SASEBO, Japan – USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) arrived in Sasebo April 8 after transiting across the Pacific Ocean from its homeport in San Diego for a scheduled hull swap with USS Essex (LHD 2).
LHD 6 is the sixth ship in the Wasp class of amphibious assault ships, and the third U.S. Navy vessel to have the name Bonhomme Richard. It will serve as the command ship for Expeditionary Strike Group Seven as an integral part of the Navy’s Forward Deployed Expeditionary Strike Group and Forward Deployed Amphibious Ready Group.
“We are very happy to deliver the Navy’s most capable amphibious assault ship to the crew of the USS Essex,” said Capt. Chuck Litchfield, Bonhomme Richard’s commanding officer. “In addition to conducting the hull swap, the BHR crew will get a great opportunity to experience the Japanese culture and serve as American ambassadors to the host nation.”
Hull swap, or ship rotation, is part of the Navy’s long-range plan to routinely replace older ships assigned to the Navy’s Forward Deployed Naval Force (FDNF) with newer or more capable ships. The forward deployment of Bonhomme Richard ensures the ability of Commander U.S. 7th Fleet to fulfill the U.S. government’s commitment to the defense of Japan and the maintenance of international peace and security in the Far East in support of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security.
Commissioned in 1998, the ship has conducted numerous multinational training exercises, such as 2010 Dawn Blitz; the Rim of the Pacific exercises in 2006, 2008 and 2010; as well as numerous deployments to the Western Pacific.
In 2003, Bonhomme Richard played two significant roles in Operation Iraqi Freedom. It offloaded more than 1,000 Marines and equipment from the 3rd Battalion, and then, while sitting off the coast of Kuwait, it became one of two Harrier carriers along with USS Bataan (LHD 5). The ship also provided relief efforts to Indonesia following the devastating Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in 2004.
The Forward Deployed ARG is part of Task Force 76, the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force, which is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.