4th Lead (Adds corrections)

1500 U.S Marines to arrive in Sri Lanka

[TamilNet, Saturday, 01 January 2005, 11:24 GMT]
U.S Ambassador to Sri Lanka , Jeffrey Lunstead, U.S Commander of U.S Disaster Response Assessment Team (DRAT), Colonel Thomas Collins, and a USAID representative said in a press conference held at Hotel Galladhari in Colombo Saturday afternoon that 1300 U.S Marines are to arrive in Colombo in a U.S Wasp class amphibious assault ship, USS Bon Homme Richard, equipped with a helipad and supporting five helicopters on board.

Bonhomme RichardThe Aircraft Carrier, USS Bon Homme Richard, which is to support full fledged U.S rescue operations in Galle, Amparai, Trincomalee and Jaffna coasts is also equipped with five small scale hovercrafts, the officials said in the press conference. The hovercrafts will engage in point to point rescue operations along the coasts, the officials added.

A C-130 cargo carrier aircraft will also be supporting the rescue effort, the Ambassasdor said during the press conference.

200 US Marines are expected to arrive on Sunday afternoon or Monday morning to setup the required Command and Control system for the rescue operations.

Ambassador Lunstead added that the death toll in Sri Lanka due to Tsunami waves was nearly nine times the total US suffered in the 9/11 incident.

He said that initially the operation would begin in worst-hit Amparai, Trincomalee, Jaffna and Galle districts and the US Marine and the Joint Task Forces (JTF) would engage in “point to point distribution” using the Hovercrafts and Marine Helicopters to carry the relief items to the needy areas.

He said that the number of the Marines in Sri Lanka may go up or down depending on the requirements and the co-operation they get from the Sri Lankan armed forces on the ground.

Asked whether US relief operation would cover the areas controlled by the LTTE, Ambassador said that the US Embassy “will make sure that the relief items reach all tsunami affected areas including the North-East”.

“It is not about the ethnic conflict, but a urgent humanitarian assistance. We will serve all who had been affected,” he said, indicating that the US humanitarian relief items would flow into the LTTE-held areas as well.

Bush administration has already allocated US $ 350 million as tsunami relief to the South-East Asian region.

USS Bon Homme Richard, a 40,530-ton Wasp class amphibious assault ship was built in 1998, is SanDiego. An aircraft carrier with the sam name was built at the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York but was scrapped some years ago. Some additional details of the ship are:

Displacement: 40,530 tons full load
Dimensions: 844 x 140 x 26.5 feet/257.25 x 42.7 x 8 meters
Propulsion: 2 boilers, steam turbines, 2 shafts, 70,000 shp, 22 knots (LHD 8: 2 LM2500, 2 shafts, ~70,000 shp, ~22 knots)
Crew: 1,146
Well Deck: 267 x 50 x 28 feet/81.4 x 15.2 x 8.5 meters; 3 LCAC
Troops: 1,893 + 200 surge capacity
Cargo: 22,000 square feet vehicle, 101,000 cubic feet bulk
Radar: SPS-48E 3-D air search, SPS-49(V)5 2-D air search, Mk23 target acquisition, SPN-35A air traffic control, SPN-43B air traffic control, SPN-47 air traffic control
Fire Control: SYS-2(V)3 combat system, 2 Mk 91 NSSM control with Mk95 radars
EW: SLQ-32(V)3 intercept/jammer, Mk36 SRBOC decoy RL, SLQ-25A Nixie torpedo countermeasure, SRS-1 Combat D/F ELINT
Aviation: full flight deck, half-length hangar, 2 deck-edge elevators; ~35-40 helicopters and VSTOL
Armament: 2 Mk29 8-cell NATO Sea Sparrow, 2 21-cell RAM, 2 20mm Phalanx CIWS, 3 25mm Bushmaster low-angle, 4 12.7mm MG

Concept/Program: An improved Tarawa class ship; follow-on to the LHAs and replacements for the LPHs. Properly should have been designated in the LHA series. The secondary mission of these ships is sea control, with SH-60Bs and AV-8Bs. LHD 8 has been added to the program by Congress; it will have gas turbine propulsion and possibly other changes.

Builders: Northrop Grumman Ship Systems/Litton-Ingalls SB, Pascagoula, MS.

Design: Based on LHA with several changes; 5" guns eliminated, certain command spaces moved from island to hull, docking well and elevators reconfigured, different docking well gate, missiles re-arranged, additional cargo elevators, internal stowage for ship's boats, SRS-1 Combat D/F system.


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