This weekend we attended Fleet Week Port Everglades as a guest of Mike Chan, Protocol Officer with Navy Region Southeast, who was organizing the event.
We arrived shortly before the Legion of Honor Ceremony on board the USS Bataan, where the Consulate General of France, Philippe Létrilliart, awarded nine American veterans with the Legion of Honor Medal for their heroic actions during the 1944 landings at Normandy. “We will never forget what you did for us”, Mr. Létrilliart, who is from Normandy, said during the emotional ceremony. One near-centurion was in the group of honorees, but most were in their teens or barely beyond when they struggled ashore under heavy fire to take the beach. Their success began the liberation of France and northwestern Europe. We had an opportunity to meet several of the honorees after the ceremony. One veteran had visited all fifty states, mostly by motorhome, and was quite interested in our travels as well.
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We later went on a tour of the USS Bataan. The 844 ft assault ship is simply massive. To give an idea of scale, the door visible at the far left end of the hanger bay below is big enough for a AV-8B Harrier attack plane to wheel out onto an elevator for lifting onto the flight deck above.
The next deck down (shown in the bottom right of the three pictures below) houses tanks, armored personal carriers, and heavy-duty trucks.
The Bataan is an amphibious assault ship with a well deck at the stern. In the well deck was a 91-ft amphibious assault craft with a 47-ft beam that can travel over 50 knots. The assault craft has a cargo-carrying capacity of 72 tons and can transport any vehicle we saw that day on the Bataan, including 70-ton tanks. In the group of four pictures below, the top two are of the amphibious assault craft. On the lower left is a LARC-V (Lighter, Amphibious Resupply, Cargo, 5 ton) that also is amphibious. The lower right picture shows two of the amphibious assault craft at speed.
Mike Chan (on James’ left in the photo below) had arranged for us to join the VIP tour of the Bataan, with the French Consulate General Philippe Létrilliart (to James’ right), and Admiral Kurt Tidd, Commander, U.S. Southern Command and guest speaker for the Legion of Honor ceremony (in dress whites opposite James). Admiral Tidd had detailed answers for questions on the Bataan and the transport and weapons systems it carried. He was very generous with his time, stopping frequently so sailors and members of the general public could have a picture beside him.
On the flight deck, we toured a Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion, the U.S. military’s largest and heaviest helicopter. This one belongs to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464 (HMH-464), known as the “Condors”. The CH-53E is a heavy-lift cargo helicopter that can carry 55 passengers, or 13.6 tons of cargo internally and an additional 14.5 tons slung underneath. It can lift, for example, an entire LAV-25 armored personal carrier or a M198 howitzer towed artillery gun with crew and ammunition.
Next up was Primary Flight Control, with an impressive view across the ship. The Air Boss and the Mini-Boss, who are responsible for all flight deck operations on the Bataan sit just to the right of where Jennifer is looking in. The Bataan doesn’t have a deck long enough for conventional fighters, but does support AV-8B Harrier II attack planes that can make vertical or short take-offs and landings. Portions of the deck are surfaced with a special heat-resistant material that can sustain the enormous heat from a jet engine aimed straight down. The video below the flight deck photos shows U.S. Marine Corps Capt. William Mahoney making an incredible no-gear landing of an AV-8B on the Bataan.
The bridge is at the same level as Primary Flight Control. Jennifer tried out the Commanding Officer’s seat on the bridge. It’s the only seat on the Bataan with a better view than that of the Air Boss.
Coast Guard, Navy and local sheriff boats constantly patrolled the area, keeping out any unauthorized traffic.
Back down inside the ship, we got a photo-op with a navy sniper. He offered to let Jennifer hold the gun for the photo, but it was way too heavy for her recovering shoulder.
We spent ages talking to the crew of this M1 Abrams battle tank. Jennifer was determined to climb up to go inside, and the crew were accommodating and careful in helping her get on and off one-handed.
After the Bataan, we toured the nuclear-powered fast attack submarine USS California. The vessel is 377 feet long with a 34-ft beam, can reach speeds in excess of 25 knots and dive well below 800 feet. We’ve never been aboard a nuclear-powered vessel, so were really excited to get aboard this Virginia-class submarine that only just entered the service in 2011. The Virginia class are the most modern in the US fleet and believed to be quietest attack submarines in the world.
Photography is not permitted aboard the California, so we weren’t able to take any pictures inside on this visit. But we have great pictures coming. Not only do we have pictures inside the California, but we have the rarest of rare: pictures inside the California with James on-board while underway 500 feet below the ocean surface. James reports it was one of the most exciting trips ever. We’ll post the details later this week.
Our final tour of the weekend was on board the USS Cole. The Cole was commissioned in Port Everglades and many of her plankholders (original crew) continue to reside in South Florida. The ship was the target of a terrorist attack in October of 2000 that killed 17 sailors and injured 39. Two suicide bombers in a small fiberglass boat detonated 400-700 pounds of explosives against the port side of the ship, creating a 40-by-60-foot gash in the hull. Over a following three days, the crew fought flooding and controlled the damage, keeping the Cole afloat. It was later transported back to the US aboard a semi-submersible heavy lift salvage ship for repairs. A plaque on the machine gun above where the explosion occurred commemorates the installation of the 100th MK 32 Mod 2 Machine Gun System designed to defend Navy boats from small boat threats, and is dedicated to the sailors who lost their lives and their shipmates who saved the ship.
A view to the California and the Bataan from the deck of the Cole. The California was moored against and taking power from the Cole, and the sailor giving the tour joked that “California is powered by coal (Cole)”.
Thanks to Navy Protocol Officer Mike Chan for making this memorable and educational weekend possible.
This post is the 14th in the Technology series. Past posts have included the Holland America cruise ship Westerdam, the Australian ice breaker Aurora Australis, Richards Bay Minerals, the container ship Hanjin Oslo, and the 5,000HP tractor tug SL Herbert.