Another Great Day at Sea

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New York Fleet Week 2017

Another Great Day At Sea – Life Aboard the USS George H. W. Bush” was an excellent book by Geoff Dyer, that came out in 2014 and described in great detail his two week stay on the aircraft carrier USS George Bush (CVN-77). Mr. Dyer, a British author and reporter, got special permission from the US Navy to fly out to the Bush on a C-2A Greyhound “COD” from Bahrain to join the carrier – on station in the Persian Gulf – to report and note his findings of life aboard a full deck carrier for purposes of writing his book. (By the way – it’s a great book on carrier operations. I recommend everyone should read it!) Well, last Friday, May 26th, I spent “Another Great Day At Sea” on board the Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD-3) USS Kearsarge, an 844 foot helicopter carrier and open-well amphibious assault ship in the wilds of the Hudson River at Pier 86 at West 46th Street in New York as part of New York City Fleet Week 2017. No, I didn’t need a C-2A COD Greyhound to trap on the Number-3 Wire or a CH-46 Sea Knight to land on Spot-2. I simply went through the security check point at Pier 86 – there were no crowds at all on Friday – walked up the gangplank to the Vehicle-LCAC Well Deck, up a steep ramp to the Hanger Bay, and finally up another steep ramp to the Flight Deck, and voil’a, I was on the Flight Deck of the USS Kearsarge. Stand by for my “Report From The Flight Deck”!

Fleet Week 2017 in New York was much more subdued than in previous years. Years ago you could have had as many as 30 ships from many foreign countries coming in and even get a a 30-minute fly-over of almost 20 aircraft during the “Parade of Ships” on the Wednesday “Arrivals Day”. There were no planes this year but New York did end up with 14 large US Navy, USCG, and even one RCN ship from Canada berthed in five different locations around the City. The ship list included:

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1) USS Kearsarge, Landing Helicopter Dock, (LHD-3), 844 foot length, 106 foot beam, at Pier 88 across from the USS Intrepid at West 46th Street. This assault ship is designed to provide close air support for US Marine Landing Forces and is also designed to house and launch LCAC hovercraft landing vessels in a water-level submersible stern open bay as well as launch helicopters and VTOL fighters on the upper Flight Deck, all for sustained USMC beach assaults. This ship can launch and store 22 MV-22 Osprey vertical tilt aircraft , six AV-8B STOL fighter jets, and six SH-60 Seahawk attack helicopters. Simultaneously, helicopters can be lifted from the hanger deck to the flight deck by two deck-edge elevators and then loaded with supplies from three massive separate cargo elevators. This aircraft compliment can be adjusted based on the mission profile.

2) USCG High Endurance Coast Guard Cutter, USCGC Hamilton, (WMSL-753), 418 foot length, berthed at Pier 92 at West 52nd Street. The ship’s aircraft compliment includes an Eurocopter HH-65 Dolphin helo or a Sikorsky MH-60T Jayhawk helo permanently assigned to the ship in a stern hanger. This modern Coast Guard Cutter can be used for intercepting suspect vessels, search and rescue, fishing protection, maritime homeland security missions, counterterrorism, coastal patrol missions, mine warfare and supporting US Navy combat operations.

3) US Naval Academy Yard Patrol Boats (4), each 119 foot length, 28 foot beam, berthed at Pier 86 at 46th Street adjacent to the USS Intrepid. The Yard Patrol Craft, YP 703 Class, are used to teach familiarization with watercraft, Basic Damage Control, and Underway Instruction of Basic to Advanced Seamanship and Navigation to US Naval Academy Cadets at Annapolis, MD and to OCS Candidates at Pensacola, FL.

4) NOAA Research Vessel RV Neil Armstrong (AGOR-27), 238 foot length, 50 foot beam, at Pier 86 at the USS Intrepid at 46th Street. The AGOR-27 is a new type of Oceanographic Research Ship fully owned by the US Navy and operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute at Cape Cod.

5) HMCS Glacé Bay (MM-701), a Royal Canadian Navy Kingston Class Coastal Defense Vessel, 181 foot length, 37 foot beam, at Pier 92 at 52nd Street. This ship has served in the RCN since 1997 and is based at CFB Halifax on the east coast.

6) USS San Jacinto (CG-56), 567 foot length, 55 foot beam, berthed at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. This ship is a Ticonderoga Class Cruiser. Its’ aircraft compliment includes two Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk LAMPS III helos.

7) USS Monterey (CG-61), 567 foot length, 55 foot beam, also berthed at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. This ship is a AEGIS Guided Missile Cruiser. It has a similar aircraft compliment to that of the San Jacinto. Both of these Guided Missile Cruisers are multi-mission surface combatants that are seaborne platforms for sophisticated modern guided missile systems. They can take out virtually any target in the air, on the sea, beneath the sea, or on the shore. Primarily deployed in Battle Groups, these cruisers are near and far striking ships with multiple and mission-specific combat roles.

8) USS Lassen (DDG-82), 509 foot length, 66 foot beam, berthed at the Staten Island Homeport Pier. This special pier along with its shore based major facilities, was built in the 1990’s to base the USS Iowa Battleship and a number of Cruisers and Destroyers as part of a Battle Group to be based in Staten Island. As is typical of the government sometimes, after everything was built Congress decided to deactivate all four battleships and the “Homeport Navy Pier” in SI was sold to private developers. The Lassen is an Arleigh Burke Class Guided Missile Destroyer, with multi-mission anti-air warfare, anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare combat systems.

