US Navy USS America Amphibious Assault Ship conducts air defense operations with Japanese F-35A

According to information published by the U.S. Navy on October 23, 2020, the first-in-class amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) from the U.S. Navy participated in advanced combined operations with Japan this week in the western Pacific Ocean. She conducted integrated air defense operations on October 20, 2020, with F-35A Lightning II aircraft from the Japan Air Defense Command.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 F-35 Lightning II aircraft assigned to the Japan Air Self Defense Force conduct integrated air operations with the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS America LHA 6. (Picture source U.S. Navy)

The advanced training operations were designed to increase the tactical proficiency, lethality and interoperability of the amphibious forces of the America Expeditionary Strike Group and the Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) in the maritime domain.

U.S. Navy USS America and the Japan Self Defense Forces operate routinely together in the Indo-Pacific to strengthen a shared commitment to regional stability and a free and open Indo-Pacific.

On Dec. 20, 2011, Japan originally selected the F-35A to replace Japan’s aging F-4 aircraft. Japan’s latest decision to further extend the requirement by another 105 F-35s to replace 100+ pre-MSIP F-15Js reflects Japan’s confidence in the aircraft’s transformational 5th Generation capabilities and further promotes Japan’s increasing role in promoting regional stability and enhancing the US-Japan security alliance. In addition to the 42 F-35As already authorized, Japan also approved for the first time, acquisition of a STOVL version. Expected mix of the additional 105 aircraft will be 63 F-35As and 42 STOVL jets to be produced and delivered in the future.

In May 2012, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress April 30 of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Japan for a possible sale of an initial four F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL) aircraft with an option to purchase an additional 38 F-35 CTOL aircraft.

On December 18, 2018, Japan’s National Security Council and Cabinet authorized acquisition for 105 additional F-35s beyond the already approved 42 F-35s in the Japan Program. Total procurement was established at 147 F-35 aircraft which will make Japan the largest international customer on the F-35 Program.

In July 2020, the U.S. State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Japan of one hundred five (105) F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft and related equipment for an estimated cost of $23.11 billion. The Government of Japan has requested to buy sixty-three (63) F-35A Conventional Take­Off and Landing (CTOL) aircraft, forty-two (42) F-35B Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) aircraft, and one hundred ten (110) Pratt and Whitney F135 engines (includes 5 spares). The JMSDF is proceeding with plans to modify its two Izumo-class helicopter carriers to enable them to operate F-35B aircraft. These ‘multifunctional destroyers’, as they are termed by the JMSDF, will allow considerable power projection capabilities.

In March 2019, Japan has announced that the first F-35A squadron was operational with the 302 Squadron of Japan Air Self Defense Forces (JASDF). According to the military balance 2020, currently, the JASDF has a total of 12 F-35A Lightning II in service. 

The USS America is an amphibious assault ship of the United States Navy and the lead ship of her class. The class is designed to put ashore a Marine Expeditionary Unit using helicopters and MV-22B Osprey V/STOL transport aircraft, supported by AV-8B Harrier II or F-35 Lightning II V/STOL aircraft and various attack helicopters.

The USS America can be used as a small aircraft carrier with a squadron of jet fighters plus several multipurpose helicopters, such as the MH-60 Seahawk. It can carry about 20 to 25 AV-8B, F-35Bs. She has a hangar large enough to accommodate aircraft movement. The ship also has increased aviation fuel capacity, and storage for aviation parts and support equipment.

The USS America is armed with two rolling airframe missile launchers and two evolved Sea Sparrow missile (ESSM) launchers. She is also armed with seven dual .50 caliber machine guns and two Phalanx CIWS (Close-In Weapon System). 

The USS America is powered by two gas turbines, two shafts, with 70,000 bhp (52,000 kW) total and two 5,000 hp (3,700 kW) auxiliary propulsion engines. She can reach a top speed of 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph). She has a crew of 65 officers, 994 sailors and can accommodate 1,687 Marines.