U.S. amphibious ships, troops enter S. Korea for joint exercise
SEOUL, March 3 (Yonhap) -- Three American amphibious vessels and their troops arrived in South Korea on Thursday to join a combined landing exercise with South Korean forces, United States Forces Korea (USFK) said.
The Japan-based Expeditionary Strike Group Seven brought its flagship, the amphibious assault vessel USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and two other dock landing ships to South Korea, along with more than 4,000 sailors and marines, according to USFK's statement.
The 41,000-ton flagship and one of the landing vessels, the USS Ashland (LSD 48), entered the southern port city of Busan while the other, the USS Germantown (LSD 42), docked in Jinhae, the southeastern port town where a large South Korean naval base is situated.
The Nagasaki-based vessels are tasked with the mission of transporting Okinawa-based U.S. marine forces, helicopters, landing boats and landing vehicles to a conflict area in the event of a war.
The USS Bonhomme Richard, a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship, is capable of docking a hoard of seaborne combat aircraft and choppers, allowing the U.S. Navy'is strike group to engage in operations on land and sea, as well as in the air.
The visiting U.S. vessels and forces will join the biannual Ssangyong amphibious exercise with South Korea's Navy and Marine Corps in mid-March, according to the statement.
The large-scale multilateral amphibious exercise is "designed to strengthen interoperability and working relationships across a wide range of military operations ranging from disaster relief to complex expeditionary operations," USFK said.
The USS Bonhomme Richard entering Busan harbor on March 3, 2016. (Yonhap)