MOVE PART OF "PACIFIC PIVOT" - NORFOLK, Va. (Navy Times) -- The amphibious assault ship Wasp will soon say sayonara to Norfolk.
The big deck amphib will move to Sasebo, Japan, to join the Navy’s forward deployed forces. It will take over for the Bonhomme Richard, which will return to San Diego for an overhaul, Fleet Forces Command said Monday.
It's another big blow to the Hampton Roads economy.
When the Navy moved the USS Iwo Jima to Mayport, Florida in 2014, the impact locally was huge.
According to the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, the departure of that one amphibious assault ship meant the loss of 1,070 sailors, a total employment loss of 3,020, a decrease in personal income of more than $227 million dollars, and a decrease in the gross regional product of more than $342 million.
And now, history will repeat itself, with the Wasp.
Still, the move may not be permanent.
"I do have confidence though that those 1,100 sailors and their families are coming back to Hampton Roads two years later in the Fall of 2019," said retired rear admiral Craig Quigley, who now serves as executive director of the Hampton Roads Military & Federal Facilities Alliance.
U.S. Fleet Forces Command did not release a detailed timeline for the moves but said that it’s expected in 2017.
The Wasp has been recently modernized to accommodate the Marine Corps version of the Joint Strike Fighter, which can operate from the gator's flight deck with short take-off and vertical landing capabilities.
The move of Wasp coincides the the Marine Corps' standing up of the first Japan-based F-35B squadron, the release said.
The Wasp left on its first major deployment in 11 years in June. It's AV-8B Harriers jump-jets and AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters began striking ISIS targets in Libya in August.
The shift, the release said, is a “part of the rebalance strategy to increase the Navy’s presence in the Pacific Fleet," adding that specific timelines will be announced at a date closer to the movement of the ships.
During her recent yard work, Wasp also received upgrades to the combat systems suite to include the MK 2 Ship Self Defense System, SPQ-9B horizon search radar, MK 57 NATO Sea Sparrow Missile System, and upgrades to the shipboard local area network and data link capability.