USS Kearsarge (LHD-3), the third , was the fifth ship of the United States Navy to be named (the fourth actually commissioned) in honor of the sloop Kearsarge, of American Civil War fame. She was, in turn, named for Mount Kearsarge in New Hampshire.
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.
Kearsarge is fully 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 the world over, 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. 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 Mercy. These facilities allowed Kearsarge to serve a dual role during the Kosovo War in 1999, as a platform for bombing missions against Serb forces in Operation Allied Force, and as a treatment facility for Albanian refugees in Operation Shining Hope.
In carrying out her mission, Kearsarge not only transports and lands ashore troops, but also tanks, trucks, artillery, and the complete logistic support needed to supply an assault.
The assault support system aboard ship coordinates horizontal and vertical movement of troops, cargo and vehicles. Monorail trains, moving at speeds up to 600 ft/min (3 m/s), transport cargo and supplies from storage and staging areas throughout the ship to a 13,600 ft² (1,300 m²) well deck which opens to the sea through huge gates in the ship's stern. There, the cargo, troops and vehicles are loaded aboard 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 conventional landing craft can float out on their way to the beach.
Simultaneously, helicopters are brought 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 Sea Sparrow point defense system for anti-air warfare protection, the Rolling Airframe missile defense systems, 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.
USS Kearsarge, in 2006, and again in 2008, 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 also recently 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.
Additionally, KEARSARGE has qualified for the following medals and unit awards: Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Unit Commendation, Meritorious Unit Commendation (two awards), Battle Efficiency "E" Award (five awards), National Defense Service Medal (two awards), Kosovo Campaign Medal (with bronze star), Armed Forces Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (five awards), and the NATO Medal.
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