Facts About the USS Kearsarge (LHD 3)

USS Kearsarge

Posters and art prints with this proud image of USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) are available through the PatriArt Gallery

USS Kearsarge

USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) is a Wasp Class amphibious assault ship, the largest classes of amphibious warfare ships.

It resembles a small aircraft carrier and is capable of Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing (V/STOL), Short Take-Off Vertical Landing (STOVL), Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) tilt-rotor and Rotary Wing (RW) aircraft operations.

It also contains a well deck to support use of Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) and other watercraft (with exception of the first LHA(R), LHA 6, which has no well deck).



Such operations have included participating as launch platforms for Marine Corps expeditionary forces into Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001 and 2002, Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and humanitarian support after the catastrophic Tsunami in 2004.

During Operation Iraqi Freedom, two LHDs served as “Harrier carriers,” each launching an air group of AV-8B attack aircraft against targets inside Iraq. In 2004, LHDs were used to transport thousands of Marines and their equipment to Iraq and Afghanistan for combat operations.

Most recently, critical post Hurricane Katrina support was provided in New Orleans by LHD 7 (IWO JIMA) where thousands of police, fire and rescue personnel were hosted onboard during recovery operations and IWO JIMA operated as the central command and control hub.

With delivery of IWO JIMA in 2001, the Navy and Marine Corps reached a desired force level of amphibious warfare ships that provide fully capable Expeditionary Strike Groups to fulfill anticipated forward-presence and expeditionary requirements.

The keel for an eighth LHD, MAKIN ISLAND (LHD 8), was laid in February 2004 at Northrop Grumman Ship Systems (NGSS) Ingalls Operations. It is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy in 2008. LHD 8 will differ from earlier ships of the class in that it will be powered by gas turbine engines rather than steam turbines.

Modern U.S. Navy Amphibious Assault Ships project power and maintain presence by serving as the cornerstone of the Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG) / Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG). A key element of the Seapower 21 pillars of Sea Strike and Sea Basing, these ships transport and land elements of the Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) with a combination of aircraft and landing craft. The Wasp-class LHDs provide the Marine Corps with a means of ship-to-shore movement by helicopter in addition to movement by landing craft. They have participated in numerous major humanitarian-assistance, occupation and combat operations in which the United States has been involved.



Because of their inherent capabilities, these ships have been and will continue to be called upon to also support humanitarian and other contingency missions on short notice.

The United States maintains the largest and most capable amphibious force in the world. The Wasp-class LHDs are currently the largest amphibious ships in the world. The lead ship, USS WASP (LHD 1) was commissioned in July 1989 in Norfolk, Va.

Amphibious warships are designed to support the Marine Corps tenets of Operational Maneuver From the Sea (OMFTS) and Ship to Objective Maneuver (STOM). They must be able to sail in harm’’s way and provide a rapid buildup of combat power ashore in the face of opposition.


General Characteristics, Wasp Class



Northrop Grumman Ship Systems Ingalls Operations, Pascagoula, MS.

Date Deployed:

July 29, 1989 (USS Wasp)


(LHDs 1––7) two boilers, two geared steam turbines, two shafts, 70,000 total shaft horsepower; (LHD 8) two gas turbines, two shafts; 70,000 total shaft horsepower, two 5,000 horsepower auxiliary propulsion motors.


844 feet (253.2 meters).


106 feet (31.8 meters).


LHDs 1-4: 40,650 tons full load (41,302.3 metric tons) LHDs 5-7: 40,358 tons full load (41,005.6 metric tons) LHD 8: 41,772 tons full load (42,442.3 metric tons).


20+ knots (23.5+ miles per hour).


Ships Company: 104 officers, 1,004 enlisted LHD 8: 65 officers, 994 enlisted Marine Detachment: 1,687 troops (plus 184 surge).


Two RAM launchers; two NATO Sea Sparrow launchers; three 20mm Phalanx CIWS mounts (two on LHD 5-8); four .50 cal. machine guns; four 25 mm Mk 38 machine guns (LHD 5-8 have three 25 mm Mk 38 machine guns).


12 CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters; 4 CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopters; 6 AV-8B Harrier attack aircraft; 3 UH-1N Huey helicopters; 4 AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters. (planned capability to embark MV-22 Osprey VTOL tilt-rotors).



USS Wasp, Norfolk, VA

USS Essex, Sasebo, Japan

USS Kearsarge, Norfolk, VA

USS Boxer, San Diego, CA

USS Bataan, Norfolk, VA

USS Bonhomme Richard, San Diego, CA

USS Iwo Jima, Norfolk, VA

Makin Island – under construction


Data: USN


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