The U.S. Navy will commission its newest amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) during a ceremony at 10 a.m. (EDT) on Saturday, Aug. 15, 1998, at Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Fla.
Rep. John P. Murtha, will be the ceremony's principal speaker. Other notable speakers include Rep. Joe Scarborough of Fla., Secretary of the Navy, John H. Dalton, and Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Donald L. Pilling. Murtha's wife, Joyce, is the ship's sponsor and in the time-honored Navy tradition, will give the order to "man our ship and bring her to life!"
Bonhomme Richard is the sixth of seven Wasp class amphibious assault ships. LHDs are specifically designed to remain off shore near troubled areas of the world, ready to send forces ashore quickly by helicopters and Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) hover craft. As the centerpiece of a Navy Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG), Bonhomme Richard is fully capable of conducting and supporting amphibious assaults, advance force and special purpose operations, non-combatant evacuation, and other humanitarian missions.
Second only to the Navy's aircraft carriers in size, LHDs embark, transport, deploy, command and fully support a Marine Expeditionary Unit of 2,000 Marines. Bonhomme Richard can accommodate three Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCACs), and a squadron of AV-8B Harrier II aircraft, as well as a full range of Navy/Marine Corps helicopters and amphibious vehicles to perform sea control and limited power projection missions. Additionally, the ship is equipped with a robust medical capability - second only to the Navy's hospital ships in afloat capability.
Bonhomme Richard is armed with two NATO Sea Sparrow Surface Missile Systems for anti-air warfare protection, two Rolling Airframe Missile Systems and two Phalanx Close-In-Weapons Systems mounts to counter threats from low flying aircraft. Six missile decoy launchers augment the anti-ship missile defenses.
- Bonhomme Richard commemorates the service of two previous U.S. Navy ships. The first was a frigate built in France in 1765 for the East India Company, for service between France and the Orient. The French government placed the ship at the disposal of John Paul Jones in February 1779. Capt. Jones renamed the ship "Bonhomme Richard." It was from the frigate's deck, during an epic sea battle that ended with a daring capture of the 44-gun British frigate HMS Serapis in 1779, that a wounded Capt. Jones issued his immortal refusal to surrender,
- "I have not yet begun to fight!" A second Bonhomme Richard (CV 31), an aircraft carrier
- (1944-1971), served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The aircraft carrier earned one battle star for World War II service, five battle stars and a Navy Unit Commendation in Korea, and three additional battle stars and a second Unit Commendation for service during the Vietnam conflict.
Following its commissioning, Bonhomme Richard will join the U.S. Pacific Fleet as part of Amphibious Group THREE, with Capt. Douglas W. Keith, a native of Los Angeles, Calif., as the commanding officer. The ship will be homeported in San Diego, Calif., and has living areas for nearly 3,200 crewmembers and embarked troops, including accommodations for nearly 450 female officers, chiefs and enlisted personnel. The ship is 844 feet in length, has a beam of 106 feet, and two steam propulsion plants developing a combined 70,000 horsepower, will drive the 40,500 ton ship to speeds in excess of 20 knots.