After six years serving as the forward-deployed flagship of Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) is heading back to the U.S. and its new homeport of San Diego.
Bonhomme Richard left Sasebo, Japan, on Wednesday, after completing its final patrol in the region as the forward-deployed flagship.
“Bonhomme Richard has been the shining example of why we forward-deploy U.S. Navy ships in the Indo-Pacific,” Rear Adm. Brad Cooper, the commander of Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, said in a Navy news release.
“The ship and its crew have achieved a high level of readiness, met every operational commitment, extended a warm hand of friendship to so many here in Sasebo and has reinforced relationships with allies in this vital region. I wish them all a heartfelt fair winds and following seas.”
Replacing Bonhomme Richard as the amphibious force flagship in Sasebo is USS Wasp (LHD-1), which arrived in January. Before its move to the Forward Deployed Naval Forces in Japan, Wasp had significant upgrades made to its flight deck to accommodate the F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter vertical liftoff and landing variant used by the Marine Corps.
Last month, six F-35B aircraft from the “Green Knights” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 landed on the deck of Wasp, marking the first time the Marines deployed a squadron of F-35s for operational use. The F-35 will eventually replace the Marine Corps’ fleet of F/A-18C Hornet, EA-6B Prowler and AV-8B Harrier jets used to support Marines operating onshore.
Once in San Diego, Bonhomme Richard is scheduled for similar flight deck upgrades to accommodate F-35B aircraft, according to the Navy news release.
While based in Japan, Bonhomme Richard participated in numerous annual exercises, including Talisman Saber with the Australian Defence Force and the Ssang Yong exercise with the Republic of Korea. Bonhomme Richard was also sent to help South Korean search and rescue operations after a deadly ferry sinking in 2014.