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February 14, 2012 / iDriveWarships

USS Bonhomme Richard and USS Essex Prepare for Hull Swap

Photo by LCDR Jamie Hopkins

Trading battleships sounds like something done during a board game, but when the U.S. Navy does it… well, it’s a big deal. Unlike a crew swap where entire crews jump from ship to ship, or a homeport shift where a ship switches from one U.S. homeport city to another while keeping its crew intact—a hull swap is when two ships swap homeport cities and one happens to be outside of the U.S.

“The hull swap is essentially a process where the crew of Bonhomme Richard and the crew of Essex will trade ships,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer, Joe Kane from USS Bonhomme Richard. “Bonhomme Richard has just completed a major overhaul and upgrade of systems and is now the most up-to-date LHD [Amphibious Assault Ship] in the fleet!”

“Essex has been forward-deployed to Japan for about 10 years,” he said. “The goal is to bring Essex back here to San Diego and put it through a dry dock and maintenance period.”

But this isn’t something that’s decided overnight.

“Essex has been planning for the hull swap for well over a year now and we have been coordinating with Bonhomme Richard to ensure everything goes smoothly and according to plan,” said Capt. David Fluker, Essex’ commanding officer.

Sailors often develop a fondness for particular ships throughout their career, especially when significant milestones are attached to their memory.

“I think I will miss Bonhomme Richard!” said Senior Chief Kane. “Of course, when it comes down to it the ship is just hardware; it’s the crew that really gives it a spirit, and that spirit’s staying with us.”

The crews are anxious to learn more about their new ship and embrace the legacy associated with its history—adding their own chapter to its story.

Bonhomme Richard will depart San Diego on Feb. 14 for a deployment to the Western Pacific Ocean. After the hull swap in March, the ship will remain in Sasebo, Japan for what’s expected to be a minimum of 10 years—becoming the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious assault ship.

Dry dock photos of USS Bonhomme Richard by MCCS Joe Kane

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