9) USS Zepher (PC-8), 174 foot length, 25 foot beam, is a Cyclone Class Coastal Patrol Boat for Naval Special Operations Support, and was berthed at Kings Point Merchant Marine Academy near the Throgs Neck Bridge.

10) USCG Coastal Buoy Tender Katherine Walker, (WML-556), 175 foot length, 36 foot beam, berthed at the SI Homeport Pier and based here in New York, actually at Bayonne, NJ, USCG Station New York. The Katherine Walker is a Keeper Class Cutter tasked with maintaining Aids To Navigation (ATON), Search and Rescue (SAR), Law Enforcement (LE), Marine Safety Inspections, Environmental Protection and Natural Resource Management. It’s AOO is New York Harbor and environs.

11) USS Yuma (EPF-8), 337 foot length, 93 foot beam, was berthed at the Bronx SUNY Maritime College. It is a Spearhead Class Expeditionary Fast Transport operated by the Military Sealift Command. It is brand new and was just launched on August 26, 2016 and delivered to the Navy on April 21, 2017. It is unusual in design because it is a double-hull Catamaran ship for higher speeds. It is a high-speed shallow-draft medium cargo ship that can go as fast as 45 knots fully loaded. It can unload troops, supplies or special forces and is the new face of Maritime Warfare. It’s viewing this weekend was Classified and Restricted.

The USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) was the star of the 2017 NYC Fleet Week and was quite a sight to see with its 844 foot length and 106 foot beam. The LHA’s and LHD’s are the largest of all amphibious warfare ships. They resemble a small aircraft carrier and are capable of Vertical/Short Take Off and Landing (V/STOL) aircraft, Short Take Off Vertical Landing (STOVL), Vertical Take Off and Landing ( VTOL) and Tilt-Rotar and Rotary Wing (RW) aircraft operations. LHD’s contain a Well-Deck to support use of Landing Craft Air Cushioned (LCAC’s) watercraft and other assault watercraft internally housed and launched at water- level. The LCAC’s have large air propellers in the stern and air propellers under the hull that raise them above the surface of the water and propel them at high speed to, up and over the beach for some distance. The control cabin resembles a flight deck on an aircraft and the “pilots” literally fly it above the water’s surface to quickly deliver troops, tanks, and vehicles quickly to the beach to support Marine landings. LHD’s can act as the centerpiece of a US Marine Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) with command and control capability for embarked troops. The Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) is a amphibious force consisting of a Navy element, a group of ships known as an Amphibious Task Force (ATF), and a Landing Force (LF) of US Marines (and occasionally US Army soldiers) totaling about 5,000 troops. Together, these elements and supporting units are trained, organized, and equipped to perform joint amphibious combat operations.

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The Kearsarge Ship’s Company is 66 officers and 1,004 enlisted men and women. The Marine Detachment, including the Air Wing, is an additional 1,667 troops with a 184 surge capacity. The “shore connectors” include three LCAC’s (Landing Craft Air Cushion) or two larger LCU’s (Landing Craft Utility Vessels). The LCAC’s can land on 75% of the world’s beaches. The assigned MAG Unit can include: F-35B Lightning II fighters, AV-8B Harrier fighters, MV-22 Ospreys, CH-53E Super Stallions, UH-1Y Venom “Huey’s”, AH-1Z Viper “Super Cobras”, AH-1W Cobra Gunships, and MH-60S Knighthawks / Seahawks.

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My flight deck visit to the Kearsarge included seeing up close the following aircraft with flight crews:
1) V-22A Osprey, Marines, VMM-266, 6722, ES-14, out of MCAS New River, NC.
2) AH-1W “Whiskey” Super Cobra Gunship, Marines, HMLA-167, 160820, out of MCAS New River, NC.
3) UH-1Y “Yankee” Super Huey, HMLA-167 “Warriors”, 168947, out of MCAS New River, NC.
4) CH-53 “Echo” Super Stallion, HMH-461, “Iron Horse 01”, out of MCAS New River, NC, originally HMR(M) Squadron.

While on the Flight Deck, I was given a tour of the Flight Deck HAZMAT Decontamination Facility for “NBC” Environments – Nuclear, Biological and Chemical personnel contamination. Contaminated personnel are brought into a special room right off the flight deck where their soiled clothes are destroyed or later cleaned and they go into a negative air lock and a spray wash down decontamination vault. They then go through another air wash anteroom to receive clean clothes for processing into a clean air facility. The ship can operate in an NBC environment totally sealed and using its own recirculated and purified air without using any outside contaminated air. The ship and aircraft can be remotely sprayed down to clean them of all contaminated NBC particulates after they transit the contaminated zone.

The Kearsarge also has a self-contained 100-bed hospital on board with acute care beds, ICU beds, Emergency, Trauma and Exam Rooms, full Imaging Rooms, Clinical Labs, as well as normal exam, dental and special procedure rooms for ambulatory care.

Yes, this was quite a ship. I certainly had a “Great Day At Sea” on the USS Kearsarge and if any of you get a chance to visit an LHD, by all means do so. Or you can come to New York next year for Fleet Week 2018 and see one of the Amphibious Assault Carriers “Up Close and Personal”!
Semper Fi !!!

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BILL SARAMA
May 29, 2017

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