Huntington Ingalls Industries launched the U.S. Navy’s first America-class amphibious assault ship, at Pascagoula, Mississippi, in June. Another is currently under construction. The new ships, to be named the America (LHA-6) and Tripoli (LHA-7), are based on the previous Wasp and Tarawa classes. Unlike the older vessels, however, the America class is not fitted with a well deck for landing craft but is instead optimized for aviation operations. Though many remain critical of this design change, the increased aviation facilities afford more space for storage of aviation parts, support equipment, and fuel. The America class will be capable of carrying more than 20 F-35B short-takeoff/vertical-landing strike fighters or a balanced mix of aircraft and helicopters that could include 6 F-35Bs, 12 MV-22 Ospreys, 4 CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters, 3–4 AH-1 attack helicopters, 3–4 UH-1 utility helicopters, and 2 MH-60 search-and-rescue helicopters. Full load displacement is expected to be 44,971 tons, and the ships will house a crew of 1,059 with the capability to transport 1,687 Marines.
By Eric Wertheim