Half a Deck

Here we see a good overhead shot of a modern Landing Helicopter Assault (LHA) ship, essentially a straight-decked aircraft carrier (USS America does not have a well deck) with berthing for 1,687 embarked Marines.

CORAL SEA (July 27, 2021) The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) conducts a fueling-at-sea with Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Ballarat (FFH 155) during Exercise Talisman Sabre 21. Australian and U.S. Forces combine biennially for Talisman Sabre, a month-long multi-domain exercise that strengthens allied and partner capabilities to respond to the full range of Indo-Pacific security concerns. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Cavenaile)

Note she has nine MV-22B Ospreys, five F-35B Lightnings, three CH-53E Super Stallions (soon to be replaced by CH-53K King Stallions), and a pair of MH-60 Knighthawk/Seahawks parked on her deck well forward of the island while both of her elevators and five vertical landing spots are open. Out of sight but surely nearby are a handful of UH-1Y Venom liaison helicopters and AH-1Z Viper gunships.

The aircraft shown can put 400~ Marines ashore 180 miles away (unrefueled) in a single lift while the fighters run a CAP and the Seahawks prowl for surface contacts and mines. Keep in mind that the MEUs of old were hamstrung by shorter-range CH-46D/Es and CH-53Ds while strike was left to Harriers.

With a deck that greatly resembles the old WWII Essex-class fleet carriers, America is a stepping stone between the five Tarawa-class LHAs of the 1970s, eight follow-on Wasp-class LHDs, and the next-gen of big-deck ‘phibs that will hit the fleet when USS Bougainville (LHA-8) commissions in 2024. Unlike America and her sister USS Tripoli (LHA-7), Bougainville will have an AN/SPY-6 phased array volume air search radar, a small well deck, and be built from the keel up with F-35s and MV-22s in mind whereas LHA 6/7 had to be retrofitted.

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