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USS Bonhomme Richard heads for Japan

San Diego’s port is saying bye to one Navy ship and hello to another. The USS Bonhomme Richard will leave its homeport of San Diego Feb. 14 for the Western Pacific Ocean, where it will become the Navy’s only permanently forward deployed amphibious assault ship in Sasebo, Japan.

Once there, the Bonhomme Richard will conduct a hull swap and exchange commands with USS Essex as part of the Navy’s overall readiness plan to maintain a continuous presence in the Pacific Fleet. The Essex will then set sail with its new crew to San Diego, where it will port and undergo maintenance.

Last August, the Navy said the Essex will be relieved in the spring after a 12-year stretch in Japan.

Bonhomme Richard, commissioned in 1998 and named in honor of John Paul Jones’ famous frigate, just went through a year-long series of upgrades and scheduled maintenance to prep for its trip.

The Essex’s new job will be hosting Expeditionary Strike Group Three within the U.S. Third Fleet, which leads naval forces in the Eastern Pacific from the West Coast of North America to the International Date Line.

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