The second America-class amphibious assault ship, USS Tripoli, was officially christened during a ceremony attended by around 2,000 guests at the Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (HII) shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi on September 16.
Under Secretary of the Navy, Thomas Dee, gave the ceremony’s keynote address. “When USS Tripoli, the newest America-class amphibious assault ship, joins the fleet, we’ll be a stronger, more flexible and better Navy and Marine Corps team,” he said. “The ship will be a force-multiplier, and her crew will proudly serve our country for decades to come.”
The amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli, officially designated Landing Helicopter Assault (LHA) 7, was launched in May 2017. It is the third U.S. Navy ship to be named Tripoli.
The 44,000-ton warship is an aircraft carrier in all but name and can accommodate up to nine 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. In addition, the ship 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.
In comparison to the lead ship of the class, the USS America, the Tripoli features various design improvements incorporated into the basic build of the ship some of which specifically designed towards accommodating the F-35B “The ship will also be the first LHA replacement ship to depart the shipyard fully ready to integrate the entire future air combat element of the Marine Corps to include the Joint Strike Fighter,” then U.S. Navy said in a September 14 statement. According to a U.S. Navy brief 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 ship can also carry an assault force of around 1,800 U.S. Marines and amphibious warfare equipment, next to a crew of about 1,200. The third America-class amphibious assault ship, the USS Bougainville, is currently being assembled at the Huntington Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi. The USS Tripoli is slated for delivery to the US Navy in December 2018, whereas Bougainville is scheduled to be handed over in 2024. The U.S. Navy plans for a total force of 11 America-class amphibious assault ships.