A keel laying ceremony for the future USS America (LHA 6) was held July 17 at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding's Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss. The keel was authenticated by ship's sponsor Lynne Pace, the wife of retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace, who confirmed that the keel was truly and fairly laid.
The America Class will replace the aging Tarawa Class and will increase the aviation capacity of future big deck amphibious ships in order to maximize the Navy's investment in future aircraft. LHA 6 will use the same gas turbine propulsion plant, zonal electrical distribution and electric auxiliary systems designed and built for the just-delivered USS Makin Island (LHD 8), replacing the maintenance intensive steam turbines of earlier ships. This unique auxiliary propulsion system (APS) was designed for fuel efficiency. Instead of using main propulsion engines to power the ship's shaft, the APS uses two induction-type auxiliary propulsion motors powered from the ship's electrical grid.
"The future USS America represents a balanced solution to achieve an affordable and capable ship that meets the Fleets needs," said Capt. Jeff Riedel, amphibious ships program manager within the Navy's Program Executive Office, Ships. "She's built without a well-deck and includes changes to increase her aviation support capabilities, but because we're reusing the proven auxiliary propulsion system we designed for LHD 8, we're avoiding the kind of design and development costs we would normally see with a new ship class."
By providing a sustainable amphibious ship development program, the America class, or LHA Replacement, will ensure that the nation's amphibious fleet remains the centerpiece of expeditionary warfare, in support of the Navy and Marine Corps well into the 21st century.
The LHA Replacement program is the next step in the incremental development of the "Big Deck Amphib." The class is being designed to accommodate the Marine Corps' future Aviation Combat Element, including F-35B Joint Strike Fighter and MV-22 Osprey with additional aviation maintenance capability and increased fuel capacities, while also providing additional cargo stowage capacities and enabling a broader, more flexible command and control capability.
Amphibious warships are designed to support the Marine Corps tenets of Operational Maneuver From the Sea. They must be able to sail in harm's way and provide a rapid buildup of combat power ashore in the face of opposition. 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.
PEO Ships is responsible for the development and acquisition of U.S. Navy surface ships, and is currently managing the design and construction of a wide range of ship classes and small boats and craft. These platforms range from major warships such as frontline surface combatants and amphibious assault ships to air-cushioned landing craft, oceanographic research ships and special warfare craft. PEO Ships has delivered 32 major warships and hundreds of small boats and craft from more than 30 shipyards and boat builders across the United States.