The carriers that aren’t
The below piece of shipbuilding history is a 1974 status report on the then-under construction Tarawa-class amphibious assault ship (LHA) class at Pascagoula’s Litton-Ingalls Shipbuilding.
Capt. Jack Lisanby, the LHA project manager, sums up the project, which married the old 17,000-ton LPH helicopter carrier with a 14,000-ton LSD style landing ship dock to create a 40,000-ton ship that was the same size as a WWII Essex-class fleet carrier, but could accommodate 20-30 rotor-wing aircraft (and harriers) and four LCU-sized landing ships along with 1,700 transient Marines. It must have been a good idea because it has become standard ever since.
The lead ship, Tarawa, was laid down in 1971 and the last of the class, Peleliu, did not commission until 1980, meaning these “aircraft carriers that aren’t” were a fixture of my childhood. You could always go down to “The Point” across from Ingalls’ East Bank and see these flattops under construction. This was extended with the visually and mission-similar Wasp class of LHDs (1985-2009, with me, personally, working on USS Boxer in my own time at Ingalls) and now the new America-class LHAs went into production, leaving an almost unbroken chain of LHA/D’s that has stretched across almost 50 years.