ship.
“More than 45 percent of the air department sailors are new, and do not have hands-on experience dealing with aircraft,” says Master Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Jimmie Gardner, Air Department leading chief petty officer.
Day and night, AV-8B Harrier jets, MV-22B Ospreys, MH-60S Seahawk and CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters launched and landed on deck, working with flight deck personnel and practicing night operations with and without night-vision goggles.
Ship air traffic controllers prepped for the certification with simulated training at Pensacola, Fla.
The U.S. Navy recently identified “several specific initiatives on the flight deck” of LHD amphibious assault ships the service says it needs to “support F-35 operations.” Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, acknowledged Wasp-class ship modifications have been designed to accommodate the F-35 vertical lift-and-takeoff variants.
“We did some mods on the Wasp,” Greenert said at a recent media briefing during the International Maritime and Defense Exhibition Asia 2013 in Singapore.
Navy officials say the modifications “are intended to offset the increased stresses associated with JSF exhaust. The exhaust patterns and flight characteristics of the F-35 required the shielding, relocation and removal of vulnerable systems that could sustain damage during flight operations, such as antennas, life rafts, life rails, safety nets and JP-5 fuel stations.”
Additionally, the Navy says, “The unique heat signature of the F-35 [has] required reinforcement of the flight deck to alleviate stresses from the heat of the jet, as well as modifying the flight deck coating to reduce erosion caused by jet exhaust associated with increased thrust. Specific system modifications that are unique to F-35 will also require the installation of new voltage regulators and rectifiers. Expanded mission capabilities of the F-35 have also required enhanced munitions throughput and systems capabilities to facilitate increased ordnance delivery and aircraft associated support equipment.”