The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) returned to Naval Station Norfolk after completing Large Scale Exercise (LSE) 2021 and multiple days of deck landing qualifications (DLQ) with U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps aviation units Aug. 20, 2021. Kearsarge’s support of LSE 2021 was critical to the Navy’s ability to demonstrate the employment of precise, lethal, and overwhelming force globally. The valuable time at sea also helped increase the warfighting proficiency of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) which is in the early stages of its pre-deployment training cycle.
“We were able to integrate the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and our crew for one of the largest events in recent naval history to exercise our abilities as a global naval force. LSE 2021 provided the Kearsarge ARG with an extra opportunity to integrate with the 22nd MEU, USS Arlington (LPD 24), and embarked supporting units to establish aviation, maritime, and amphibious operations across the ARG/MEU team.,” said Lt. Cmdr. Todd Mousel, Kearsarge’s assistant operations officer.
“We did a lot of training with the LCACs and Marines. Now that we have this integrated experience, we’ve learned how we all operate and we’ve built relationships with the Marines and LCAC crews. We won’t have to start from scratch next time we work with them. Blue-green team is even more of an asset following this early integration opportunity. If we had to leave on a real world mission, the coordination, planning, and execution would be a lot easier now than it would have been had we not integrated yet. We are 100 percent more prepared for deployment now,” said Lt. Chris Helms, Kearsarge’s deck officer.
Although LSE 2021 utilized virtual and constructive training, much of the training was live. The ship’s deck department and embarked Assault Craft Unit 4 (ACU 4) landing craft, air cushions (LCACs) practiced physically transporting Marines and their equipment from ship to shore, which is Kearsarge’s primary mission. LSE provided Kearsarge’s well deck operators and LCAC crews an opportunity to increase their proficiency delivering Marines to the fight. The ship’s flight deck crew and several aviation crews yielded similar training benefits from repetitions not only during LSE but from four days of DLQs immediately after LSE concluded.
Kearsarge’s air department completed over 1,400 launches and recoveries of eight different types of aircraft for the U.S. Army’s 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, Marine Corps 22nd MEU and Navy Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28 during their three weeks underway. Kearsarge also completed its first vertical replenishment-at-sea since the ship’s deployment in 2019. Kearsarge’s air department gained valuable training and experience from LSE and the DLQs. Kearsarge, is entering a brief maintenance opportunity before moving on to the amphibious squadron MEU integration phase of the pre-deployment training cycle.
USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) is the third Wasp-class amphibious assault ship of the United States Navy. She is the fifth ship to bear that name, but the fourth to serve under it, as the third was renamed Hornet (CV-12) before launching (after the prior Hornet was sunk). The assault support system on the ship coordinates vertical and horizontal movement of troops, cargo and vehicles. 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.