Tag Archives: USS America (LHA-6)

F-35 on USS America

Five Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II aircraft landed on the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) on Friday, October 28. America will embark seven F-35Bs – two are scheduled to begin the third shipboard phase of Developmental Test (DT-III) and five are scheduled to conduct operational testing. America, the first ship of its class, is an aviation-centric platform that incorporates key design elements to accommodate the fifth-generation fighter.

An F-35B Lightning II aircraft launches for the first time off the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Benjamin Wooddy/Released)
An F-35B Lightning II aircraft launches for the first time off the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Benjamin Wooddy/Released)

The ship’s design features several aviation capabilities enhanced beyond previous amphibious assault ships which include an enlarged hangar deck, realignment and expansion of the aviation maintenance facilities, a significant increase in available stowage of parts and equipment, as well as increased aviation fuel capacity. America is capable of accommodating F-35Bs, MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, and a complement of Navy and Marine Corps helicopters.

The third test phase will evaluate F-35B Short Take-off Vertical Landing (STOVL) operations in a high-sea state, shipboard landings, and night operations. The cadre of flight test pilots, engineers, maintainers, and support personnel from the F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Test Force (ITF) are assigned to Air Test & Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.

«It’s exciting to start the execution phase of our detachment with VMX-1 (Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1) on USS America», said Lieutenant Colonel Tom «Sally» Fields, F-35 Patuxent River ITF Government Flight Test director assigned to VX-23. «During the next three weeks, we will be completing critical flight test for both Developmental Test (DT) and Operational Test (OT). The F-35 Pax River ITF and VX-23 will be conducting DT work that will establish the boundaries of safe operation for the F-35B in the 3F configuration. VMX-1 will be conducting OT operations focused on preparing maintenance crews and pilots for the first deployment of the F-35B aboard USS Wasp (LHD-1), scheduled to start in just over a year».

The operational testing will also include simulating extensive maintenance aboard a ship, said Colonel George Rowell, commanding officer of VMX-1, based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona. Rowell stated one of the VMX jets on board will be placed in the hangar bay, taken apart, and put together again, just to make sure everything goes well.

The maintenance work will include the replacement of a lift fan, the specialized equipment made by Rolls Royce and Pratt and Whitney that gives the F-35B variant its short take-off, “jump jet” capability, Rowell said. The Marine Corps variant of the F-35 Lightning II reached the fleet first, with the service declaring initial operational capability July 2015.

«The F-35 Lightning II is the most versatile, agile, and technologically-advanced aircraft in the skies today, enabling our Corps to be the nation’s force in readiness – regardless of the threat, and regardless of the location of the battle», said Lieutenant General Jon Davis, deputy commandant for aviation, Marine Corps. «As we modernize our fixed-wing aviation assets for the future, the continued development and fielding of the short take-off and vertical landing, the F-35B remains the centerpiece of this effort».

«The America class of amphibious assault ship design enables it to carry a larger and more diverse complement of aircraft, including the tiltrotor MV-22 Osprey, the new F-35 Lightning II, and a mix of cargo and assault helicopters», added Davis. «America is able to support a wide spectrum of military operations and missions, including putting Marines ashore for combat operations, launching air strikes, keeping sea lanes free and open for the movement of global commerce, and delivering humanitarian aid following a natural disaster».

This graphic illustration depicts the U.S. Navy's first live fire demonstration to successfully test the integration of the F-35 with existing Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) architecture. During the test at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, September 12, an unmodified U.S. Marine Corps F-35B acted as an elevated sensor to detect an over-the-horizon threat. The aircraft then sent data through its Multi-Function Advanced Data Link to a ground station connected to USS Desert Ship (LLS-1), a land-based launch facility designed to simulate a ship at sea. Using the latest Aegis Weapon System Baseline 9.C1 and a Standard Missile 6, the system successfully detected and engaged the target (U.S. Navy graphic illustration courtesy of Lockheed Martin/Released)
This graphic illustration depicts the U.S. Navy’s first live fire demonstration to successfully test the integration of the F-35 with existing Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) architecture. During the test at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, September 12, an unmodified U.S. Marine Corps F-35B acted as an elevated sensor to detect an over-the-horizon threat. The aircraft then sent data through its Multi-Function Advanced Data Link to a ground station connected to USS Desert Ship (LLS-1), a land-based launch facility designed to simulate a ship at sea. Using the latest Aegis Weapon System Baseline 9.C1 and a Standard Missile 6, the system successfully detected and engaged the target (U.S. Navy graphic illustration courtesy of Lockheed Martin/Released)

