Based on its predecessor, the Tarawa class, the Wasp-class is a landing helicopter dock (LHD) amphibious assault ship built by Ingalls Shipbuilding (now part of Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding) for the US Navy and the Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). It primarily supports fast troop movement and transport, command, and accommodate forces ashore by providing a platform for helicopters, landing craft, and amphibious vehicles.

Unlike the Tarawa class, the LHDs under the Wasp-class feature a distinct design capable of employing air-cushion landing craft (LCACS) and have a large enough deck that could carry a squadron of Harrier II (AV-8B) short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) jets. Another change compared to its predecessor is that the Wasp-class is now two decks lower, the command and control facilities are relocated inside the hull, and the 127mm Mk 45 naval guns and their sponsons are relocated on the forward edge of the flight deck have been removed.

Ingalls Shipbuilding built eight ships between the late 1980s and the early 2000s, seven of which are still operational today, and one has been decommissioned due to severe fire damage. The overall length of the latter ship has also been extended to accommodate the added LCACs. Each Wasp-class LHD is now approximately 855 feet (260.7m) long with a beam of 106 feet (32.3m) and a displacement of 41,150 tons full load. Some ships in the class have slightly different measurements due to modifications, such as LHD 5-7 significantly weigh less compared to LHD 1-4 and LHD 8. The same goes for their propulsions, where LHD 1-7 all share identical steam turbines with around 70,000 horsepower, while LDH 8 features a new gas turbine propulsion system and Auxillary propulsion motors, however, generating the same total amount of horsepower. The ship can steam at least 20 knots within 9,500+ nautical miles at full speed.

Aside from aircraft, the ship is designed to carry combat vehicles, including five M1 Abrams, at least 25 armored personnel carriers, eight M198 towed howitzers, 68 lorries, and a dozen or more support combat vehicles.