Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII), the largest military shipbuilder in the United States, has delivered the second America-class amphibious assault ship, the future USS Tripoli, designated Landing Helicopter Assault (LHA) 7, to the U.S. Navy on February 28.
The delivery of the new amphibious assault ship was preceded by builders and acceptance trials. The future USS Tripoli was launched in May 2017 and christened in September 2017. The new flattop is expected to be commissioned later this year.
“When Tripoli enters the fleet, it will be the flagship of an Amphibious Ready Group, strategically positioning Marine Expeditionary Units ashore across a full spectrum of missions, including humanitarian, disaster relief, maritime security, antipiracy and other operations while providing air support for ground forces,” according to a February 28 HII press statement.
The future USS Tripoli has been designed to carry the F-35B fighter jet, 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. It can carry around 10 F-35Bs, in addition to other aircraft.
“America-class ships are designed to enhance Marine Corps aviation, capable of supporting the tilt-rotor MV-22 and F-35B Joint Strike Fighter,” HII said in the statement. Next to the F-35B, the flattop can carry up to 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 first-of-class USS America, which deployed to U.S. naval base of Sasebo, Japan in December 2019, the Tripoli contains various design upgrades incorporated into the basic build of the amphibious assault ship, a large portion of which were made toward carrying and launching the F-35B.
Upgrades, including changes to the flattop’s flight deck, were incorporated into the basic build of the of the Tripoli as a cost saving measure. The ship is an aviation-focused small surface combatant and was built with increased space for jet fuel and aircraft equipment.
The Tripoli 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.
The amphibious assault can carry a force of up to 1,800 U.S. Marines and associated equipment for amphibious warfare operations. Notably, unlike its immediate predecessor, the Wasp-class, America-class amphibious assault ships are designed without a well deck that floods to launch landing craft.
The first-of-class USS America replaced the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship, USS Wasp, as the biggest forward-deployed big deck in the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet in December 2019.
The U.S. Navy plans for a total force of 11 America-class amphibious assault ships.