USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) is the third Wasp-class amphibious assault ship of the United States Navy named in honor of USS Kearsarge, a sloop-of-war that gained fame hunting Confederate raiders during the American Civil War. The sloop was named for Mount Kearsarge in New Hampshire. She is the fifth ship to be so named as such, but fourth overall, as the third was renamed the Hornet (CV-12), after the first Hornet (CV-8) was sunk, and served during the remainder of World War II.
Kearsarge‘s keel was laid down on 6 February 1990 at Litton-Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation of Pascagoula, Mississippi.
Ingalls built Kearsarge using efficient pre-outfitting and modular construction techniques. Hundreds of smaller sub-assemblies, containing piping, ventilation ducting and other hardware, as well as major machinery equipment, generators, and electrical panels were constructed. The sub-assemblies were then joined with others to form assemblies, which were in turn welded together to form five completed hull and superstructure modules. These giant modules, each weighing thousands of tons, were joined together on land to form the completed ship’s hull. The result of this early outfitting was a ship that was over 70 percent complete at launch.
She was launched on 26 March 1992, in a ceremony attended by then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell. The warship was christened on 16 May 1992, and commissioned on 16 October 1993.
The assault support system on the ship co-ordinates vertical and horizontal movement of troops, cargo and vehicles. A Monorail system, moving at speeds up to 600 ft/min (3 m/s), transports cargo and supplies from storage and staging areas throughout the ship to a 13,600-square-foot (1,260 m2) well deck, which opens to the sea through huge gates in the ship’s stern. There, the cargo, troops and vehicles are loaded onto landing craft for transit to the beach. The air cushion landing craft can “fly” out of the dry well deck, or the well deck can be flooded so that conventional landing craft can float out on their way to the beach.
Simultaneously, helicopters can be lifted from the hangar deck to the flight deck by two deck-edge elevators and loaded with supplies from three massive cargo elevators.
Kearsarge‘s armament suite includes the NATO RIM-7 Sea Sparrow point defense system for anti-aircraft support, RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles, 25-mm chain guns and the Phalanx close-in weapon system to counter threats from low-flying aircraft and close-in small craft. Missile decoy launchers augment the anti-ship missile defenses.
Kearsarge is capable of amphibious assault, advance force and special purpose operations, as well as non-combatant evacuation and other humanitarian missions. Since her commissioning, she has performed these missions all over the world, including evacuating non-combatants from Freetown, Sierra Leone, on 31 May 1997 and rescuing Air Force Captain Scott O’Grady from Serb-controlled territory in Bosnia on 8 June 1995.
Operation Noble Obelisk was the evacuation of civilians from Sierra Leone in 1997 undertaken by USS Kearsarge. More than 400 Americans and more than 3000 third-country nationals were taken aboard Kearsarge over 4 days.
Additionally, Kearsarge is fully equipped with state-of-the-art command and control (C&C) systems for flagship command duty, and her medical facilities are second in capability only to the Navy’s hospital ships, USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy. These facilities allowed Kearsarge to serve a dual role during the 1999 NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, as a platform for bombing missions against Yugoslav forces in Operation Allied Force, and as a treatment facility for Albanianrefugees in Operation Shining Hope.
On 19 August 2005, Kearsarge and USS Ashland were targeted by rockets while in port in Jordan. The rockets flew over Ashland‘s bow and struck the pier adjacent to the ships. The vessels were not hit but one Jordanian soldier was killed and another was wounded.
In 2006, 2008, and again in 2017, USS Kearsarge served as the principal attraction for New York’s “Fleet Week”. In August 2007, the ship visited the port of Valletta, Malta on the way to a six-month deployment to Iraq (5th Fleet AOR). The ship deployed Sailors and Marines in a relief effort in Bangladesh following Cyclone Sidr and provided support for President George W. Bush’s January 2008 visit to Israel.
On 6 August 2008, Kearsarge deployed in support of Operation Continuing Promise. The ship’s crew, along with augments from the United States Marine Corps, the United States Air Force, the United States Army, the United States Coast Guard, the United States Public Health Service, Canadian Forces, and other multi-national forces and NGO’s, provided medical, construction and humanitarian services to six Central, South, and Caribbean American countries (Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guyana, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Trinidad). The ship also provided Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HA/DR) operations in Haiti following four Atlantic hurricanes.
On 2 March 2011, Kearsarge, along with USS Ponce, traveled through the Suez Canal in response to the 2011 Libyan civil war. Robert Gates had said days earlier that he ordered the two warships into the Mediterranean, along with an extra 400 Marines, in case they are needed to evacuate civilians or provide humanitarian relief. As of 20 March, AV-8B Harrier II attack aircraft from Kearsarge have been reported attacking Libyan targets as part of Operation Odyssey Dawn. On 22 March, V-22 Ospreysfrom Kearsarge conducted a successful TRAP operation to recover the crew of a USAF F-15E Strike Eagle after it crashed in Libya due to a mechanical failure during a combat mission. The Daily Telegraph reported a military source, stating that, during the rescue, strafing runs were carried out and two Harriers dropped two 500 lb bombs on a convoy of Libyan vehicles, with other reports alleging that Libyan civilians were wounded in the operation. The ship returned to home port at Norfolk on 16 May 2011.
