USS Bataan LHD-5 (Nick BIG 5) VMM-263 ends longest Navy deployment in 40 years and the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit
The USS BATAAN LHD-5 is an amphibious assault ship of the US Navy, 40650 tons displacement, 257.2 meters long, 33.5 meters wide, 42.6 meters flight deck width, 8.2 meters draft, 70000 PS and 20+ miles an hour. Cost: 731 Mil. US$. The ship was named in commemoration of the Battle of Bataan peninsula (Philippines) during World War II.
The Bataan was ordered in late 1991 at Ingalls Shipbuilding and was launched there in March 1996 after a construction period of almost two years. In 1997, the Bataan was officially put into service in the Navy. From October 2003 to March 2004, the Bataan went on a tour as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Directly afterwards began the first overhaul of the vessel, which lasted until the end of 2004.
As part of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina, the USS Bataan provided assistance. Before the start of the storm, the ship was stationed near New Orleans and began on August 30 with relief operations. From the flight deck two helicopters operated with skilled health personnel on board, who provided emergency assistance. In addition, the helicopters delivered from fresh water and other auxiliary materials from the ship and served as a means of transport.
In 2005, the USS Bataan was responsible for the tests of the MV-22; at the time 8 machines were on board. Since 2009, 10 MV-22B Osprey are an integral part of the squadron on board.
In June 2006, the Bataan ended the three-week exercise Joint Caribbean Lion 2006 in the Caribbean. In 2007, she moved as part of an Expeditionary Strike Group into the Persian Gulf. On 1 July 2008, the Bataan moored in Boston to participate in the celebration of the National Day on July 4th. In the spring of 2009, the Bataan moved into the Mediterranean and Arabian waters.
Beginning in 2010 a four-month dry docking time for the ship was planned. Instead, after the earthquake in Haiti, the USS Bataan joined with the USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) and USS Fort McHenry (LSD-43) to deliver relief supplies to the island in January. In March 2011, the Bataan relocated as part of Operation Odyssey Dawn in the Mediterranean. It operated in the 5th and 6th Fleet. No one knew at that time that the USS Bataan would write Navy history. The cruise should have lasted seven months, but due to the crisis in Libya, the cruise was extended considerably. With 2,000 soldiers and 26 aircraft on board, a lot of missions were flown from the USS Bataan.
On board of a ship of this class everything is a bit different than on an aircraft carrier, it could be noted as a relaxed tour, what can not be said of a visit to an aircraft carrier.
On January 12th 2012, I flew from NAS Sigonella to the USS Bataan with a MV-22B Osprey (Call Sign “Thunder 41”), accompanied by two other Ospreys flying in a great photo position behind our aircraft (Call Sign “Thunder 42” & “43”). However, it was quite cold after an hour on the ramp, but I had my best photos of 2012 in the camera. After landing on the USS Bataan in the Mediterranean I had to use the hospital as a place to sleep, there are no single cabins as on aircraft carriers. The missions were flown deep into the night from the deck, in the morning the operations started again quite early. It is impressive how accurate the men and woman of the Marines Corps do their challenging work, no matter how many hours they had to work on deck, everything goes according to a precise plan, the team knows exactly errors cost a lot of money and probably lives, the combat readiness also suffers. The three-day visit gave me a little insight into the operations of this ship. On January 14th, I was flown back with the MV-22B (“Thunder 11”) from the USS Bataan to Hyeres / France where we landed at sunrise.
On 7.02.2012 the USS Bataan returned to NAS Norfolk / Virginia and was replaced in the 5th and 6th fleet by the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6).
Bell AH-1W USMC HMLA-167
Bell UH-1N USMC HMLA-167
Bell/Boeing MV-22B USMC VMM-263
McDonnel Douglas AV-8B+ USMC VMA-231
Sikorsky MH-60S USMC HSC-28
There are also landing craft stowed below deck, in general, there are three LCAC or two LCU or six LCM-8 or 40 Amphibious Assault Vessels (AAV) (normal) or 61 AAVs stowed.
A big thank you to the US Navy 6th Fleet and their Public Affairs Office, who allowed me this visit. I would return again at any time on the ship.
Cdr Marc Boyd & Lt. Sean Riordan (6th Fleet Public Affairs)
Capt. Erik Ross (Commander USS Bataan)
Lt. K. Cerezo, Ens. R. Garcia and Ens. G. Brown (USS Bataan)