VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- The amphibious dock landing ship, USS Ashland (LSD 48) will depart its homeport at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story (JEBLCFS) June 27 on a deployment to conduct a hull swap with the USS Tortuga (LSD 46) forward deployed to Sasebo, Japan.
“The Hull Swap program is a critical part of keeping our forward deployed ships operationally ready and we're proud to be a part of it,” said Cmdr. Brett Hershman, Ashland’s commanding officer.
A hull swap, or ship rotation, is part of the Navy’s long-range plan to routinely replace older ships in a forward deployed position with newer or more capable ships. In short, the ships switch places, but crews and families remain in their homeport.
In preparation for the move, Ashland completed its mid-life overhaul and upgrade of systems during its Extended Period of Maintenance phase last year. Earlier this year she successfully passed the material inspection by the Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV).
“USS Ashland is ready to fulfill a very important mission by delivering an extremely capable warship to our Forward Deployed Naval Forces in Japan,” added Hershman. “The entire crew has been working very hard for many months to bring the ship to a high state of material readiness so she will be ‘ready to work’ upon arrival.”
Ashland will travel through 4th Fleet, the Panama Canal, and the 5th Fleet on her way to Japan. The crew will then conduct turnover with Tortuga until the ceremony, to be held in September, in Sasebo. Upon completion of this event, the Tortuga crew will assume command of Ashland while remaining in Japan. The original Ashland crew will bring Tortuga back to JEBLCFS, Virginia Beach.
Tortuga has been forward deployed in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility since its hull swap with USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) in 2006. Earlier this year, Tortuga successfully completed an annual bilateral exercise with the Republic of Philippines in Balikatan 2013 and participated in exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training 2013 (CARAT ’13) in Southeast Asia.
Both are Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ships; Tortuga was commissioned Nov. 17, 1990, and Ashland on May 9, 1992. Dock landing ships like Ashland and Tortuga are important to an amphibious fleet because they conduct amphibious operations through transporting, launching and supporting assault landing craft, Marines and their combat cargo to designated areas throughout the world.
Ashland can accommodate 400 Marines and support personnel. The 440 ft. well deck can hold four Landing Craft Air Cushion vehicles (LCAC), three Landing Craft Utilities (LCU), or 64 Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAV).
Commissioned in 1992 and named for the Lexington, Ky., estate of statesman Henry Clay, Ashland is the eighth Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship and the second U.S. Navy ship to bear the name. Their most recent deployment was in 2010 with the Nassau Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
Learn more about USS Ashland at www.public.navy.mil/surfor/lsd48.