HMS Queen Elizabeth, USS Carl Vinson, and JMSDF Izumo-class helicopter destroyer JS Kaga transiting in formation with an airborne flypast comprising (left to right): F-35B (617 Sqn), F-35C (VFA-147), F/A-18E Super Hornet (VFA-192), E/A-18G Growler (VAQ-136), E-2D Hawkeye (VAW-113), F/A-18F (VFA-2), F/A-18E (VFA-113), F-35C (VFA-147) and F-35B (USMC VMFA-211). In the background, the eagle-eyed will see pair of Sea Hawk helicopters.
One of the most unsung members of the UK Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG21), formed for the inaugural deployment of the largest British aircraft carrier in history, has been the guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG-68). While a 24-year-old Flight I Burke, Sully’s Aegis suite and SM-2 missiles are still much more effective against high-end threats than the other two air-defense escorts of the task force, the Type 45 destroyers HMS Diamond (D34) and HMS Defender (D36)— which are reportedly plagued by “technical issues” as a class.
Sailing from her DESRON 28 homeport at Mayport on 19 April 2020, bound for the United Kingdom in order to join the British carrier strike group for deployment, Sully finally broke away from CSG21 on 20 October 2021, headed home after some 18 months on loan to the RN.
“Thank you and fair winds,” noted First Sea Lord, ADM Tony Radakin.
Of course, and somewhat ironically, Sully is named for a five-pack of tough Irish-American brothers. Who better to escort the Queen?
The Sullivan brothers on board USS Juneau Joe, Frank, Al, Matt, and George. NH 52362
As part of Exercise Noble Union/Large Scale Global Exercise (LSGE), units of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, U.S. Navy’s America Expeditionary Strike Group (with the 31st MEU aboard), and the Royal Navy’s CSG21 task group have been operating together this week.
Notably, this put the 65,000-ton British carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), the 45,000-ton Lightning carrier/gator USS America (LHA-6), and the 19,000-ton Hyūga-class “helicopter destroyer” JS Ise (DDH-182) side-by-side.
Both HMSQE and America have F-35s on deck, while Ise is sticking with rotary-wing assets, although it is theorized that she and her sister Hyuga could someday operate the little 5th Gen fighter. (Royal Navy photo)
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Aron Montano, 210824-N-BG089-0596)
Of interest, RN FAA Merlin helicopters of 820 Naval Air Squadron cross-decked from HMSQE to America during the exercise, as did Marine F-35s of VMFA-211, a historic moment for each type and class.
Talk about a great shot. The ships of the forward-deployed USS America (LHA 6) Expeditionary Strike Group steam in formation during Talisman Sabre (TS) 21 in conjunction with warships from Australia, Canada, Japan, and South Korea. In all, you have three ‘Phibs, six escorts, and two auxiliaries with a battalion of Marines and a half-squadron of F-35s along for the ride.
The place? The Coral Sea. What a difference 80 years makes, right?
CORAL SEA (July 22, 2021) (From left) USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204), ROKS Wand Geon (DD 978), HMAS Parramatta (FFH 154), USS America (LHA 6), USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115), USS JS Makinami (DD 112), USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE 3), (center) HMCS Calgary (FFH 335), (back) USS New Orleans (LPD 18), HMAS Brisbane (D 41), and USS Germantown (LSD 42) steam in formation during Talisman Sabre (TS) 21. This is the ninth iteration of Talisman Sabre, a large-scale, bilateral military exercise between Australia and the U.S. involving more than 17,000 participants from seven nations. The month-long multi-domain exercise consists of a series of training events that reinforce the strong U.S./Australian alliance and demonstrate the U.S. military’s unwavering commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Daniel Serianni)
And the breakaway.
CORAL SEA (July 22, 2021) (From left) USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204), ROKS Wand Geon (DD 978), HMAS Parramatta (FFH 154), USS America (LHA 6), USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115), USS JS Makinami (DD 112), USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE 3), (center) HMCS Calgary (FFH 335), (back) USS New Orleans (LPD 18), HMAS Brisbane (D 41), and USS Germantown (LSD 42) break from formation steaming during Talisman Sabre (TS) 21. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Daniel Serianni
For the record, the America ESG has the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked. The 31st MEU currently comprises the F-35B-augmented Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 (Reinforced) as the ACE, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines as the GCE, and Combat Logistics Battalion 31 as the LCE.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 20, 2018) Amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), front, transits the Pacific Ocean conducting a passing exercise next to Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70).
(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano/Released)
Built at Pascagoula and commissioned Oct. 2014, the current America served for almost three years as a test bed for the class and non-carrier operations of the F-35B while underway and is just now finishing up her maiden deployment, a seven-month cruise as the flag of her ARG hosting the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
Looking like 1944 is calling and sending an Essex class fleet carrier into a time warp, the newest Amphibious Assault Ship, PCU USS America (LHA6) is on her builders trials.
“The amphibious assault ship America (LHA 6), built by Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, MS, sails the Gulf of Mexico on
builder’s sea trials, Nov. 7-9, 2013″
Built without a floodable well dock like the 8 LHDs that came before her, or even the Tarawa class LHAs, the America is a strait
aviation-only ship. She’s similar in concept to the old 15,000-ton USS Iwo Jima (LPH-2) amphibious assault ships of the 1960s– just nearly three times as large.
The LHA6 class is optimized to operate a couple squadrons of the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, making the ship basically an aircraft carrier when not jam packed full of a Marine Battalion Landing Team and its attached MAU of helicopters and CV-22 aircraft. The Navy wants 11 of these to replace the LHAs and LHDs currently in service. This class investment means the F-35C variant *has* to be built as these ships would recover their fixed wing birds (AV-8, F-35, CV-22) by vertical landing only.
Lets compare 1944 with 2014
Essex class fleet carrier
36,960-ton full load
147.5 feet of beam at widest point of deck (only 94 at the waterline)
27.5 feet max draft
150,000 shp to make 32.7kts at full speed/20,000 knot range at 15 on boiler-fired steam turbines
2170 ships crew, 870 airwing
90 WWII propeller driven aircraft, 40-modern jets in 1960s/70s.
America class LHA
45,693-ton full load
844 feet overall
106-feet of beam (at waterline, no figure for widest point of deck)
70,000 shp to make ’20+’ knots on gas turbines. Range undisclosed but thought to be 9500nm+ at 20kts.
1060 ships crew, upto 1600 marines or airwing embarked
22-31 modern aircraft
Still, this ‘ambib’ is a more capable aircraft carrier than just about any other ship outside of a NATO navy. It should be noted that
the only other purposely built warship named USS America ever completed was CV-66, commissioned in 1965 and decommissioned in 1996,– was a KittyHawk-class attack carrier.