The second America-class amphibious assault ship, USS Tripoli, was officially launched at the Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (HII) shipyard, the United States’ largest military shipbuilder, at a shipyard in Mississippi on May 1, the U.S. Navy reports.
The USS Tripoli, officially designated Landing Helicopter Assault (LHA) 7, was launched following a translation from land to the dry dock at the HII shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi. “The translation required 247 jacking and pallet cars to support the displacement of the ship and ensure even distribution throughout,” the U.S. Navy said in a May 2 press statement. “The translation successfully completed following 19 hours of continuous work.”
The latest America-class LHA has been designed to carry the F-35B fighter jet, the U.S. Marine Corps variant of the supersonic fifth-generation F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, capable of vertical or short takeoffs and vertical landings without requiring a catapult launcher. The F-35B will eventually replace the U.S. Marine Corps’ F/A-18 Hornet, AV-8B Harrier and EA- 6B Prowler aircraft. The USS Tripoli is capable of accommodating up to nine F-35Bs.
As I reported elsewhere, in comparison to its predecessor the LHA 7 will feature various design improvements incorporated into the basic build of the ship many of which specifically designed towards accommodating the F-35B. According to a U.S. Navy spokesperson statement from 2015:
LHA 7 is being built as a repeat of the LHA 6 with very limited changes to the design. After delivery of LHA 6, a group of significant changes to the ship’s flight deck structure and equipment were necessary to accommodate the F-35B aircraft. These improvements are being incorporated into the basic build of LHA 7, which is expected to yield a better overall technical solution at reduced cost.
The May 2 press statement notes that the ship will incorporate an “enlarged hangar deck, enhanced maintenance facilities, increased fuel capacity and additional storerooms to provide the fleet with a platform optimized for aviation capabilities.”
As I reported previously, the the U.S. Navy conducted operational testing of the F-35B aboard the USS America over the last couple of months. “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,” I explained.
In addition to the F-35B, 44,000-ton warship, an aircraft carrier in all but name, can carry four AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters, four CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters, 12 MV-22 Ospreys, and two MH-60S Search and Rescue helicopters. Next to aircraft, the USS Tripoli will also be able to accommodate around 1,800 U.S. Marines and amphibious warfare equipment.
The USS Tripoli will be christened in the coming months and is expected to be delivered in December 2018. The lead ship of the America-class, the USS America, has successfully completed survivability tests off the California coast in early April and is slated for its first maiden deployment later in the year.