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”)

The keel authentication ceremony for LHA-6 was held on July 17, 2009, at the HII shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi, led by the ship’s sponsor Lynne Pace. She is the wife of retired USMC General Peter Pace, who served as the 16th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. America was the first vessel of her class to have been delivered to the Navy in 2014, over seven years since the building contract was awarded to HII.

The amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) somewhere in the Pacific Ocean on February 15, 2020. (Image source: US Navy/DVIDS)

Homeport: Sasebo, Nagasaki, Japan

Status: In active service

USS Tripoli (LHA-7) | Flight 0

In aere, terram, marique (means “in the air – on land – at sea”)

Five months before the christening of LHA-6, the contract for the construction of the second America-class ship was awarded to HII on May 31, 2012. The third USN vessel to carry the name, USS Tripoli (LHA-7), had her keel laid down on June 2014 and was authenticated by her sponsor Lynne Mabus. She is the wife of the 75th Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Ray Mabus.

USS Tripoli (LHA 7) arrives at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay
USS Tripoli (LHA-7) en route toward homeport Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in San Diego, California, on August 3, 2020. (Image source: US Navy/DVIDS)

Homeport: San Diego, California, USA

Status: In active service

USS Bougainville (LHA-8) | Flight I

The Navy awarded a $272.47M contract to HII for constructing the third America-class LHA, USS Bougainville (LHA-8), in June 2016. The second vessel to bear the namesake Bougainville, had her keel laying ceremony in March 2019, authenticated by her sponsor Ellyn Dunford. She is the wife of retired Marine General Joseph F. Dunford Jr, who served as the 19th Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman.

Rendered image of the USS Bougainville (LHA-8) published in 2016. (Image source: US Navy/DVIDS)

Homeport: To be announced

Status: Under construction

USS Fallujah (LHA-9) | Flight I

Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro recently announced the name of the fourth America-class ship, USS Fallujah (LHA-9), which is the first USN ship to carry the namesake to commemorate the first and second battles at Fallujah during the Iraq War that occurred in 2004. Its construction was awarded to the HII in October 2022, with its keel laying ceremony scheduled sometime this December or January 2023, sponsored by Donna Berger. She is the wife of General David H. Berger, who served as the 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps.

LHA-10 – Name Yet To Be Announced

While its name has yet to be announced, Congress has already approved the Navy’s requested budget for constructing the fifth America-class amphibious warship LHA-10. The contract’s estimated awarding to HII may occur next year.