The commissioning date of the second America-class amphibious assault ship, the future USS Tripoli, designated Landing Helicopter Assault (LHA) 7, has reportedly been pushed back to the end of 2019 or early 2020, according to shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII). The America-class flattop was originally expected to be commissioned in the fall.
The delay is caused by some technical design issues with the ship’s systems, according to HII chief executive, Mike Petters. “The systems are working today. It’s just a question of whether they will work for the life of the ship,” Petters was quoted as saying by USNI News. “We’re working through a couple of technical design issues that we’re working and discussing with the Navy about.”
According to USNI News, Petters declined to provide more details.
“We think that’ll come to a resolution around the end of the year, and predicting whether it’s the end of this year or the beginning the next year, we don’t want to put up sort of any extra pressure on that,” Petters said when asked about the delivery date. “We want to resolve that the right way.”
The future USS Tripoli spent four days at sea in the Gulf of Mexico in July successfully completing builder’s trials. The trials included testing the ship’s main propulsion, combat, and other systems before returning to HII’s shipbuilding division in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
The flattop is an aircraft carrier in all but name. It can carry around ten F-35B fighter jets, the U.S. Marine Corps variant of the supersonic fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, capable of vertical or short takeoffs and vertical landings without requiring a catapult launcher.
Additionally, the Tripoli 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. It can also embark an entire expeditionary strike group consisting of up to 1,800 U.S. Marines and amphibious warfare equipment.
In comparison to the first-of-class USS America, upgrades to the Tripoli’s flight deck were incorporated into the basic build of the of the ship to save costs.
“The flight deck modifications to support the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft provide an increased aviation capacity and demonstrate how an experienced team can evolve the platform to meet the current threats across the globe,” Ingalls Shipbuilding President Brian Cuccias was quoted as saying in a July 22 HII statement.
The Tripoli’s sister ship, USS America, is slated to deploy to Japan this year replacing the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship, USS Wasp, as the largest forward-deployed big deck in the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet.