Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, 24th MEU Deploy to Europe, Gaza Pier Reassembled

June 7, 2024 1:52 PM
An MH-60S Knight Hawk helicopter, assigned to the ‘Dragon Whales’ of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28, approaches the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD-1) during a vertical replenishment with the and the Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship USNS Robert E. Peary (T-AKE-5) in the Atlantic Ocean, June 1, 2024. US Navy Photo

The Navy’s oldest big-deck amphibious warship is in Europe for its first deployment since returning from Japan in 2019, the Marines announced on Friday.

USS Wasp (LHD-1) and its Amphibious Ready Group deployed on June 1 after completing a composite training unit exercise with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit off the East Coast. The COMPTUEX wrapped on May 12, according to a statement from the Navy.

“The ARG consists of three Hampton Roads-based ships: amphibious assault ship [Wasp], amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD-21), and dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD-51), totaling more than 4,500 Sailors and Marines across the force,” reads a statement from the service.

The 24th MEU is composed of a command element, Battalion Landing Team 1/8, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365 (Reinforced) and Combat Logistics Battalion 24 as the Logistics Combat Element.

As of Monday, Wasp was about halfway across the Atlantic, according to the USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker. Oak Hill was part of the U.S. Navy contingent participating int he 80th anniversary of the D-Day landing in France with guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG-60).

USS New York (LPD-21) entered the Baltic Sea on June 2 to join the Baltic Operations exercise known as BALTOPS. Wasp is set to join the exercise, USNI News understands.

Wasp has been on the East Coast since returning from Japan in 2019, when it was the big-deck assigned to U.S. 7th Fleet.

The ARG/MEU deployment is the first full ARG/MEU deployment since the Bataan ARG and the 26th MEU returned from a deployment to the Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East on March 21.

USS Boxer (LHD-4) was supposed to lead a three-ship ARG with USS Harpers Ferry (LSD-49), USS Somerset (LPD-25) and the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Instead, maintenance problems with Boxer caused the Navy to delay the big-deck’s departure and Somerset deployed to the Western Pacific alone in January.

Harpers Ferry and Boxer were set to follow, but Boxer suffered an engineering casualty in April and is currently having its rudder repaired at Naval Station San Diego, Calif.

The delay in the deployment of Boxer has raised questions on the availability of amphibious ships to transport MEUs and the maintenance status of the aging fleet of Wasp-class warships.

Meanwhile, in the Mediterranean, U.S. Central Command announced that the Gaza humanitarian pier was back in operation after heavy weather damaged the pier and grounded four Army watercraft off the coast of Gaza.

“I’m very pleased to announce that earlier this morning, in Gaza, U.S. forces successfully attached the temporary pier to the Gaza beach. Israeli Defense Force engineers provided all the necessary support to ensure the safe emplacement of the pier to the beach,” Vice Adm. Brad Cooper told reporters on Friday, according to CNN. “The policy of no U.S. boots on the ground does remain in effect. We expect to resume delivery of humanitarian assistance from the sea in the coming days.”

About 1,000 U.S. service members are supporting the operation that ferries trucks laden with aid for Gaza from Cyprus to a platform where they are loaded onto Army watercraft and transported to the pier. From there the aid is distributed ashore by the United Nations. The Pentagon said the pier, before it was damaged, delivered about 1,000 tons of aid.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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