A tour of the all-new USS Tripoli – NBC Bay Area


What there is to know

  • The USS Tripoli, commissioned in July 2020, made its first port visit to San Francisco just before Fleet Week 2021, to honor the dead during the September 20 commemoration of September 11.
  • The Tripoli is one of the Navy’s largest ships, accommodating over a thousand Sailors and up to a thousand Marines in air operations
  • Helicopters and short-take-off jets can operate from the Tripoli flight deck, and the ship can also perform humanitarian aid with its on-board hospital and strong drinking water production capacity.

The Golden Gate Bridge was shrouded in cold fog on the afternoon of September 11, 2021 as the San Francisco water pump, the St. Francis, waited at the mouth of the bay for the dark object to the horizon is approaching.

Firefighters aboard the St. Francis had come to greet a special visitor: the Navy’s newest amphibious assault aircraft carrier, the USS Tripoli, with over a thousand sailors in their white uniforms standing on the edges. from the huge deck of the ship.

Courtesy of the US Navy

Sailors in their white uniforms “occupied the rails” as the USS Tripoli first entered San Francisco Bay. The ceremonial gesture was intended to celebrate the ship’s first visit to the city by the bay, and also to honor the 9/11 dead.

“We call it rail management,” said Chief Petty Officer Jerome Dunkley, who is in charge of cockpit operations. “It was September 11, so we were paying homage to the dead, and also to the city.”

Although it took place several weeks earlier, the first Port of Tripoli visit to San Francisco added an exclamation mark to the news that SF Fleet Week would go as planned in the first week of October – the The country’s only Fleet Week to take place in 2021. The crew also participated in disaster preparedness training with Bay Area first responders.

Do you have a VR headset? Discover how huge the USS Tripoli is with this immersive 360 ​​° tour! You can also watch the 360 ​​° video on any smartphone with the YouTube app.

“What makes our ship so unique is that we can assault if we need to, but we can also do humanitarian aid and disaster response,” Lt (N) Sam said. Lieber. “We have a unique ability to create a lot of water – clean water to drink. We also have a very robust medical capacity on board.”

The hospital aboard Tripoli is the second in size after dedicated Navy hospital ships. And the ship as a whole is one of the largest in the Navy, just behind superporters like the USS Nimitz.

Large Navy ship sails under the Golden Gate Bridge

Jonathan Bloom / NBC Bay Area

The USS Tripoli sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco Bay with a ceremonial escort from the San Francisco Fire Department, marking the 20th remembrance of September 11 and announcing the upcoming Fleet Week in 2021.

Despite its imposing size, Tripoli does not have catapults for launching jets. Its heat-resistant 844-foot cockpit is specially designed to accommodate a new generation of Marine Corps aircraft capable of short or vertical take-off and land. Currently, it functions as a platform for the MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and F-35B Lightning II fighter jets – and has rooms and restaurants for the hundreds of Marines that accompany them.

runway markings on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier

Jonathan Bloom / NBC Bay Area

The flight deck of the USS Tripoli is empty while the ship is in port, but at sea it can often be crowded with jets, helicopters and tiltrotor planes.

“I’m a very energetic guy,” Dunkley said as he stood on the flight deck. “I can’t stand still, so I love being here because it keeps you constantly on your feet, keeps you constantly busy.”

Dunkley showed us the red and white “fault line” behind which flight operations personnel must stand for their own safety when jets and helicopters take off.

“You do not wanna be standing here when this plane takes off, “he said.” It’s gonna blow you up. “

A fighter jet launches from the deck of a Navy ship.

Courtesy of the US Navy

The 844-foot flight deck of the USS Tripoli can accommodate jets like this Marine Corps F-35B with short take-off capabilities.

Directly below the flight deck, Tripoli’s huge hangar is where aviation mechanics typically move planes, do light maintenance on those in the bow of the ship, and more complicated repairs on those. located at the back. But when the ship is in port, it only carries a lonely, dented plane covered with duct tape.

“This guy is just for training purposes – there’s no motor in it, he’s just here so we can use him for training,” Dunkley explained. “We have to constantly train, train, train, that’s the only way to improve.… The guys have to be skilled at moving them around the hangar because it’s a tight space.”

An engineless fighter plane sits in the hangar of a ship

Jonathan Bloom / NBC Bay Area

This jet has no engines, but it is possibly the most important aircraft on the ship. This is the trainer aircraft used by sailors aboard the USS Tripoli for training, as they learn to quickly and carefully maneuver jets and helicopters around the ship’s deck and the bay from the hangar.

The ship is filled with tight spaces, including narrow corridors punctuated with airtight doors that can not only stop fires and floods, but also help control the air conditioning flow. Savvy sailors can tell where they are on the ship by decoding the cryptic clusters of letters and numbers printed on many of the ship’s beige interior walls.

“We call it the target,” Lieber said. ” It’s everywhere. Each space will have one. “

Another common sight on board the ship: the fire hoses.

“It’s because at sea we are our own fire department,” Lieber said. “We can’t call on anyone for help, so all sailors are trained in some basic level of damage control, whether it’s fire, flood, or even poison gas. also our own little fire department on board. “

An onboard firefighting truck parked on the flight deck of a ship

Jonathan Bloom / NBC Bay Area

This small but powerful fire engine goes fast and carries both water and fire fighting foam. USS Tripoli has its own fire department to respond to emergencies at sea, and all sailors are trained in damage control.

Back on the flight deck, Dunkley showed us the ship’s fire engine – a compact, square white vehicle with red stripes that carries a large amount of water and fire foam.

“It’s as powerful as ever,” said Dunkley. “It’s fast!”

A missile is launched from the central island of a Navy aircraft carrier.

Courtesy of the US Navy

Tripoli’s offensive combat capability comes from Marine Corps planes that board at sea. But even without planes or helicopters, the ship has sufficient capacity to defend itself, with multiple missile launchers and anti-missile machine guns. .

But besides water and foam to fight fires and fuel to propel the plane, there is another important liquid aboard the Tripoli: coffee. For officers like Lt. Lieber, the cafe is located in the ship’s officer’s lounge, a dining room and meeting space that is right next to the on-board officers barber shop. Lieber says drinking the ship’s coffee is a rite of passage for visitors aboard Tripoli and a real necessity for sailors stationed aboard.

“These guys work really hard to make sure the coffee is always hot so people can keep working around the clock,” Lieber said of the ship’s great culinary staff. “Because someone is always working on a ship. A ship never sleeps.”

Tables and chairs with condiment shelves covered in green fabric.  An American flag and television screens hang on the wall in the background.

Jonathan Bloom / NBC Bay Area

The officers’ quarters are where officers aboard the USS Tripoli eat their meals and hold meetings. Age-old naval traditions apply here, including the custom of asking the senior officer at the table for permission before sitting down.

Although the sailors could not reveal where they will be heading next, it is likely to be the first time the ship has visited. It’s the pleasure to be on a brand new ship, said Lieber.

“This is something that we will be able to say to our children, grandchildren, family and friends years from now: ‘Hey, the first time that ship went over there, I was there,'” he said. -he declares. “I look forward to all the exciting places she’ll go, and can’t wait to be a part of it.”