The largest of all amphibious warfare ships, modern U.S. Navy amphibious assault ships, also referred to as big decks, resemble small aircraft carriers. These ships must be capable of sailing in harm’s way and enable rapid combat power buildup ashore in the face of opposition. The United States maintains the largest and most capable amphibious force in the world.
Amphibious assault ships facilitate forward presence and power projection as an integral part of joint, interagency, and multinational maritime expeditionary forces, supporting the Marine Corps tenets of Operational Maneuver From the Sea (OMFTS) and Ship to Objective Maneuver (STOM). Because of their inherent capabilities, these ships have been and will continue to be called upon to support humanitarian and other contingency missions on short notice.
Such missions have included critical post Hurricane Katrina support to New Orleans in 2005 by USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) where thousands of police, fire and rescue personnel were hosted onboard during recovery operations and LHD 7 operated as the central command and control hub. Following the devastation caused by the earthquake which hit Haiti in 2010, amphibious assault ships were deployed to provide aid relief and humanitarian assistance. In 2011, USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) assisted in the tactical rescue of aircrew and personnel from a downed F-15 Eagle near Benghazi, Libya.
Amphibious warships participated as launch platforms for Marine Corps expeditionary forces into Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001 and 2002 as well as Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, two LHDs served as Harrier carriers, launching an air group of AV-8B attack aircraft against targets inside Iraq. In 2004, LHAs and LHDs were used to transport thousands of Marines and their equipment to Iraq and Afghanistan for combat operations.
Introducing the America Class (LHA(R))
The LHA Replacement, or LHA(R), class ships are the next step in the incremental development of the amphibious assault ship and will replace the Tarawa class (LHA 1).
USS America (LHA 6), the first of two planned Flight 0 ships, is an aviation-centric, modified repeat of the USS Makin Island (LHD 8). The ship is optimized for aviation and capable of supporting current and future aircraft with additional aviation maintenance capability and increased fuel capacities. LHA 8 will be a Flight I ship, reintroducing the well deck without sacrificing aviation capability.
Since the American Revolution, three U.S. Navy warships have sailed with the name America. The first America was originally a racing schooner launched in 1851 and taken into Confederate naval service in 1861 before being captured and taken into the U.S. Navy in 1862. She served in the Navy until 1873 before returning to civilian life racing and cruising. In 1921 she was presented to the Navy for preservation as a relic and remained at the U.S. Naval Academy until being scrapped in 1945. The second America transported troops during World War I. The third ship to bear the name was a Kitty-Hawk class aircraft carrier that supported operations from the Vietnam War through Operation Desert Storm. USS America will be the fourth U.S. Navy ship to bear this name.
Missions and Operations of America Class Ships
Modern U.S. Navy amphibious assault ships project power and maintain presence as an integral part of joint, interagency and multinational maritime expeditionary forces. These ships operate for sustained periods in transit to operations in an Amphibious Objective Area to include embarking, transporting, controlling, inserting, sustaining and extracting elements of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force and supporting forces by helicopters and tilt rotors.
Alongside the Amphibious Transport Dock (LPD) and Dock Landing Ship (LSD), LHA (R) ships will serve as cornerstone members of the Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG)/Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG), forming a cohesive Navy/Marine Corps combined-arms team ready to respond to all missions across the range of military operations.
ARG/ESG ships transport and land elements of the Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) or Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) with a combination of aircraft and landing craft. USS America and the Future USS Tripoli (LHA 7) are capable of Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing (V/STOL), Short Take-Off Vertical Landing (STOVL), Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) tilt-rotor, and Rotary Wing (RW) aircraft operations. In addition to the aviation capabilities of LHA 6 and LHA 7, the well deck incorporated on LHA 8 will support the use of air cushion vehicles and other watercraft such as Landing Craft, Air Cushioned (LCAC) and Landing Craft Utility (LCU).
LHA 6 is designed execute core areas of the Navy’s Maritime Defense Strategy, “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Sea Power”
Forward Presence-   Capability to forward deploy and remain on station for extended periods which enables us to develop and maintain strong relationships with partner nations across the globe.
Deterrence-   Provide deterrence through presence and effective Theater Security Cooperation engagements. This creates security by minimizing conditions for conflict.
Sea Control-   LCS will use its modular mission packages to control Sea Lines of Communication by defeating swarming surface craft, enhancing the Fleet’s ASW capability, both in littoral waters and in concert with current ASW forces in the open ocean, and counter mine threats to sea lines of communication, particularly in global commerce chokepoints.
Power Projection-   Deliver and sustain power from over the horizon through significant airpower and command and control capabilities.
Maritime Security-   Maintain security at sea against piracy, terrorism, narcotics trafficking, and other illicit activities.
Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Response (HA/DR)-   Provide the heavy airlift needed to deliver supplies to inaccessible areas after a disaster or conduct rapid and sustained non-combatant evacuation operations when personal safety is in jeopardy.
Optimized for Aviation ...supports current and future aircraft
...high level of design maturity... increased operational flexibility
America Class Ships
USS America was placed under contract in June 2007 with Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, now Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII). The ship was christened on Oct. 20, 2012 and delivered to the Navy during a ceremony held on April 10, 2014 at the HII shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss.
Following delivery to the Navy, America embarked on its maiden voyage sailing from the Mississippi shipyard, around South America to San Francisco, Calif. for its Oct. 11, 2014 commissioning. During the two-month voyage, the crew of approximately 1,000 sailors and 250 marines visited the Caribbean and South America engaging in humanitarian, diplomatic and training activities along the way.
LHA 6 is homeported in San Diego, Calif. and became part of the Pacific Fleet upon commissioning. The Navy awarded a contract for detail design and construction for LHA 7 to HII on May 31, 2012. The ship started fabrication on July 15, 2013. Preliminary design for LHA 8 is complete with contract design and design for affordability in progress.