USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) serves as one of the eight completed Wasp-class Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) amphibious assault ships built for the United States Navy (USN). These warships are designed to support major and minor military assaults, bringing vital elements from ship-to-shore - infantry (marines), machine (tanks, armored vehicles, logistical trucks), and supplies (aid, ammunition, food). Amphibious operations remain bold, highly dangerous maneuvers in the grand scope of military ventures requiring next-to-perfect planning on the part of the attacking force.
USS Kearsarge is the third ship of the Wasp-class and is named after the 1861 Civil War-era steam/sail sloop - several vessels in USN history have carried the name. The modern version saw her keel laid down by Ingalls Shipbuilding on February 6th, 1990 and she was launched to sea for trials on March 26th, 1992. Christened in May of that year, the vessel was formally commissioned on October 16th, 1993 and maintains an active status in the USN fleet. She homeports out of Norfolk, Virginia along the American East Coast (with unfettered access to the Atlantic Ocean, and all of its connected bodies, and fights under the motto of "Proud-Trustworthy-Bold".
Displacement reaches 41,100 tons under full loads and dimensions include an overall length of 844 feet, a beam of 106 feet, and a draught of 27 feet. Power is from 2 x Boiler units feeding 2 x Geared steam turbines outputting 70,000 horsepower and driving 2 x Shafts. Maximum speed in ideal conditions is 24 knots.
The crew complement numbers 104 officers and they are joined by over 1,000 enlisted personnel. The vessel is cleared to carry up to 1,900 combat-ready marine or army elements, 22 x Bell V-22 "Osprey" tiltrotor aircraft, 6 x AV-8B "Harrier II" strike fighters, and 6 x Sikorsky SH-60 "Seahawk" (or equivalent medium-lift types) navy/marine/coast guard helicopters. Three LCAC cushioned amphibious landing craft are part of the force used to ferry vehicles, personnel, and supplies ashore. Beyond its obvious military value, such a vessel can serve admirably in humanitarian / disaster relief roles. The well deck measures 13,600 square feet of space and features a monorail for quick maneuvering of cargo. The warship is outfitted with the proper command and control systems to also serve as a flagship for the fleet should the case arise.
Installed armament, largely defensive in nature, includes 2 x "Sea Sparrow" medium-range surface-to-air missile launchers, 2 x Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) launchers, 3 x 20mm Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems (CIWSs), and up to 8 x 12.7mm Browning heavy machine guns. Her primary defense comes from accompanying vessels and Combat Air Patrols (CAPs) provided by the Navy.
Entering active service in 1993, USS Kearsarge has been involved in many notable operations spanning the globe. She undertook civilian evacuations at Sierra Leone in 1997, took part in Operation Allied Force land attack sorties during the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s, and was featured in Operation Shining Hope where she assisted Albanian refugees. In 2005 she was unsuccessfully targeted by militants while berthed in Jordanian waters and, in 2008, she was part of a joint-service humanitarian-minded voyage to points in Central and South America. In 2011, her attack Harriers were used in anger during the 2011 Libyan Civil War as the warship provided humanitarian relief for civilians. One of her last major actions was in a Search and Rescue (SAR) effort of a capsized ship near Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria.
As stated earlier, USS Kearsarge continues to serve actively in the USN inventory.