Tarawa, the amphibious assault ship class built in the 1970s, finally had a successor, the America class
America was built on the design of the USS Makin Island, the last ship of the Wasp class. The America class is designed to optimize new aviation assets such as the F-35B and upgraded Osprey helicopters. The ship has a full load displacement of about 45,000 tons, a length of 257m, and a beam of 32m.
Similar in size to the fixed-wing aircraft carriers Charles de Gaulle of France and Vikramaditya of India, the USS America and her sisters can be used as a light aircraft carrier, with a squadron of jet fighters plus several multipurpose helicopters, such as the MH-60 Seahawk. They can carry about 20 to 25 AV-8B, F-35Bs, or a mixture of the two.
With a philosophy optimized for aviation and do not support amphibious assault by sea, there are no well deck on the first two America-class ships. Marines are airlifted by helicopter, which allows troops to move much faster and farther than the old method. In addition, ships are also better protected when conducting attacks from a distance. Future ships of this class are currently planned to have a well deck, similar to that of the Wasp class, but will have smaller hangars to make room for amphibious vehicles.
The America-class amphibious assault ships are powered with a (CODLOG) hybrid-electric propulsion system, including 2 gas turbines, two shafts, with 70,000 bhp total, and 2 x 5,000 hp auxiliary propulsion engines. The ship can reach a top speed of over 20 knots. Aboard is a crew of 1,060 with a contingent of 1,690 marines possible.
Defensive weapons on board are Two Rolling Airframe Missile launchers, two Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile launchers, two Phalanx CIWS, and 7 dual 12.7mm caliber machine guns. The vessel is outfitted with the AN/SPQ-9B surface-search and Fire Control radar, AN/SPS-48E 3D air-search radar, the AN/SPS-49 2D air-search radar and the AN/SPM-43C air traffic control radar. Electronic Warfare is handled by the AN/SLQ-32B and 2 x Mk 53 NULKA decoy launchers.
Part of the intention for the ship is to properly configure the platform to launch and operate the Marine Corps F-35B. Specifically, Navy engineers added special coating materials to the ship’s deck in order to mitigate any possible heat damage caused by the vertical-take-off and landing F-35B. Structural elements of the ship were also modified to ensure the vessel could fully and properly accommodate the F-35.
Currently, a third US amphibious assault ship is under construction, the Bougainville LHA 8. It will return with a well-deck for traditional amphibious assaults. The USS America and USS Tripoli have particular aviation-centric adjustments such as an enlarged hangar deck, realignment of the maintenance facilities, increased stowage and greater fuel capacity, a Navy report said.
With the new generation amphibious assault ships, the U.S. Navy amphibious assault strategy in the future will have major changes, focusing on aviation power and unprecedented intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technology of stealth fighters.