F-35B ready USS Essex returns to sea

USS Essex (LHD 2) transits San Diego Bay while getting underway for sea trials on May 3. Photo: US Navy

U.S. Navy’s Wasp-class multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) returned to sea on May 3 after completing her phased maintenance availability.

During this availability, USS Essex (LHD-2) was fitted with equipment needed to deploy the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

Essex is the third big-deck platform to feature the upgrades and will operate the F-35B is the world’s first supersonic short take-off, vertical landing (STOVL) fighter which will become the new standard across the amphibious fleet.

USS Essex began the post-deployment planned maintenance availability in March 2016 at General Dynamics’ San Diego, California, shipyard.

“More than two years of detailed planning and close coordination with both uniformed and civilian partners has enabled Essex to begin sea trials a day ahead of schedule and under budget,” said Essex’s commanding officer, Capt. Brian Quin. “It has been a complete team effort to do all this so well.”

Sea trials are held after any large PMA period involving major construction or reconstruction of a ship. During this time, the ship’s systems and equipment will be tested and evaluated. These evolutions include anchor drop tests, steering tests and testing of the ship’s aqueous film-forming foam system, which is one of the ship’s fire-fighting sprinkler systems.

“These sea trials are imperative to ensure the quality of work during the PMA is beneficial and to identify any potential issues to be addressed upon our return to San Diego,” said Senior Chief Intelligence Specialist Dwayne Edmonds.

Along with testing the ship’s equipment, this time at sea is used to test the ship’s crew. Sailors will conduct and be evaluated on a series of assessments, including firefighting, boat recovery man overboard drills, and weapons qualifications.

The 844 ft (257 m) long USS Essex (LHD-2) was built at Huntington Ingalls Industries in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and commissioned on October 17, 1992. Essex returned from a seven-month deployment to the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet areas of operations (AOO) in December 2015 to start her phased maintenance availability.

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