America comes online

According to Grace Jean, IHS Jane’s correspondent, after a successful two-month maiden transit around South America to its homeport in California, the U.S. Navy’s new amphibious assault ship, USS America (LHA-6), is conducting tests and training for final contract trials ahead of its post-delivery availability.

Incorporating two General Electric (GE) LM 2500+ gas turbines (instead of the steam boilers found in Tarawa-class ships) and GE's Auxiliary Propulsion System, which uses the ship's electric grid to power two induction auxiliary propulsion motors (instead of using main propulsion engines to turn the ship's shaft), America displaces 44,971 tonnes fully loaded
Incorporating two General Electric (GE) LM 2500+ gas turbines (instead of the steam boilers found in Tarawa-class ships) and GE’s Auxiliary Propulsion System, which uses the ship’s electric grid to power two induction auxiliary propulsion motors (instead of using main propulsion engines to turn the ship’s shaft), America displaces 44,971 tonnes fully loaded

When the U.S. Navy’s (USN’s) latest amphibious assault ship, USS America (LHA-6), departs on its maiden deployment in 2017, its flight deck will be capable of operating the newest aircraft flown by the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC): the F-35B Lightning II Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

Commissioned in late 2014, the lead ship of the USN’s newest class of ‘large deck’ amphibious platforms is completing a period of testing and trials in the Pacific off the coast of California, where it is based. Following final contract trials, the 257.3 m-long America will enter its post-delivery availability, during which its flight deck is expected to be upgraded with coatings and other systems meant to help the ship better cope with F-35B operations. The ship can transport up to 28 MV-22s with their wings folded, but the total number accommodated drops to 24 when MV-22 flight operations are conducted. An initial America-class air wing could consist of 12 MV-22s and 12 F-35Bs to provide both strike and assault capability.

In late February 2015 USS America (LHA-6) was under way in the Pacific off the coast of southern California conducting tests and training evolutions in preparation for its final contract trials, expected to take place later in the year. By early March the ship had accomplished another milestone on its path to becoming fully operational: having Harriers land on its flight deck for the first time, helping America become fully certified for air operations.

Only one year earlier the ship was being prepared for delivery out of Ingalls. During a shipboard tour there in May 2014, America ‘s commanding officer, Captain Robert Hall Jr, told IHS Jane’s that the ship would embark a flag staff, a Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) of around 300 marines, 4 MV-22s, and 3 MH-60 helicopters for its maiden transit to the western U.S. coast for commissioning, later adding that 4 CH-46 helicopters would also be added to the mix.

America has an extended hangar bay and additional aviation support spaces and fuel capacity to accommodate the MAGTF's entire Air Combat Element (ACE) comprising the USMC's larger successor aircraft to the AV-8B Harrier II jet and CH-46E Chinook helicopter – the F-35B and MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor respectively – as well as the CH-53E/K Sea Stallion heavylift helicopter, the UH-1Y Huey utility helicopter, the AH-1Z Super Cobra attack helicopter, and the MH-60S Seahawk multimission helicopter
America has an extended hangar bay and additional aviation support spaces and fuel capacity to accommodate the MAGTF’s entire Air Combat Element (ACE) comprising the USMC’s larger successor aircraft to the AV-8B Harrier II jet and CH-46E Chinook helicopter – the F-35B and MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor respectively – as well as the CH-53E/K Sea Stallion heavylift helicopter, the UH-1Y Huey utility helicopter, the AH-1Z Super Cobra attack helicopter, and the MH-60S Seahawk multimission helicopter

