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NEWS | Feb. 4, 2021

Lightning Strikes Again Onboard USS America

By Lt. John Stevens

PHILIPPINE SEA -- USS America (LHA 6), the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious assault ship, is at sea this month operating with F-35B Lightning II fighter aircraft from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121.

“Operating the F-35B from our most advanced ship in the America Strike Group brings an extraordinary capability to the Navy and Marine Corps Team as we operate forward in the Indo-Pacific,” said Rear Adm. Fred Kacher, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7. “The USS America-31st Marine Expeditionary Unit team truly embodies what the Chief of Naval Operations terms Integrated American Naval Power, and these Sailors and Marines are already making a difference as we sail, fly and operate in the most critical maritime arena in the world today.”

Sailors and Marines aboard America conduct flight operations in support of 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) missions, ensuring this next-generation strike weapons system is ready to deliver effects as part of the integrated Navy-Marine Corps team, increasing America’s ability to prevail in day-to-day competition, control the seas, strengthen alliances and partnerships, and develop a modernized naval force as a strategic asset in the Indo-Pacific.

“The joint strike fighter is unmatched in theater – nothing even comes close!” said Capt. Richard LeBron, Commodore of Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11. “There is no better aviation platform to support 7th Fleet’s mission to ensure the United States can freely operate wherever and whenever it must, in alignment with international norms, standards, rules, and laws.”

The forward-deployed USS America ESG, which comprises the ships of PHIBRON 11 coupled with the air and ground combat elements of the 31st MEU, as well as landing craft and personnel from Naval Beach Unit 7, relies on F-35B’s enhanced battle vision for optimal command-and-control of multiple mission platforms throughout the Indo-Pacific. This blue-green team projects sea power from all domains to preserve freedom in the maritime commons, while strengthening partnerships with vital allies throughout the region.

“The F-35B is one of the many innovative warfighting tools our lethal professionals of the 31st MEU bring to the America team, and once again, I am eager to work with them as we innovate and operate across the 7th Fleet area of operations,” said Capt. Ken Ward, commanding officer of USS America. “Overland, or over water – the fusion of speed, agility, stealth, and sensors unlike any other fighter in history – it provides the warfare commander an unparalleled advantage in the battlespace.”

Col. Michael Nakonieczny, commanding officer of the 31st MEU, reiterated this revolutionary aircraft will have positive and revolutionary impacts on the joint force and regional allies. “Incorporating the F-35s of VMFA-121 into our air combat element during this at-sea period provides the Expeditionary Strike Group the ability to dominate the air and sea domains, and increases the speed at which we can respond to the needs of our warfighters throughout the Indo-Pacific.”

“Our air combat element, reconnaissance teams, and rifle squads, imbued with our warfighting ethos and enabled by the combat power and combat logistical support of the ESG, are a dominating and decisive force on any battlefield against any adversary,” said Nakonieczny.

America, the lead ship of the America ESG, along with the 31st MEU, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility to enhance interoperability with allies and partners, and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

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