USS Essex (LHD-2)

USS Essex (LHD-2) is a Wasp-class Landing Helicopter Dock in service with the United States Navy. The amphibious assault ship was built at what is now Huntington Ingalls Industries in Pascagoula, Mississippi. She was launched 23 February 1991 and commissioned on 17 October 1992 while moored at North Island NAS. She is the fifth ship named for Essex County, Massachusetts. Essex served as the command ship for Expeditionary Strike Group Seven until replaced by USS Bonhomme Richard on 23 April 2012.[2]

USS Essex (LHD-2)
USS Essex in the Pacific Ocean in 2015
United States
Name: USS Essex
Namesake: Essex County, Massachusetts
Ordered: 10 September 1986
Builder: Ingalls Shipbuilding
Laid down: 20 March 1989
Launched: 23 February 1991
Commissioned: 17 October 1992
Homeport: Naval Base San Diego
Motto: Take Notice
Nickname(s): "The Iron Gator"
Status: in active service
General characteristics
Type: Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) amphibious assault ship
Displacement: 40,500 long tons (41,150 t) full load
Length: 843 ft (257 m)
Beam: 104 ft (31.8 m)
Draft: 27 ft (8.1 m)
Propulsion: Two boilers, two geared steam turbines, two shafts, 70,000 shp (52,000 kW);
Speed: 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph)
Range: 9,500 nautical miles (17,600 km; 10,900 mi) at 18 kn (33 km/h; 21 mph)
Well deck dimensions: 266-by-50-foot (81 by 15.2 m) by 28-foot (8.5 m) high
Boats & landing
craft carried:
Troops: 1,687 troops (plus 184 surge) Marine Detachment
Complement: 1,208
Sensors and
processing systems:
  • 1 AN/SPS-49 2-D Air Search Radar
  • 1 AN/SPS-48 3-D Air Search Radar
  • 1 AN/SPS-67 Surface Search Radar
  • 1 Mk23 Target Acquisition System (TAS)
  • 1 AN/SPN-43 Marshalling Air Traffic Control Radar
  • 1 AN/SPN-35 Air Traffic Control Radar
  • 1 AN/URN-25 TACAN system
  • 1 AN/UPX-24 Identification Friend Foe
Aircraft carried:




Essex conducted a training program during the spring of 1993, and from 18 August until 23 November, was undergoing upgrades, during Post Shakedown Availability, in Long Beach harbor.


Essex's maiden deployment was in October 1994. With the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) embarked. In January 1995, she left the Persian Gulf to prepare for the complex task of covering the withdrawal of United Nations multinational force from Somalia in Operation United Shield. Under fire from advancing Somalis, every member of the force was successfully extracted. Essex returned to San Diego on 25 April 1995.


After a short maintenance period, Essex embarked on a vigorous workup cycle, culminating in her participation in Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), a biennial, seven-nation naval exercise. On 10 October 1996, she embarked on her second Western Pacific deployment, with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (SOC) and Amphibious Squadron Five. During the deployment, Essex participated in multinational exercises with Qatar, Oman and Kuwait, as well as Exercise Tandem Thrust 1997, an American-Australian combined exercise with over 28,000 troops, 250 aircraft and 40 ships participating.


On her return in April 1997, Essex again went into a short maintenance period, followed by a shortened workup cycle. She then departed for her third Western Pacific, Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf deployment on 21 June 1998 with the 15th MEU (SOC) and Amphibious Squadron Five. Essex participated in Exercises Sea Soldier and Red Reef, and participated in Military SALT and Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations with the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait. Additionally, Essex supported Operation Southern Watch, enforcing the UN-mandated no-fly zone over southern Iraq.



On 26 July 2000, after successful completion of the largest crew swap in U.S. Navy history, Essex replaced USS Belleau Wood and inherited the distinctive role as the Navy's only permanently forward-deployed amphibious assault ship in United States Fleet Activities Sasebo, Japan.


While in her forward-deployed role, Essex has participated in various humanitarian assistance/disaster relief operations including East Timor in October and November 2001 and Foal Eagle in Korea in 2002.