Following a three-day delay due to bad weather, Kearsarge deployed from Naval Station Norfolk on 11 March 2013 for a scheduled eight-month deployment. One of her first port visits was to Cyprus. Kearsarge later docked at the Israeli port of Eilat for several days beginning on 14 May 2013 before continuing her deployment. One of her MV-22s exercised in a joint operation with HMS Illustrious.
In September 2017, Kearsarge was called upon to assist in search-and-rescue operations during Hurricane Maria, after contact was lost with a ship carrying four people that issued a distress signal while battling 20 ft (6.1 m) seas and 100 mph (160 km/h) winds off the coast of Vieques, Puerto Rico. The United States Coast Guard, Navy, and the British Royal Navy utilized an HC-130 aircraft, a fast response cutter, and Navy helicopters. A woman and two children were rescued, but a man died aboard their capsized vessel.
Kearsarge participated in Ft. Lauderdale’s 2018 Fleet Week.
USS Kearsarge has been awarded the Golden Anchor for Retention Excellence, Ronald Reagan Distinguished Service Award, the CNO Environmental Safety Award, the Admiral Flatley Memorial Award (aviation safety), SECNAV Energy Award (2002), Department of Energy(DOE) Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) Mobility Energy Efficiency Award (2002), the Chief of Naval Operations Safety Award and the Commander Naval Surface Force Atlantic Safety Award.
Additionally, Kearsarge has qualified for the following medals and unit awards: Combat Action Ribbon, Humanitarian award, Navy Unit Commendation (three awards), Meritorious Unit Commendation (one award), Battle Efficiency “E” Award (seven awards), National Defense Service Medal (two awards), Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Kosovo Campaign Medal (with bronze star), Armed Forces Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (five awards), and the NATO Medal.
Shield and Crest
Blue and gold are colors traditionally associated with the Navy and symbolize the sea and excellence. The green chevron suggests the green-peaked Mount Kearsarge in New Hampshire. The amphibious nature of the combat operations of the present USS Kearsarge is represented by green and blue, alluding land and sea. The arrowheads, together with the white chevronel, which represents a shore line, allude to assault landings. The stars commemorate the battle stars the third Kearsarge received for Korean War and Vietnam War service.
The wings of the crest symbolize the aviation capabilities of both the present and the third Kearsarge; they are gold for the honor and achievement. The white anchor recalls the round-the-world cruise of the second Kearsarge of the Great White Fleet in 1907 and denotes the naval prowess of the USS Kearsarges. The blue-and-gray wavy bar highlights the Civil War service for the first USS Kearsarge. The swords (one a Navy cutlass and the other a Marine mameluke) are crossed, to denote cooperation and teamwork, as well as the combined combat mission of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. Motto ~ “Proud … Bold … Trustworthy.”
- Maritimequest USS Kearsarge LHD-3 Photo Gallery
- “LHD-1 Wasp class”. Federation of American Scientists. 9 May 2000. Retrieved 8 April 2011.
- Global Security.org “Operation Noble Obelisk” Accessed December 26, 2013
- W. M. Kennedy Operation Noble OBELISK: An Examination of Unity of Effort. Naval War Coll., Newport, RI. Joint Military Operations Dept.Technical report Feb 2001
- Daily Mail Reporter (2 March 2011). “Libya no-fly zone an option:Obama gives strong indication yet U.S. Forces may be deployed in Middle East rebellion”. Daily Mail. Retrieved 2 March2011.
- Nasrawi, Salah (2 March 2011). “2 US warships move closer to Libya via Suez Canal”. The Washington Post. The Associated Press. Retrieved 2 March 2011.
-  Archived 21 March 2010 at the Wayback Machine
- Ward, Victoria; Spillius, Alex; Squires, Nick (1 April 2011). “Libya: Gaddafi’s air force ‘has been destroyed‘“. The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 23 March 2011.
- Kington, Tom (1 April 2011). “Off the coast of Libya, aboard America’s floating fortress”. The Guardian. Retrieved 1 April 2011.
- McMichael, William H. (16 May 2011). “Kearsarge back from extended deployment”. Military Times. Retrieved 22 October 2015.
- Sterman, Adiv (14 May 2013). “US aircraft carrier docks in Eilat”. The Times of Israel. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
- “‘A little bit special’ – unique US aircraft lands on Illustrious”. Royal Navy. 19 September 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2015.
- “The Latest: Boat missing off Puerto Rico with 4 aboard”. Miami Herald. Associated Press. 21 September 2017. Archived from the original on 22 September 2017. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
- http://awards.navy.mil Archived 14 October 2004 at the Wayback Machine