Asia Defense

US Navy’s Largest Ever Amphibious Assault Ship Completes Crucial Sea Trials

The U.S. Navy’s largest amphibious assault ship just completed survivability tests.

US Navy’s Largest Ever Amphibious Assault Ship Completes Crucial Sea Trials
Credit: US Navy

The lead vessel of the U.S. Navy’s newest class of amphibious assault warships, the USS America, designated Landing Helicopter Assault (LHA) 6, has successfully completed survivability tests off the California coast from March 30 to April 2, U.S. Pacific Commands reports.

The U.S. Navy’s so-called Total Ship Survivability Trial (TSST) tests the ships various systems and procedures following a simulated conventional hit. “The primary areas that are evaluated include the ship’s ability to contain and control damage, restore and continue mission capability, and care for personnel casualties,” the statement reads. “The test is also designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of the survivability features inherent in a ship’s design.”

The USS America, homeported in San Diego, is slated for its first maiden deployment later in the year.  The ship is currently cruising in the Pacific Ocean with 1,000 sailors and 1,600 Marines conducting so-called Amphibious Squadron/Marine Expeditionary Unit Integration operations in preparation for the deployment.

America-class amphibious assault ships are 844 feet (257 meters) long with a 106-foot (32 meters) beam and weigh approximately 44,000 tons.  The lead ship of the class is armed with 12 defensive weapons systems including two rolling aircraft missile RIM-116 Mk 49 l launchers; two Raytheon 20mm Phalanx CIWS mounts; and seven twin .50 cal. machine guns.

Next to a maximum crew of 1,204 and 1,800 Marines (plus equipment), the USS America can accommodate up to nine F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, four AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters, four CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters, 12 MV-22 Ospreys, and two MH-60S Search and Rescue helicopters. The large number of modern military aircraft, provides the ship with firepower on par with some medium-sized aircraft carriers of other navies.

Work on the USS America has been progressing steadily.

In November 2016, the U.S. Navy conducted operational testing of the supersonic fifth-generation F-35B, the U.S. Marine Corps variant capable of vertical or short takeoffs and vertical landings without requiring a catapult launcher, aboard the USS America. Furthermore, the U.S. Navy also executed a number of weapons load tests involving the F-35B–including ordnance separation tests and live-fire tests–in December 2016.

There are currently two other America-class amphibious assault ships under construction. Both the  LHA 7, the USS Tripoli, and LHA 8, USS Bougainville, are currently being assembled at the Huntington Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi.  LHA 7 is slated for delivery to the US Navy in December 2018, whereas LHA 8 will reportedly be handed over in 2024. The U.S. Navy plans for a fleet of 11 America-class amphibious assault ships in the coming decades.