USS Essex LHD-2 is among the largest of all amphibious warfare ships, resembling a small aircraft carrier.

Introduce

The super amphibious assault ships of the United States, when carrying the stealth fighter F-35B, has the power equal to that of Chinese and Russian aircraft carriers. The F-35B Joint Strike Fighter not only changes the way marines perform their duties, but also the way amphibious forces can do their job without a truely carrier. After a temporary suspension of operations due to a Level 1 accident on the F-35B version at a base of the US Marine Corps, so far, this particular fighter has returned to service on amphibious assault ships.

On September 27, 2018, the F-35B stealth fighter was recorded for the first time in a combat operation. The F-35B squadron, taking off from USS Essex, successfully carried out a strike on the target of terrorist forces in the territory of Afghanistan. This is also the first time the US amphibious assault ship has been used as a small aircraft carrier, specializing in carrying the short take-off and vertical-landing fighters. The deployment of an amphibious assault ship carrying F-35B stealth fighters is thought to be a much less expensive solution than maneuvering an truely super carrier.

The United States currently maintains the largest and most capable amphibious force in the world. Amphibious warships are designed to support the Marine Corps tenets of Operational Maneuver From the Sea and Ship to Objective Maneuver. Because of their inherent capabilities, these ships have been and will continue to be called upon to also support humanitarian and other contingency missions on short notice.

USS Essex LHD-2
USS Essex LHD-2

USS Essex LHD-2 is among the largest of all amphibious warfare ships, resembling a small aircraft carrier. She was launched 23 February 1991 and commissioned on 17 October 1992. She is the fifth ship named for Essex County, Massachusetts. Essex and her sister ships are the first specifically designed to accommodate new Landing Craft Air Cushion for fast troop movement over the beach, and AV-8B Harrier II Vertical Short Take-Off and Landing jets which provide close air support for the assault force. She can also accommodate with the full range of Navy and Marine helicopters, conventional landing craft and amphibious assault vehicles to support a Marine Expeditionary Unit of 2,000 Marines. The ship also carry some of the most sophisticated communications, command and control capabilities afloat, alongwith state of the art electronic systems and defensive weaponry.

Design

The USS Essex is an improved follow-on to the five ship Tarawa-class Landing Helicopter Assaults, sharing the basic hull and engineering plant. The ships is built as five giant, pre-constructed modules each weighing thousands of tons and ultimately fitted together at the shipyard, forming the ship’s hull.

The full load displacement of the ship is 41150 tons, she measures a running length of 257m with a beam of 32m while having a draft of 8.1m. The warship has an enhanced well deck, the use of HY100 steel to build the flight deck makes it stronger.

She uses a lowering stern gate, enabling it to carry three Landing Craft Air Cushion in a single-bay. The flight deck and elevator scheme is also improved, which allows the ship to carry two more helicopters than its predecessor.

Propulsion

The propulsion system is provided by two boilers, two geared steam turbines, driving two shafts, develops 70,000 shaft horsepower, powering the ship to speeds in excess of 22 knots, her range can reach 9500 nautical miles at 18 knots.

Capacity

To carry out her primary mission, Essex has an assault support system that synchronizes the simultaneous horizontal and vertical flow of troops, cargo and vehicles throughout the ship. Two aircraft elevators service the hangar bay and flight deck. Six cargo elevators, each 4 by 8 meters are used to transport material and supplies from the 3,000-cubic-meter cargo holds throughout the ship to staging areas on the flight deck, hangar bay and vehicle storage area. Cargo is transferred to waiting landing craft docked within the ship’s 1,100 square meters. Helicopters in the hangar bay or on the flight deck are cargo-loaded by forklift, the hangar can accommodate 28 CH-46-equivalents.

The Essex carries a mix of assault helicopters, plus six to eight Harriers for close air support. A typical mix of helicopters is: 12 CH-46 Sea Knight, four CH-53E Sea Stallion; three UH-1N Huey and four AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters. The vessel will also be able to embark the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. Because of the desire to maximize the number of deck spots, no ski-jump ramp is fitted.

The vehicle storage area typically accommodates five M-1 tanks, 25 light armoured vehicles, eight M-198 guns, 68 military trucks, ten logistics vehicles, 12 5t trucks, two water trailers, a fuel service truck, four rough terrain forklifts and two generator trailers. These vehicles can be loaded aboard landing craft, and the majority can be rigged for transportation to the beach by helicopter.

Armament

For self-defense, the ship is armed with two semi-active radar-guided Nato RIM-7 Sea Sparrow missile systems for anti-air warfare protection, two RIM-116 rolling airframe missile systems and three 20mm Phalanx close-in weapon-system mounts to counter threats from low-flying aircraft and close-in small craft. There are also four 25mm machine guns and four 12.7mm machine guns. Six super-rapid blooming offboard chaff decoy system launchers augment anti-ship missile defences ability.

Electronic systems

The Essex is equipped with a range of most advanced radar and sensors at the time she was Launched. It is AN/SPS-49 2-D Air Search Radar, AN/SPS-48 3-D Air Search Radar, AN/SPS-67 Surface Search Radar. There are also Target Acquisition System, Air Traffic Control Radar, Identification Friend Foe, etc.

Essex has medical and dental facilities capable of providing intensive medical assistance to 600 casualties, whether combat incurred or brought aboard ship during humanitarian missions. For the comfort of the 1,075 crewmembers and 2,200 embarked troops, all manned spaces and berthing areas are individually heated and air conditioned. Onboard recreational facilities include a Library Multi-Media Resource Center with Internet access, a weight room, and satellite television capabilities.

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