|Arthur Dominic Villasanta |||Apr 08, 2017 07:02 AM EDT|
(Photo : US Navy) Four F-35B Lightning II stealth jets in formation above the amphibious assault ship USS America.
USS America (LHA-6), the U.S. Navy's newest and largest amphibious assault ship, will be deployed to Asia within the year in anticipation of a conflict with China.
She's currently conducting Amphibious Squadron / Marine Expeditionary Unit Integration operations with a crew of more than 1,000 sailors and 1,600 embarked U.S. Marines.
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USS America is the lead ship in the America-class amphibious assault ships designed to launch a Marine Expeditionary Unit using helicopters and Bell Boeing MV-22B Osprey V/STOL tiltrotor transport aircraft. These amphibious assaults will be supported by Boeing AV-8B Harrier II or Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II V/STOL aircraft and various attack helicopters.
The navy plans to build 11 LHAs, whose large flight decks also classify them as small aircraft carriers. USS America is the first ship of its class, which was designed to replace the Tarawa-class amphibious assault ships.
F-35B trials aboard the USS America, the only operational America-class LHA, were completed in late 2016 and verified the capability of F-35Bs to operate from them. The F-35B is a short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the F-35 operated only by the U.S. Marines.
The America-class should be able to deploy at least a dozen F-35Bs. Her current complement of fixed wing aircraft includes six F-35Bs and six Boeing AV-8B Harrier II jump jets, which are being retired. She can also deploy four Bell AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters; four Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters, 12 Bell Boeing MV-22 Ospreys, and two Sikorsky MH-60S Search and Rescue helicopters.
The success in transforming LHAs into "small carriers" gives powerful teeth to the new U.S. Navy doctrine of "distributed lethality" that aims to turn as many surface warships as it can into small aircraft carriers.
There are two other America-class amphibious assault ships under construction: USS Tripoli (LHA-7) and the USS Bougainville (LHA-8).
LHA 7 is slated for delivery to the navy in December 2018 while LHA 8 will join the navy in 2024.
The USS America is armed with 12 defensive weapons systems, including two RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Mk 49 l launchers; two Raytheon 20 mm Phalanx CIWS mounts and seven twin .50 caliber heavy machine guns.
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