In US Navy history, just four ships have borne the name Kearsarge.
The first, a Civil War sloop, sank the CSS Alabama off the coast of France in 1864.
The next one, a battleship, sailed around the world with Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet.
The third, an aircraft carrier, recovered astronauts from the sea during Project Mercury, the US’s first human-spaceflight program.
The current USS Kearsarge, an amphibious assault ship that docked in New York City for Fleet Week, has a lower profile, but it is no less essential to the fleet.
“We have a very special mission as opposed to your other ships of the Navy,” Lt. J.G. Christian Sedarski, a deck-division officer on the Kearsarge, told Business Insider. “Sometimes we will conduct firings on the beaches and that kind of thing, but we are strictly landing and bringing back Marines from the beach.”
“So the way I like to explain it is, we are a glorified hotel with a F-150 flatbed,” he added.
It also has extensive medical facilities, capable of taking in wounded troops as well as survivors of natural disasters. Its ability to hold 600 patients makes it second to only the Navy’s ready-reserve hospital ships in medical capacity.
In a display of its versatility, the Kearsarge deployed to provide flood relief in Pakistan in August 2010, steaming west six months later to support operations in Libya as part of Task Force Odyssey Dawn.
Below, you can take a tour of Kearsarge and get an up-close look at a ship that ferries Marines and their gear into battle around the world.
The Kearsarge stretches 844 feet from bow to stern with a 27-foot draft. Fully loaded, it displaces 44,000 tons and can push through the water at over 24 knots.
Deck-edge elevators, like the one seen here, lift the Kearsarge's contingent of aircraft to the flight deck, where three cargo elevators lift supplies to meet them.
The ship rises 186 feet from waterline to top of mast. It sails with over 1,100 officers and crew and can carry about 2,000 Marines and their gear.
Some of the Kearsarge's officers and crew greeted Fleet Week visitors at the ship's well-deck entrance, showing off some of the gear they sail with.
On the upper part of the well deck, the Kearsarge can transport a variety of vehicles, including Humvees and half-ton trucks, like the one seen on the right here, and equipment like the artillery piece poking above the crowd in front of the truck.
The lower section of the well deck, seen here loaded with amphibious vehicles and a landing craft air cushion, can be ballasted with up to 10 feet of water, allowing landing craft to enter and exit.
The 29-ton AAVP7A1, an amphibious assault vehicle, can haul 21 combat-equipped Marines at a cruising speed of 6 mph in water or 20 to 30 mph on land.
Once ashore, it will disgorge Marines through a bay door in the back. The interior has seating, but not much room.
The AAVC7A1 is the command variant of the Marine amphibious assault vehicle, designed to facilitate battlefield communications. It has no turret, and the ridges on the side are armour paneling meant to fend off enemy fire and explosions.
Assault Craft Unit 4, one of the Landing Craft Air Cushions that the Kearsarge can carry, transports personnel, equipment, and weapons from ship to shore.
The light armoured vehicle seen here on the LCAC can carry 16 TOW missiles to take on tanks and other armoured vehicles. It can go as fast as 6.5 mph in water and sprint across dry land at up to 62 mph.
'We can hold up to three LCACs, about 28 or so AAVs, and then this entire upper/lower vehicle storage will hold the Humvees, trucks ... what have you,' Sedarski told Business Insider. 'So it's the Marines and all their gear on top of it.'
The LCAC's engines can push it over water at close to 60 mph, and it can carry a maximum cargo of 72 tons. Fully loaded, it has just 2-foot-7-inch draft. Outside of combat, it has been used for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, as well as oil-spill response.
Above the well deck is the Kearsarge's hanger bay, where aircraft are stored and maintenance is done. It is also used by the crew for ceremonies and gatherings -- and, when needed, calisthenics.
'When we're in ... our ARG, our amphibious ready group, we will have ourselves and' a dock landing ship and a landing platform/dock ship, both of which can also carry equipment, aircraft, and personnel, Sedarski told Business Insider.
'For supplies or anything, we'll do replenishments at sea, probably two, three times a month or so, and those are just Maritime Sealift Command ships that come alongside' the Kearsarge, Sedarski said.
According to an information sheet displayed aboard the ship, it can carry six Sea Harrier vertical/short-landing and takeoff jets, 10 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, four Super Stallion helicopters, four Cobra attack helicopters, three Huey helicopters, and three Sea Knight helicopters.
An AH-1W Super Cobra, also called a Whiskey Cobra, on the forward portion of the Kearsarge's flight deck. It has a cobra painted on its left engine cover.
The Super Cobra has advanced weapons capabilities, outfitted with rocket and Hellfire missile pods (the H-shaped brace on the end of the wing here) on both sides and a Gatling cannon in front of the cockpit.
This Super Cobra, flown to the Kearsarge from New Jersey for Fleet Week, is decorated with the New York City skyline to commemorate the 9/11 attacks.
At the front of the Kearsarge's superstructure are two of its point-defence systems. On the left is the Rolling Air Frame surface-to-air missile launcher, which holds 21 missiles, each with a range of 3.25 nautical miles. Behind it is a NATO Sea Sparrow short-range anti-aircraft/anti-missile launcher, which holds eight missiles that can cover 9 nautical miles.
The cylindrical unit on the middle level here is the Kearsarge's Close-in Weapons System, or CIWS -- pronounced 'sea whiz' -- which throws up a hail of bullets at missiles or aircraft that pierce the outer ring of defences. The gun is similar to the one mounted on the front of the Super Cobra but with a faster rate of fire: 4,500 rounds a minute.
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