In 2004, Essex carried the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU) to Kuwait, along with USS Harpers Ferry and USS Juneau. Essex stayed in the Persian Gulf while the 31st MEU and the combat element 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines went into Iraq for the Battle of Fallujah. During that time, Essex went to aid in Operation Unified Assistance in Banda Aceh, Indonesia after the December 2004 tsunami. She then returned to the Persian Gulf to embark the 31st MEU SOC and the combat element despite being in need of maintenance. After picking up the MEU and the Combat Element, the three ships returned to Okinawa, Japan. The ship had been at sea a total of eight months.


During the 2008 Myanmar Cyclone Nargis crisis and the subsequent Operation Caring Response aid mission, Essex and her amphibious group (made up of Juneau, Harpers Ferry, and the destroyer USS Mustin) stood by off Burma from 13 May to 5 June, waiting for the Myanmar junta government to permit US aid to its citizens.[3] In early June, with permission still not forthcoming, it was decided to put the group back on its scheduled operations.[4]


Early in 2009, Essex completed exercise Cobra Gold, which had been cut short the previous year. Essex followed this with exercise Balikatan with the Republic of the Philippines. Essex then got underway in support of exercise Talisman Saber 2009 and conducted various welldeck and flight deck evolutions in support of this joint bi-lateral exercise between the U.S. and Australian military forces.



In February, at the conclusion of exercise Cobra Gold 2010, Essex visited Laem Chabang in Thailand.[5]

During 21–23 October, the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group provided humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to the Philippines after the Super Typhoon Juan (international name Megi) caused extensive destruction to municipalities along the eastern coast of the Province of Isabela.[6] The crew was awarded the Humanitarian Service Medal.


At the request for assistance from the Japanese government, the Navy directed Essex to be deployed off the northeastern coast of Honshu after the massive 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.[7][8] The ship was involved in relief activities in the Sea of Japan off Akita Prefecture.[9] Helicopters from the ship helped deliver relief supplies to quake and tsunami survivors along the northeast coast of Tohoku.[10]

The ship departed Sasebo in September 2011 for a patrol of the western Pacific. Accompanying the ship were the landing ships USS Germantown and USS Denver.[11]

In November, a Petty Officer 1st Class was fatally injured aboard Essex during a weapons systems test while the ship was off the coast of Bali.[12] A command report released in early 2012 cited "breakdown of safety procedures, protocol violations and gross negligence".[13]


While Essex was scheduled to depart for Cobra Gold 2012, an annual exercise with Thailand, her participation was canceled due to maintenance issues.[14]

It was announced in January 2012 that Essex would be returning to her former home port of San Diego, California, after 11 years of forward-deployment in Japan.[15] Before departing for San Diego, the Essex crew will perform a hull swap with the crew of fellow Wasp-class sister-ship, Bonhomme Richard, to continue their deployment to Sasebo, but aboard the newly arrived ship.

Collision with USNS Yukon

On 16 May 2012, Essex suffered an apparent steering failure while approaching USNS Yukon for an underway replenishment. The two ships collided causing damage to both ships. There were no injuries and no loss of fuel was reported. Both ships were able to continue to San Diego under their own power.[16] On 19 June 2012 the Navy announced that the ship's commander, Captain Chuck Litchfield, had been relieved of command due to "loss of confidence in his ability to command."[17][18]

An investigation determined that the collision was avoidable and caused by improper supervision by Litchfield over his junior bridge crew. Although Essex's steering had failed, the investigation determined that better leadership by Litchfield could have prevented the collision. The investigation recommended administrative action against Essex's executive officer, officer-of-the-deck, conning officer and helm safety officer.[19]

Essex entered Naval Base San Diego for an 18-month maintenance and upgrade on 18 September 2012.[20][21]


After two years of dry-dock and pier side maintenance, Essex executed an on-time underway to conduct sea trials in April 2014. Essex also received an aviation certification in May 2014 by showing proficiency in the launching, landing and refueling of various helicopters and MV-22 Ospreys on the flight deck. Essex was one of the three US Navy ships, the other two being Harry S. Truman and Kearsarge, in which the US Navy installed metal 3D printers.[22]


On 30 November 2015, Essex and her Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), embarked with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit entered the United States Third Fleet area of operations (AOO), returning from a deployment that spread across the 5th, 6th and 7th AOOs.[23]


On 7–9 October Essex was in San Francisco, and along with USS Champion, was open to visitors as part of the "San Francisco Fleet Week" event.[24]


In September 2018 the Essex ARG with the F-35B equipped VMFA-211 aboard deployed to the United States Central Command area of operations.[25] On 27 September, it was reported that the first-ever F-35B airstrike was launched from Essex against a fixed Taliban target.[26]


