Seafair 2016: Welcome Aboard the USS Somerset (LPD 25) Amphibious Transport Dock

As part of Seafair Fleet Week I went for a tour aboard USS Somerset (LPD 25 – Landing Platform Dock) the US Navy San Antonio-class Amphibious Transport Dock berthed at Pier 90 in Seattle, Washington (launched in April 2012 and commissioned into service in March 2014, it is based in San Diego, California and is 1 of twelve planned LPD’s in this class). It is an impressive ship that had plenty of US Navy and US Marine Corps personnel on hand to discuss the ship itself and the equipment onboard including a Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey tilt rotor transport, Bell UH-1Y Venom utility helicopter (the latest variant of the venerable Huey), Bell AH-1Z Viper gunship (developed from the AH-1W SuperCobra), M1A1 Abrams tank, LAV-25 Armoured Fighting Vehicle, numerous trucks, vehicles and weapons systems galore!

USS Somerset (LPD 25) - Seafair Parade of Ships August 2nd, 2016
USS Somerset (LPD 25) – Seafair Parade of Ships August 2nd, 2016

USS Somerset has been named in honour of those lost aboard the United Airlines Flight 93 Boeing 757 during the September 11 attacks in 2001. A number of brave passengers worked together to prevent the hijackers reaching its planned target somewhere on the east coast, tragically resulting in its crash and loss of all onboard near Stonycreek Township in Somerset County, Pennsylvania (the terrorists had breached the cockpit and overpowered the flight crew). Memorial signs and flags can be seen aboard the ship as a mark of respect to those lost. Steel from a crane located near the crash site has also been used to construct part of the ship as an additional memorial to the incident.

USS Somerset (LPD 25) at Pier 90 in Seattle during Seafair Fleet Week 2016
USS Somerset (LPD 25) at Pier 90 in Seattle during Seafair Fleet Week 2016
USS Somerset (LPD 25) at Pier 90 in Seattle during Seafair Fleet Week 2016
Welcome aboard USS Somerset
A memorial to those lost aboard United Flight 93 USS Somerset LPD 25 US Navy
A memorial to those lost aboard United Flight 93

Fitted with state of the art electronic systems, USS Somerset is designed to minimise radar signature and features Radar Cross Section (RCS) reduction techniques to make it more difficult to locate and target. Fitted with advanced radar systems, defensively it is armed with Electronic Counter Measures (ECM), 2 × Bushmaster II 30 mm close-in-guns, 2 x RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) launchers with infra-red missiles as a point defence weapon for targeting anti-ship cruise missiles, 2 x Mk 41 eight-cell VLS for quad-packed RIM-162 Evolved SeaSparrow Missile (ESSM) surface to air missiles and several twin M2 Browning machine gun turrets.

USS Somerset (LPD 25) flightdeck - USMC MV-22 Osprey, UH-1Y Venom & AH-1Z Viper of VMM-163
USS Somerset (LPD 25) flightdeck – USMC MV-22 Osprey, UH-1Y Venom & AH-1Z Viper of VMM-163

The ship can carry up to 4 MV-22 Osprey aircraft (3 on the flight deck and 1 in the hangar) or other combinations of tilt-rotor/ helicopters as required. The Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey onboard is from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (VMM-163) “Ridge Runners” and it sports “Evil Eyes” on the nose which date back to the squadrons helicopter operations as HMM-163 in the Vietnam War when the eyes were applied to target Asian culture and beliefs and inflict an unsettling effect upon the enemy! The Bell UH-1Y Venom and Bell AH-1Z Viper helicopters assigned to this squadron also wear “Evil Eyes“. They all look pretty cool in a sinister sort of way!

