LHA Amphibious Assault Ships

Large deck amphibious assault ships are the flagships of amphibious ready groups and are designed to provide Command and Control, along with superior sea basing capabilities. Large deck amphibious assault ships are capable of launching forces by air and sea. When on station, they provide the U.S. Marine Corps with unparalleled sea basing capabilities. The America class is capable of supporting the most advanced Marine Corps aircraft, providing the Marine Corps with a superb means of ship-to-shore movement.

LHA Facts

An LHA is 844 feet long with a 106-foot beam. It weighs 44,854 tons and takes approximately five years to build. The large deck ships are the centerpiece of an Amphibious Ready Group used to embark, land and sustain a Marine Air Ground Task Force and its associated equipment. LHA 6 is the first ship in its class built without a well deck. The ships have a crew of 1,204 and can transport up to 1,800 troops and their equipment. America (LHA 6) is nearly three football fields in length and is 20 stories high from its keel to the top of its deckhouse. It has two acres of flight deck.

An LHA Amphibious Assault Ship can be equipped with:

  • 9 F-35B Joint Strike Fighters
  • 4 AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters
  • 4 CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters
  • 12 MV-22 Osprey
  • 2 MH-60S Search and Rescue helicopters
  • 12 defensive weapons systems that include .50 caliber machine guns, PHALANX, and RAM launchers.

LHA Design & Construction

The 844-foot LHA 6 America class amphibious assault ship takes approximately five years to build. Its construction consists of 216 structural units, requiring 170 erection lifts, including grand blocks, plus two lifts to set the deckhouse on board (the main house, followed by smaller forward section). These blocks are built on land, starting with the ship’s midsection, and later moved to drydock for launch by translation cars.

The America class is unique among large deck amphibious ships in that it is designed without a well deck, which is used to launch amphibious landing craft. Instead, they are designed with a larger hangar enabling it to carry more aircraft.

Two main turbines provide 70,000 horsepower. Additionally, LHA 6 has a separate source of propulsion, a unique auxiliary propulsion system (APS), that was designed for fuel efficiency. The APS uses two induction-type auxiliary propulsion motors powered from the ship’s electrical grid. America class ships include 1,000 miles of electrical cable, 431,000 feet of pipe and enough hull insulation to cover 40 acres.

LHA At Sea

Equipped with two marine gas turbines providing  70,000 horsepower, the 844-foot America class LHA is capable of reaching more than 20 knots at sea. The largest of all amphibious warfare ships, she is capable of supporting Marine aircraft and providing a superb means of ship-to-shore movement.

America class ships will 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). As an amphibious ship, her mission includes embarking, transporting, controlling, inserting, sustaining and extracting elements of a marine air-ground task force, and support forces by helicopters and tilt-rotor aircraft.

America also marks the first of the Navy’s newest class of amphibious assault ships replacing the Tarawa class. It is considered to be the next generation “big-deck” amphibious ship. At sea, the new ship will be more capable to support current and future aircraft, including the MV-22B Osprey, F-35B Lightning II and the CH-53K Super Stallion.

History of LHAs

Much has changed for the United States Marine Corps since its inception as the Continental Marines on Nov. 10, 1775, when it served as a landing force on the wooden ships of the Continental Navy.

But one thing has remained constant throughout its history: the U.S. Marines depend on quality ships to get to the fight and accomplish their mission.

Perhaps no other conflict underscored the importance of amphibious forces more than WWII. Sea- based Marines in the Pacific wrestled islands away from the Japanese and launched the D Day invasion that eventually crushed Nazi forces in Europe.

Ingalls began building amphibious warships for the Navy and Marine Corps in the 1950s, a tradition the company proudly continues today. Ingalls is currently the sole builder of large deck amphibious ships for the Navy.

But it was in the 1960s that Ingalls began its association with a new generation of amphibious assault ships known as “large deck” amphibious ships.

On July 20, 1966, Ingalls delivered the first of two amphibious assault ships to the Navy, the Iwo Jima-class USS Tripoli (LPH 10), designed to launch helicopters. She earned a Vietnam Service Medal for her three deployments to support numerous combat operations in Vietnam.

Ingalls built the first-in-class USS Tarawa (LHA 1) and delivered her to the Navy in May 1976. The Tarawa class LHA ships were intended to combine the capabilities of the helicopter carrier (LPH), the amphibious transport dock (LPD), the command ship (LCC) and the amphibious cargo ship (LKA) in a single hull.

Ingalls Shipbuilding built all five of the Tarawa class ships, delivering the last ship in the class – USS Peleliu (LHA 5) – in 1980.

In the 1980s, Ingalls began building the third generation large deck amphibious ships – the Wasp class landing helicopter dock, or LHD. The Wasp class was a follow-on from the Tarawa class and its ships share the same basic hull and engineering plant. Ingalls built all eight of the Wasp-class LHDs. The last ship in the class – USS Makin Island (LHD 8) was delivered to the Navy in 2009.

Ships from both classes have participated in numerous combat operations, such as Operation Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom, as well as disaster relief efforts and humanitarian aid missions.

Ingalls began building LHAs again in 2008 with the first-in-class USS America (LHA 6). The America class is different from the Tarawa class in that it has no well deck, with the focus being on aviation. USS America (LHA 6) was delivered in April 2014. The second ship in the America class, Tripoli (LHA 7), is currently under construction and is scheduled to deliver in 2018. In June 2016, Ingalls was selected to build LHA 8, which incorporates the well deck back in the design.

USS Tarawa

LHA Timeline

Nov. 10, 1775: the Continental Marines is created, serving as both as protector of and landing force on the wooden ships of the Continental Navy.

July 20, 1966: Ingalls delivered to the U.S. Navy its first amphibious assault ship, the Iwo Jima-class USS Tripoli (LPH 10).

May 1976: Ingalls delivers the first-in-class USS Tarawa (LHA 1) to the Navy.

July 29, 1989: The Ingalls-built first-in-class USS Wasp (LHD 1) is commissioned.

2008: Ingalls begins building LHAs again with the first-in-class USS America (LHA 6).

Oct. 20, 2012: USS America (LHA 6) is christened.

April 10, 2014: Ingalls Shipbuilding delivers America (LHA 6) to U.S. Navy

June 20, 2014: Ingalls authenticates keel of Tripoli (LHA 7)