  1. "Fact File: Amphibious Assault Ships – LHD/LHA(R)". U.S. Navy. 13 April 2016. Archived from the original on 19 October 2016. Retrieved 11 November 2016.
  2. Burke, Matthew (23 April 2012). "Navy crews swap ships during Sasebo ceremony". Stars and Stripes. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 22 October 2015.
  3. Byers, David; Schlesinger, Fay (10 December 2007). "US threatens military aid drops as Burma leaders stall". The Times. Archived from the original on 11 May 2008. Retrieved 2 May 2012.(subscription required)
  4. dead link Archived 27 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  5. "Cobra Gold 2010". Archived from the original on 4 December 2017. Retrieved 3 December 2017.
  6. "31ST MEU and PHIBRON-11 provide assistance after Super Typhoon Juan". 21 October 2010. Archived from the original on 7 October 2012. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  7. Rabiroff, John (17 March 2011). "U.S. military delivers 40 tons of supplies to hardest-hit areas". Stars and Stripes. Archived from the original on 21 March 2011. Retrieved 22 October 2015.
  8. "Warships Supporting Earthquake in Japan". Seawaves. Archived from the original on 23 March 2011.
  9. "Japan-U.S. relief efforts expanding". The Daily Yomiuri. Japan. 20 March 2011. Archived from the original on 20 March 2011. Retrieved 29 March 2011. Essex with 2,200 members of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard ... involved in relief activities in the Sea of Japan off Akita Prefecture
  10. Hansen, Liane (27 March 2011). USS Essex Helps Delivers Aid To Japan. Weekend Edition. NPR. 1 p.m.
  11. "Essex Ready Group and 31st MEU underway for fall patrol". Stars and Stripes. 26 September 2011. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 22 October 2015.
  12. Burke, Matthew M. (30 November 2011). "Navy identifies sailor killed aboard USS Essex – Navy". Stars and Stripes. Archived from the original on 7 January 2016. Retrieved 22 October 2015.
  13. "Navy report says gross negligence led to death of Essex sailor". Archived from the original on 26 March 2017. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  14. Burke, Matthew M. (1 February 2012). "USS Essex unable to fulfill mission for 2nd time in seven months". Stars and Stripes. Archived from the original on 7 January 2016. Retrieved 22 October 2015.
  15. Swearingen, Linda S. (23 January 2012). "Commander ESG 3 Visits Essex to Talk Hull Swap" (Press release). Retrieved 22 October 2015.
  16. Watson, Julie (16 May 2012). "2 US Navy ships collide in Pacific; no injuries". Archived from the original on 17 May 2012. Retrieved 17 May 2012.
  17. "Commanding officer of USS Essex relieved of command following collision with tanker at sea". Washington Post. 19 June 2012. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  18. "Navy report faults Essex crew for May collision". 30 August 2012. Archived from the original on 2 August 2016. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  19. Fuentes, Gidget (27 August 2012). "Report reveals Essex chaos before collision". Military Times. Archived from the original on 29 January 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2015.(subscription required)
  20. Janik, Christopher B. (20 September 2012). "USS Essex (LHD 2) Prepares For Dry-Dock Maintenance Availability". US Navy. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 22 October 2015.(password-protected)[
  21. Burke, Matthew M. (23 April 2013). "Essex begins 18 months of maintenance, upgrades in San Diego". Stars and Stripes. Archived from the original on 5 October 2015. Retrieved 22 October 2015.
  22. Alec. "US Navy adopts metal 3D printing as practical manufacturing tool in warfare center". 3ders. Archived from the original on 28 October 2016. Retrieved 27 October 2016.
  23. "Essex ARG, 15th MEU Enter U.S. 3rd Fleet Area of Operations". Public Redords US Navy. 2 December 2015. Archived from the original on 16 May 2016. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  24. "Fleet Week SF Parade of Ships". Archived from the original on 13 October 2017. Retrieved 10 October 2017.
  25. "Essex ARG 13th MEU with embarked F35B enters Central Command". US Navy. 11 September 2018. Archived from the original on 12 September 2018. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  26. "US F-35 fighter jet conducts first-ever airstrike". CNN. Archived from the original on 27 September 2018. Retrieved 27 September 2018.

Further reading

This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.