USMC Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor transport of VMM-163 ""Ridge Riders" USS Somerset
USMC Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor transport of VMM-163 “”Ridge Riders”
USMC Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor transport of VMM-163 ""Ridge Riders" USS Somerset LPD 25
USMC Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor transport of VMM-163 “”Ridge Riders”
The cargo bay of the Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey
The cargo bay of the Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey
The "Evil Eyes" of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (VMM-163) "Ridge Runners"
Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey of The “Evil Eyes” from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (VMM-163) “Ridge Runners” featuring the squadrons signature “Evil Eyes” – that a Crew Chiefs helmet in the middle!
The "Evil Eyes" of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (VMM-163) "Ridge Runners"
The “Evil Eyes” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (VMM-163) “Ridge Runners”
USMC MV-22 Osprey USS Somerset LPD 25
USMC MV-22 Osprey
From the nose of the MV-22 to the hangar of USS Somerset (LPD 25)
From the nose of the MV-22 to the hangar of USS Somerset (LPD 25)
USMC Bell AH-1Z Viper gunship of VMM-163 USS Somerset LPD 25
USMC Bell AH-1Z Viper gunship of VMM-163
USMC Bell AH-1Z Viper gunship of VMM-163 USS Somerset LPD 25
The business end of the AH-1Z Viper
USMC Bell AH-1Z Viper gunship of VMM-163 USS Somerset LPD 25
USMC Bell AH-1Z Viper gunship of VMM-163
USMC AH-1Z Viper
SuperCobra heritage
USMC AH-1Z looking back to the hangar of the USS Somerset (LPD 25)
USMC AH-1Z looking back to the hangar of the USS Somerset (LPD 25)
USMC Bell UH-1Y Venom the latest variant of the venerable "Huey" series
USMC Bell UH-1Y Venom the latest variant of the venerable “Huey” series
USMC Bell UH-1Y Venom utility helicopter aboard USS Somerset (LPD 25)
USMC Bell UH-1Y Venom utility helicopter aboard USS Somerset (LPD 25)
UH-1Y Venom assigned to VMM-163 aboard USS Somerset (LPD 25)
USMC UH-1Y Venom assigned to VMM-163 aboard USS Somerset (LPD 25)
The USMC UH-1Y Venom features a new four-bladed rotor, uprated engines and a glass cockpit
The USMC UH-1Y Venom features a new four-bladed rotor, uprated engines and a glass cockpit
USMC airpower
USMC airpower
USMC Bell UH-1Y Venom can conduct transport, medevac and fire support missions
USMC Bell UH-1Y Venom can conduct transport, medevac and fire support missions

For non aircraft related activity the USS Somerset can carry either 2 Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) hovercrafts or  1 Landing Craft Utility (LCU) boat within its internal docking bay. Doors at the rear of the ship enable water to enter the bay for these craft to leave and enter. The cargo area can accommodate up to 14 Assault Amphibious Vehicles or the required combination of tanks, armoured vehicles, Humvees, Growler jeeps (one of these light vehicles can be carried in the MV-22 Osprey), trucks etc. to deliver what ever the USMC needs for offensive, defensive or humanitarian operations.

Cutaway illustration of the U.S. Navy's San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship (LPD).
Cutaway illustration of the U.S. Navy’s San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship (LPD). The amphibious transports are used to transport and land Marines, their equipment, and supplies by embarked air cushion or conventional landing craft or amphibious vehicles, augmented by helicopters or vertical take off and landing aircraft in amphibious assault, special operations, or expeditionary warfare missions. (US Navy image)
USMC LAV-25 Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV) and M1A1 Abrams MBT USS Somerset
USMC LAV-25 Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV) and M1A1 Abrams MBT in the docking bay
USMC vehicles aboard USS Somerset LPD 25 US Navy
From a water purifying truck to various USMC transport and construction vehicles
USMC vehicles aboard USS Somerset LPD 25 US Navy
Humvee, forklift and front end loader – any vehicle the USMC require can be loaded aboard the USS Somerset
USMC vehicles aboard USS Somerset LPD 25 US Navy Growler Humvee
Humvee, 120mm mortar and Growler vehicle (the Growler can be transported in an MV-22 Osprey)
USMC Bomb/Improvised Explosive Device (IED) disposal unit - the armoured suit and robot that can be used to diffuse or destroy a bomb/IED
USMC Bomb/Improvised Explosive Device (IED) disposal unit – the armoured suit and robot that can be used to diffuse or destroy a bomb/IED
USMC weapons - 40mm grenade launcher, venerable 0.50 caliber machine gun, Mk.153 SMAW and 81mm mortar USS Somerset LPD 25
USMC weapons – 40mm grenade launcher, venerable 0.50 caliber machine gun, Mk.153 SMAW and 81mm mortar

With a crew of 361 officers and enlisted men plus a landing force of up to 700 marines and all their equipment, it is an impressive ship indeed. I not only want to thank the crew and Marines aboard during my visit for their service but also for taking the time to chat, have a laugh and discuss their helicopters, the Osprey and vehicles plus demonstrate the use of weapons and equipment. I had a great time!

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9 thoughts on “Seafair 2016: Welcome Aboard the USS Somerset (LPD 25) Amphibious Transport Dock

  1. The military do have the most interesting toys, don’t they. The variety of technology aboard this ship is amazing–three aircraft types, hovercraft, amphibious tractors and more. What a tour, I’m envious but glad for your excellent photos so I can imagine being aboard.

    Liked by 1 person

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