USS America (LHA-6)
USS America (LHA-6)
|Awarded:||1 June 2007|
|Builder:||Huntington Ingalls Industries|
|Laid down:||17 July 2009|
|Launched:||4 June 2012|
|Sponsored by:||Lynne Pace|
|Christened:||20 October 2012|
|Acquired:||10 April 2014|
|Commissioned:||11 October 2014|
|Homeport:||San Diego, California|
|Status:||in active service|
|Class and type:||America-class amphibious assault ship|
|Displacement:||44,971 long tons (45,693 t) full load|
|Length:||844 ft (257 m)|
|Beam:||106 ft (32 m)|
|Draft:||26 ft (7.9 m)|
|Propulsion:||Two marine gas turbines, two shafts, 70,000 bhp (52,000 kW), two 5,000 hp (3,700 kW) auxiliary propulsion motors.|
|Speed:||over 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph)|
USS America (LHA-6),
USS America (LHA-6), the fourth American warship to be named for the United States of America, is the first of the America-class amphibious assault ships for the U.S. Navy. She was delivered in spring of 2014, replacing Peleliu of the Tarawa class. Her mission is to act as the flagship of an expeditionary strike group or amphibious ready group, carrying part of a Marine expeditionary unit into battle and putting them ashore with helicopters and V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, supported by F-35B Lightning II aircraft and helicopter gunships.
The ship’s design is based on USS Makin Island, but to allow more room for aviation facilities she does not have a well deck, and has smaller medical spaces. With a displacement of 45,000 tons, she is as large as the aircraft carriers of many other nations, and can fulfill similar missions when configured with 20 F-35B strike fighters.
The design is based on that of USS Makin Island (LHD-8), itself an improved version of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship. Approximately 45% of the Flight 0 design is based on Makin Island, with the well deck removed to allow more room for aircraft and aviation fuel. The removal of the well deck for landing craft allows for an extended hangar deck with two significantly wider high bay areas, each fitted with an overhead crane for aircraft maintenance.
These changes were required in order to operate the F-35B and MV-22, which are considerably larger than the aircraft they replace. The typical aircraft complement is expected to be 12 MV-22B transports, six STOVL F-35B attack aircraft, four CH-53K heavy transport helicopters, seven AH-1Z/UH-1Y attack helicopters and two Navy MH-60S for air-sea rescue. The exact makeup of the ship’s aircraft complement will vary according to the mission. America can carry 20 F-35B and 2 MH-60S to serve as a small aircraft carrier as demonstrated by LHD operations in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Other enhancements include a reconfigurable command and control complex, an on-board hospital, additional aviation fuel capacity (1.3 million gallons of JP-5), and numerous aviation support spaces.
America will be modified in a similar way to the modifications made on USS Wasp to make her better able to withstand the great amounts of heat generated by the F-35B’s engine exhaust when taking off or landing vertically. Inter-coastal structural members will be added underneath flight deck landing spots seven and nine to more closely perform timed cyclic flight operations without over-stressing it. Other changes may involve re-adjusting some ship antennas to allow for a clear flight path. The ship will undergo a 40-week modification period where recently installed piping, lighting, and other features will be removed to weld reinforcements underneath the flight deck; the modification period would have been greater if its construction when in the shipyard had been interrupted to perform it. Such accommodations will be included in all future America-class ships from the start.
The America class has an increased aviation capacity to include an enlarged hangar deck, realignment and expansion of the aviation maintenance facilities, a significant increase in available stowage for parts and support equipment and increased aviation fuel capacity. However, the ship’s design represents a major departure from past designs and has been the source of considerable controversy, as it lacks the capabilities and multi-role flexibility of traditional amphibious ships, including the ability to launch landing craft and amphibious assault vehicles, such as the AAV-7. Some have even argued that America represents a “dead end” as an amphibious ship. In fact, the Navy is building only one other ship (Tripoli) to the LHA-6 blueprint. At issue is the focus on aviation capabilities, at the expense of the “well deck”, which is the defining feature of the amphibious fleet and allows Marine Corps amphibious operations. The Marine Corps Commandant and the Chief of Naval Operations have signed an official Memorandum of Agreement that restores the well deck to USS Bougainville (LHA-8) and subsequent ships, while in 2015 the Commandant of the Marine Corps launched an initiative to ensure aviation platforms do not lead to an imbalance in the MAGTF.
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