Oh look, LHA 9…

On 1 May 1969, Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula won the contract to build USS Tarawa, the first of a new type of purpose-designed “amphibious assault carrier” that would be roughly the same size as WWII-era Essex-class fleet carriers (15 were still in service with the fleet at the time) and more than twice the size of the Iwo Jima-class “Landing Platform, Helicopter” rotary-winged amphibious assault ships.

Starboard side view and overhead plan of USS Tarawa (LHA-1), July 1976. Plan by A.D. Baker III. Images from “U.S. Aircraft Carriers: An Illustrated Design History” by Norman Friedman.

Of course, the Navy was always clear never to call these LHAs/LHDs “aircraft carriers” as someone in Congress could mistakingly add them in the count of the Navy’s actual carriers, but hey…

 

Since then, Ingalls has delivered 15 large decks “phibs,” including five Tarawa-class, LHA 1-5; eight Wasp-class, LHD 1-8; and most recently the first two America-class ships, LHA 6 and LHA 7.

I snapped this picture of PCU USS Tripoli (LHA 7), fitting out at Ingalls’s West Bank along the Pascagoula River back in Feb. 2020. She was the 15th LHA/LHD delivered by the yard and her profile still very much resembles the old Tarawa class that started the family tree back in 1969. I worked on LHD 4 and LHD 5 myself back in the day.

The third hull of the America-class, Bougainville (LHA 8), is currently under construction.

Sadly, in that intervening half-century, all five Tarawas have been retired (and three disposed of) while the still-young USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) was famously wrecked by fire in July 2020 and subsequently decommissioned in April 2021.

In a move towards making the Navy’s 16th big deck amphibious assault ship a reality and continuing the 53-year tradition, the Naval Sea Systems Command released this whopper today:

Huntington Ingalls Inc., Pascagoula, Mississippi, is awarded a $2,414,000,000 detail, design, and construction modification to previously awarded contract N00024-20-C-2437 in support of one Amphibious Assault Ship (General Purpose) Replacement (LHA(R)) Flight 1 Ship (LHA 9). Work will be performed in Pascagoula, Mississippi (72%); Milwaukee, Wisconsin (2%); Baltimore, Maryland (2%); Beloit, Wisconsin (2%); Brunswick, Georgia (2%); Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1%); Cincinnati, Ohio (1%); Kingsford, Michigan (1%); Hueytown, Alabama (1%); York, Pennsylvania (1%); Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania (1%); and others individually less than 1% each (14%). Work is expected to be completed by September 2029. Fiscal 2021 shipbuilding and conversion (Navy) funds in the amount of $93,000,001 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract includes options, which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $3,190,605,290. If all options are exercised, work will continue through March 2031. This sole source contract modification was not competitively procured in accordance with 10 U.S. Code 3204(c)(1), as implemented by Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation 6.302-1 – only one responsible source

As noted by HII in a presser:

“Ingalls shipbuilders are ready to build the Navy’s newest LHA,” said Ingalls Shipbuilding President Kari Wilkinson. “We understand how important this work is, and consider it an honor to be given the opportunity to deliver this capability to the fleet. We value our partnership with the Navy and all of our critical supplier partners.”

Construction on LHA 9 is scheduled to begin in December 2022.

The America-class is a multi-functional and versatile ship that is capable of operating in a high-density, multi-threat environment as an integral member of an expeditionary strike group, an amphibious task force, or an amphibious ready group. LHA 9, like Bougainville, will retain the aviation capability of the America-class design while adding the surface assault capability of a well deck and a larger flight deck configured for F-35B Joint Strike Fighter and MV-22 Osprey aircraft. These large-deck amphibious assault ships also include top-of-the-line medical facilities with full operating suites and triage.

2 comments

  • Attended Tripoli’s christening back in 2017 and were planning to attend her commissioning in 2020 before COVID intervened. After the christening ceremony, stood pretty much where you were (Point Park – well, we actually climbed out on the rocks at the point itself to get a clearer shot without Ingalls East Bank Facility in the way) back then to snap a shot or two after the ceremony for posterity:

    USS Tripoli (LHA 7)

  • Let us remember that this is NOT an aircraft, aircraft carrier 😉

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