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.
With small fast attack craft easier than ever to produce in swarms on the cheap in both manned and unmanned versions, it is nice to see the Gator Navy at least practicing on these as targets.
PACIFIC OCEAN (March 21, 2019) A fast inshore attack craft is damaged after being fired on by the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) during a live-fire gunnery exercise in the Pacific Ocean, March 21, 2019. Sailors and Marines of the USS Boxer Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) train together at sea to increase the tactical proficiency, lethality, and interoperability in an Era of Great Power Competition. USS Boxer is underway conducting routine operations as a part of USS Boxer (ARG) in the eastern Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Danielle A. Baker)
Of course, today its all just 25mm and 30mm guns as well as some .50s, but back in the old days ‘Phibs bristled with a mix of 3″ and 40mm cannon as well as a smattering of 5-inchers.
Church services for men of the Third Division, on the forecastle of USS LST-4, one day out while en route to the Southern France “Dragoon” landings, 13 August 1944. Photographed by Smith. Note 20mm and 40mm guns, with limiting rails around them to prevent firing into the ship’s structure. Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: SC 192719
Torch Landings, November 1942: “Navy gun crews man their weapons, on the after deckhouse of a transport en route to Morocco, 26 October 1942. Note other ships of the invasion convoy in the background. Guns seen include 3 inch/50 dual-purpose, 20mm A.A. machine gun, .30cal Lewis Machine Gun, and A 5 inches/51 Low Angle Gun.” Description: Catalog #: SC 162349
Speaking of which, the original first few vessels of the Tarawa-class LHAs– of which Boxer is a later Wasp-class LHD outgrowth off– toted a pair of 5-inch Mk45s forward for just such occasions as well as some NGF support ashore. Not well liked, they were removed to get a little more deck space.
USS SAIPAN (LHA-2) note 5-inch guns forward. Now that will scratch the paint job of an incoming FAC at distance…
Maybe its time to bring a few (bigger) guns back to the Gator Navy?
You have to admit the PEQ-15, bayonet and mono-pod forward grip combo on an old-school M16 with a steel mag warms your heart
SOUTHWEST ASIA (Sept. 17, 2015) U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Jonathan Ripoyla moves to his next firing position during a bi-lateral training exercise. Ripoyla is a rifleman with India Company, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The 15th MEU, embarked aboard the ships of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group, is a forward-deployed, flexible sea-based Marine air-ground task force capable of engaging with regional partners and maintaining regional security. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jamean Berry/Released)