Normally a new USN ship transits from shipyard to homeport and commissioning without fanfare, so America ‘s arrangement to embark marine personnel and aircraft for a bespoke assignment around a continent was unique. «Having this type of force embarked was completely unprecedented for a pre-commissioned ship’s first underway, but was instrumental to our ability to showcase the strength and capability of our Navy/Marine Corps team and to facilitate relationship building with our important partners in South America», Captain Hall told IHS Jane’s in March 2015.

In July 2014 USS America (LHA-6) journeyed around South America, making port calls at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Colombia. «During the deployment we visited and hosted senior-level military and civilian distinguished visitors from Cartagena, Colombia; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Valparaiso, Chile; and Callao, Peru», Captain Robert Hall said.

«We also flew out distinguished visitors from Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, and El Salvador for key leadership engagements on board and we had the rare opportunity to transit through the Strait of Magellan. All in all, an amazing voyage and the ship performed incredibly well». Embarking marines was part of the USN’s plan to begin training and integration with the sister service early as well as developing operational concepts for the America-class as a whole.

«They integrated seamlessly and provided my crew of mostly first-term sailors with the early opportunity to experience amphibious operations and learn the importance of operating as a team at sea», Captain Hall said. «Having the MV-22 Ospreys on board was a huge bonus for us when performing a number of important roles. Although their primary mission was long-range insertion of marines to conduct theatre security co-operation engagements in Colombia, Brazil, Chile, and Peru, they were also important to our logistics support, flight deck crew training, and for transporting distinguished visitors out to the ship – and they offered a pretty impressive backdrop during all of our shipboard receptions and four international press conferences». (Source: IHS Jane’s Defence Industry and Markets Intelligence Centre)

A U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier II prepares to land on the flight deck of the U.S. Navy's new amphibious assault ship, USS America, during maritime training operations off the coast of California on 25 February 2015. The ship is the first of its class and is optimised for Marine Corps aviation (U.S. Navy)
A U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier II prepares to land on the flight deck of the U.S. Navy’s new amphibious assault ship, USS America, during maritime training operations off the coast of California on 25 February 2015. The ship is the first of its class and is optimised for Marine Corps aviation (U.S. Navy)

 

General Characteristics

Builder Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc., Ingalls Operations, Pascagoula, Mississippi
Date Deployed Delivered to the fleet in on April 10, 2014
Propulsion Two marine gas turbines, two shafts, 70,000 total brake horsepower/52,199 kW, two 5,000 horsepower/3,728 kW auxiliary propulsion motors
Length 844 feet/257.3 m
Beam 106 feet/32.3 m
Displacement Approximately 43,745 long tons full load/44,449 metric tons
Speed 20+ knots/23+ mph/37+ km/h
Crew 1,059 (65 officers)
Load 1,687 troops (plus 184 surge)
Armament 2 RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile) launchers
2 NATO Sea Sparrow launchers with ESSM (Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile)
2 20-mm Phalanx CIWS (Close-In Weapon System) mounts
7 twin 12,7-mm/.50 cal. machine guns
Aircraft 9 F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) STOVL (Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing) aircraft
4 AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters
4 CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters
12 MV-22B Osprey VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) tiltrotors
2 MH-60S Sea Hawk Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopters
UH-1Y Huey helicopters
Ships USS America (LHA-6); San Diego, California; Commissioned: October 11, 2014
PCU* Tripoli (LHA-7); No homeport; under construction

* Pre-Commissioning Unit

An MV-22 Osprey prepares to land on board USS America on 19 July 2014 in the Caribbean Sea (U.S. Navy)
An MV-22 Osprey prepares to land on board USS America on 19 July 2014 in the Caribbean Sea (U.S. Navy)