(LPD 23: displacement 25,883; length 684'; beam 105'; draft 23'; speed 22+ knots; complement 396, troop capacity 699 (800+ surge); armament 2 RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) launchers, 2 Bushmaster II 30 millimeter Close-in Guns, and 10 .50 caliber machine guns; aircraft launch or land 2 Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallions, or 2 Bell Boeing MV-22B Ospreys, or up to 4 Boeing-Vertol CH-46 Sea Knights, Bell AH-1Z Vipers, or Bell UH-1Y Venoms; class San Antonio)
The first and second ships of the name honor the city in Alaska, founded in 1914 at the head of Cook Inlet, a bay of the Pacific Ocean.
The second Anchorage (LPD 23) was laid down on 24 September 2007 at Avondale, La., by Northrop Grumman Ship Systems Avondale Operations; launched on 12 February 2011; sponsored by Mrs. Annette Conway, wife of Gen. James T. Conway, USMC (Ret.) former Commandant of the Marine Corps; and commissioned on 4 May 2013, Cmdr. Joel G. Stewart in command.
Per pile transposed Azure and Gules, two fouled anchors in saltire Or, entwined rope Argent. The shield is shaped like the patch worn by the crew of the first Anchorage (LSD 36). The two colors of the shield, Scarlet and Navy Blue, represent the teamwork demonstrated between Marines and Sailors on board. The transposed pile symbolizes the ship’s ability to transport a landing force of up to 800 Marines in support of any operational contingency. The crossed fouled anchors derive from the anchor in the seal of the municipality of Anchorage and also identify this as the second ship named Anchorage. The entwined rope, which forms the letter "A," represents the families of Anchorage’s Sailors and Marines.
From a wreath Or and Azure, between two moose antlers a pictorial of British sloop HMS Resolution sailing into Cook Inlet, all below six arched stars Gules. The municipality of Anchorage is represented in the crest by HMS Resolution (another feature from the municipality’s seal) in a pictorial of Cook Inlet. Capt. James Cook commanded Resolution, and the inlet is named in his honor, and figures prominently in the heritage of Anchorage, Alaska. The moose antlers framing the pictorial represent the municipality’s motto: “Big Wild Life.” The six red battle stars recognize the wartime accomplishments of the first ship named to honor Anchorage, LSD 36.
From sprigs of spruce Vert overall, a scroll Argent piped Azure and inscribed “NIL FATO RELINQUEMUS” Gules, translated in English as “We Leave Nothing to Chance.”
Behind the shield in saltire, four swords, two and two, a Navy officer sword and chief petty officer cutlass to dexter; and a Marine Corps officer sword and non-commissioned officer sword to sinister, points downward Proper. The crossed Navy officer sword and chief petty officer cutlass and Marine Corps officer and non-commissioned officer swords symbolize the teamwork of the ship’s Navy-Marine Corps war fighting team.
The coat of arms as blazoned in full color upon a white oval enclosed by a blue collar edged on the outside with a gold rope bearing the inscription “USS ANCHORAGE” at top and in base “LPD 23” in gold letters.
The scroll hangs from sprigs from a Sitka Spruce tree, the official tree of Alaska. Red, white, and blue are the national colors and denote the allegiance that Marine Corps and Navy servicemen and women have for their country.
Anchorage completed her maiden voyage from Avondale to San Diego, Calif., in preparation for her commissioning (30 October–21 November 2012). The ship, also known as Pre-Commissioning Unit Anchorage, passed through the Panama Canal (9 November) and visited La Manzanilla, Mexico, before reaching her new home port. From San Diego, she sailed to Anchorage, Alaska, for her commissioning -- which occurred amidst falling snow -- and then returned to San Diego.
Senior project managers from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), who oversaw the Exploration Flight Test (EFT-1) for the uncrewed Orion spacecraft, conferred with Rear Adm. Fernandez L. Ponds, commander Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 3, and Capt. William R. Grotewold, the ship’s commanding officer, on board San Diego at her home port of San Diego (12 September 2013). They discussed plans to retrieve Orion’s space capsule during her splashdown in a scheduled test off the coast of Southern California.
“We had a chance to display the ship’s capability, show the crew’s enthusiasm and demonstrate that our amphibious capability is multi-dimensional, just one more thing that our Navy can do,” Ponds explained. “The LPD 17-class ships have one of the most robust command and control communications systems in our Navy inventory.”
The space agency’s planners intended Orion to reach an altitude of nearly 3,600 miles above the Earth’s surface during EFT-1. Following the test flight, she was to reenter the atmosphere at a speed of more than 20,000 miles per hour and splashdown in the Pacific. The flight was to test the capsule’s avionics, heat shield, and parachutes, and the Navy was tasked to locate and recover the craft.
“NASA did a trade study whether they wanted Orion to land on the ground or in the water,” Andy Quiett, Detachment 3 deputy operations lead for the Orion program and Department of Defense (DoD) liaison for NASA said, “and because of the size, weight and the deep space requirements of the vehicle, they determined it needed to land in water.” Orion’s life support, propulsion, thermal protection, and avionics systems enable the spacecraft to extend the duration of her deep space missions, as part of the goal to eventually land on Mars.
A test version of Orion’s space capsule touches down in the Arizona desert during a parachute test, 24 July 2013. (NASA)
NASA marked a major milestone in the agency’s program to reestablish America’s manned space program when it carried out EFT-1 with Orion on 5 December 2014. Orion launched atop a Delta IV rocket from Space Launch Complex 37B at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., made two orbits of the planet during a four and a half hour mission, and splashed down in the Pacific. Anchorage, Military Sealift Command-manned salvage ship Salvor (T-ARS-52), Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 8, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11, Mobile Diving and Salvage Company 11-17, Fleet Weather Center San Diego, and Fleet Combat Camera Pacific took part in the recovery when the spacecraft splashed down. Anchorage recovered Orion’s crew module, forward bay cover, and parachutes. A bridge team especially trained for the operation maneuvered Anchorage alongside Orion, and lowered small boats to retrieve her. Divers attached lines from the small boats to guide the capsule toward Anchorage, where a NASA-designed winch hauled the module into the well deck. “We practiced this recovery many times with safety as the number one priority,” Anchorage’s Chief Boatswain’s Mate Jason B. Roberts explained. “The sailors were focused and completed the mission at hand successfully.”
Divers attach a towing bridle to Orion while Anchorage rolls in the swells, 5 December 2014. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Gary Keen, U.S. Navy Photograph 141205-N-OM642-400, Navy NewsStand)
Sailors bring Orion into Anchorage’s well deck, 5 December 2014. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Gary Keen, U.S. Navy Photograph 141205-N-FO359-752, Navy NewsStand)
Orion nestles snugly within the ship, 5 December 2014. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Gary Keen, U.S. Navy Photograph 141205-N-OM642-567, Navy NewsStand)
Detailed history under construction.
Mark L. Evans