As a continuous effort to maintain its sea warfare strength ahead of its adversaries, the US Navy launched its sustainable amphibious ship development program that introduced its next-generation landing helicopter assault (LHA) and the replacement of the aging Tarawa class.

Based on the successful design of USS Makin Island (LHD-8), a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship powered by a gas turbine, the USS America (LHA-6) was born to carry on the legacy as a centerpiece of expeditionary warfare in support of the Navy and Marine Corps well into the 21st century. Manufactured by Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII), this Large Deck Amphibious ship’s objective includes providing forward presence and unparalleled sea-basing capabilities, as well as accommodating operations ranging from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to full combat force, and it can even support the most advanced Marine Corps aircraft. This includes the MV-22 Osprey, F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopters, UH-1Y Huey helicopters, AH-1Z Super Cobra helicopters, and MH-60S Seahawk helicopters.

USS Tripoli
A rendered illustration of USS Tripoli (LHA-7) prior to construction. (Image source: US Navy/DVIDS)

Similar to its LHD predecessor, the LHAs feature the same (albeit improved) two main gas turbine propulsion capable of generating up to 70,000 shaft horsepower, zonal electrical distribution, and an electric auxiliary propulsion system (APS) that serves as a separate source of propulsion for fuel efficiency. At full speed, it can go over 20 knots (37 km/h). In addition, built with an aviation-centric design that replaces the traditional well-deck, giving an even larger hangar deck and more aviation stowing and storage. Modifications incorporated into the LHAs also include a reconfigurable command and control center and a hospital.

The first two delivered Flight 0 ships measured 844 feet long with a 106-foot beam and an impressive displacement of approximately 44,791 tons and took at least five years each to be completed. Each ship class has a crew of 1,059 (65 officers) and can load and transport up to 1,800 troops plus equipment.

Each America-class vessel mounts two rolling airframe missile (RAM) launchers, two NATO Sea Sparrow launchers (with Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) capable of countering incoming missiles, aircraft, and other surface threats), two 20mm Phalanx close-in weapon systems (CIWS), and seven twin .50-caliber Browning machine guns.

For countermeasures, Flight 0 ships outfitted ships self-defense systems (SSDS) developed by Raytheon, which comprises software and commercial off-the-shelf hardware that integrates radars with anti-air weapons. A final layer is also added to the ship against anti-ship cruise missiles capable of taking down subsonic and supersonic low-altitude variants.

USN initially planned to acquire 11 units, and as of writing, there are two completed and active LHAs (LHA-6 and 7), two under development (LHA-8 and 9), and one (LHA-10) whose name is yet to be announced.

USS America (LHA-6) | Flight 0

Bello Vel Pace Paratus (means “prepared in war or peace”)