US stealth fighter ship headed to Queensland

 

AMPHIBIOUS assault ship the USS Wasp is anticipated to be among more than 10 military ships from four countries making port visits throughout Queensland by this weekend.

Although the arrival day and time is unknown, the flagship of the US Navy's Wasp Amphibious Ready Group is expected to arrive into the Port of Brisbane no later than Friday, in time for Saturday's closing ceremony of Australia's largest joint-military exercise, Talisman Sabre.

Carrying US Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, the 257m long amphibious warfare carrier caters for various types of aircraft including AV-8B Harrier II jets, MV-22-Ospreys, different types of attack helicopters and the F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike fighter jets, or F-35B's, which can perform vertical takeoffs and landings.

The Wasp is also designed to accommodate hovercrafts and other types of military landing crafts used for beach landings, such as the one held at Stanage Bay on July 16 as part of Talisman Sabre.

Marines and soldiers from the US, Australia, Japan, the UK and New Zealand launched from the Wasp, the JS Kunisaki and the HMAS Adelaide and Canberra in the largest Australian-led amphibious landing since WWII, where they "assaulted" Langham Beach before spreading out to continue their mission throughout the Shoalwater Bay Military Training area in Central Queensland.

The USS Wasp off the coast of Shoalwater Bay in Central Queensland this month. Picture: Peter Wallis
The USS Wasp off the coast of Shoalwater Bay in Central Queensland this month. Picture: Peter Wallis

The peak of the biennial Exercise Talisman Sabre - designed to test and practice combat readiness and interoperability between Australia and the US Armed forces - ends today.

In its eighth iteration, this year has seen the largest Talisman Sabre ever held, with more than 34,000 military personnel, 200 aircraft and 30 ships involved from six nations.

The Royal Canadian Navy has participated for the first time since 2011 while members of the Japanese military joined in for the third time, but for the first time at such a large scale and for the fledgling Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.

Japan's amphibious transport ship, JS Kunisaki and the helicopter destroyer JS Ise, are expected to return to Brisbane by Friday, before leaving for Port Moresby on Monday.

Australia's HMAS Melbourne and Canada's HMCS Regina are also scheduled to arrive into Brisbane Friday and stay through the weekend, while the USNS John Ericsson and Canada's NRU Asterix are both expected to leave Brisbane Thursday.

Underway replenishment ship the USNS Rappahannock is scheduled to depart Brisbane next Wednesday.

Led by submarine USS Key West, the HMAS Canberra III, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS WASP LHD 1 and JS Ise (DDH-182) sail in the Coral Sea with other Royal Australian Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and US Navy ships during exercise Talisman Sabre. Picture: US Pacific Fleet/Facebook
Led by submarine USS Key West, the HMAS Canberra III, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS WASP LHD 1 and JS Ise (DDH-182) sail in the Coral Sea with other Royal Australian Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and US Navy ships during exercise Talisman Sabre. Picture: US Pacific Fleet/Facebook

Members of the public hoping to watch any ships come into the Port of Brisbane could try heading to Myrtle Town Reserve at 51 Sandmere Rd, Pinkenba or to MacArthur Ave in Hamilton for vessels expected to berth there.

Alistair Bulmer, 42, of Narangba, said he hoped to catch a glimpse of the ships.

"The morph of sea and air power together, it's just an engineering marvel that demands respect, they all do," he said.

"The USS Ronald Reagan, the USS Wasp, their accompany of support and defence craft, yet despite their size, they seem so graceful.

"I'll certainly be hoping to catch a glimpse of the USS Wasp in Brisbane waters and hopefully with a deck full of aircraft."

In Townsville, sailors from Australia's HMAS Canberra are expected to make a one night port call overnight Thursday, while the USS Ashland, also part of the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, is scheduled to arrive into Townsville on Friday, staying through to Tuesday.

Australian submarine, the HMAS Farncomb, is believed to still be docked in Gladstone.

An Australian Department of Defence official said there would be an increase in activity in and around the Port of Gladstone between now and Tuesday as part of the end of Exercise Talisman Sabre.
The bilateral training exercise started July 11 and extended as far north to Townsville and as far south as the Evans Head Air Weapons Range in northern NSW.

It ends early August, though the peak of the exercise ends today, with a closing ceremony scheduled for 10am Saturday on board the Wasp at the Port of Brisbane.

Japan’s Osumi Class amphibious transport dock ship JS Kunisaki. Picture: Supplied
Japan’s Osumi Class amphibious transport dock ship JS Kunisaki. Picture: Supplied