PACIFIC OCEAN – USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) entered the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations Feb. 24, joining forward deployed naval forces (FDNF) in Sasebo, Japan in preparation for a hull swap with USS Essex (LHD 2) later this spring.
A hull swap is part of the U.S. Navy's long-range plan to maintain a highly capable amphibious ready group forward deployed in U.S. Pacific Command's area of responsibility.
Bonhomme Richard completed a mid-life modernization and maintenance availability last fall making it one of the most up to date, well suited LHD's in the Navy to replace USS Essex.
"Since September 2010, our motivated crew and the best maintenance team on the San Diego waterfront have been working toward this day," said Commanding Officer, Capt. Chuck Litchfield. "Hundreds of thousands of man hours and over $140M were put into making Bonhomme Richard the most capable big deck amphibious assault ship in the Pacific Fleet. Our crew has superbly performed every certification in the basic training cycle, operationally demonstrating Bonhomme Richard's readiness to perform the demanding mission in FDNF."
During the modernization period, the ship upgraded several systems including communications, a new computer network on board, and a fuel oil compensation system to assist with stability during rough seas. It also upgraded its flight deck to accommodate MV-22 Ospreys and the new Joint Strike Fighter.
Bonhomme Richard is a helicopter landing dock amphibious assault ship, capable of performing landing operations via helicopter, landing craft and other amphibious vehicles.
The ship's primary mission is to embark a mobile expeditionary unit of approximately 2,000 United States Marines, employing air-cushioned landing craft, commonly known as hovercrafts, a squadron of Harrier II AV-8B short take-off vertical landing jets, and various other aircraft and amphibious vehicles.
Bonhomme Richard will operate with the Essex Amphibious Ready Group, reporting to Commander, Task Force 76, Rear Adm. J. Scott Jones headquartered in Okinawa, Japan, prior to its hull swap.