First America-class Amphib Nears Completion

120605-O-ZZ999-001The U.S. Navy is preparing for final integration and sea trial tests for the amphibious assault ship America (LHA-6), the first in a series of planned next-generation “America-class” big-deck, hybrid-electric amphibs slated to enter the fleet in coming years, service officials said.

The USS America, the first of as many of 11 planned America-class amphibs, is now nearly 90-percent complete at a Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) facility in Pascagoula, Miss., said Capt. Chris Mercer, Amphibious Warfare program manager.

Initial Operating Capability for the USS America is planned for September of 2016, once the ship finishes up its builder’s trails and acceptance trails, Mercer said.

“Eleven ships is our stated requirement for large-deck Amphibious Assault Ships. About every four or five years we are procuring a large-deck amphib. Eventually all of the America-class ships will replace all of the Wasp-class ships and all of the Tarawa-class ships,” Mercer explained.

The second America-class amphib, the USS Tripoli, is now also under construction at the same HII location in Mississippi.

Overall, the America-class amphibs are designed with a larger deck space, compared to prior Wasp-class ships; they are built to accommodate new and emerging Naval and Marine Corps air assets such as the MV-22 Osprey tilt-router helicopter, the Corps’ Vertical Take-off-and-Landing Harrier Jet as well as the Marine Corps’ short take off and landing variant of the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, Mercer explained.

“The future USS America is all about aviation. Think about the power projection and sustained presence of joint or multi-national expeditionary warfare capability centered around ships loaded up with the capabilities that a JSF and MV-22 bring you,” Mercer said.

The amphibs will be the lead vessel in what the Navy calls Amphibious Ready Groups, groups of air, sea and ground assets designed for expeditionary warfare including an Amphibious Transport Dock and a Dock Landing Ship.

The Amphibious Ready Group is able to launch an air cushioned ship to shore transport vessel called the Landing Craft, Air Cushioned (LCAC). LCACs are engineered to transport cargo, personnel, weapons, equipment and even an M1 Abrams tank — from over the horizon onto shore, Mercer explained.

Landing Craft Utility (LCU) vessels are also an integral part of an Amphibious Ready Group, Mercer said. In fact, the Navy is now working on an analysis of alternatives such that it can launch an acquisition program to acquire as many as 32 new LCUs.

The America and the Tripoli will also carry CH-53 Sea Stallion, MH-60 Sea Hawk and AH-1Z Super Cobra helicopters.

LHA 6 and LHA 7, both now under contract and under construction, are being built with what Mercer referred to as a Flight 0 configuration. They are designed as large-deck amphibs with no well-deck, yet engineered to transport a Marine Air Ground Task Force or a Marine Expeditionary Unit with supporting gear including ground and air assets — such that they can project and sustain power as needed.

Following completion and delivery of the America and Tripoli, the next several America-class amphibs, however, will be built with what’s called a Flight 1 configuration with a new increment of capability that includes a well-deck.

LHA 8, 9 and 10 will be engineered with the re-introduction of a well-deck into a ship that is, by design, aviation centric, Mercer explained. Flight 1 America-class amphibs will also have a slightly smaller island so as to allow for more maintenance area for the large aircraft such as the MV-22 and JSF.

“Flight 1 ships will be the next-increment of capability. It is a balanced ship design where we have kept the aviation-support aspects of a large-deck. With Flight 1, we’ll be able to do maintenance without clobbering the flight line,” he said.


Unlike the largely steam-powered Wasp and Tawara-class Amphibious Assault Ships, the entire fleet of America-class Amphibs will be propelled by hybrid-electric drive technology, Mercer explained.

Hybrid-electric propulsion systems use a gas turbine engine as well as an electric motor and diesel generator. The electric motors can help propel the ship at speeds up to around 12 knots and the generator can help produce electricity for the ship. When it comes to traveling at speeds greater than 12 knots or so, the ship can then rely upon its gas-turbine engine.

At the same time, the generators can provide on-board power for many of the ships systems such as sensors, weapons and other electronics, Navy officials said.

“Future warships will have huge electrical demands, in addition to propulsion for things like radar, weapons and electronics,” said Ron Filadelfo, director, environment and energy research team, Center for Naval Analysis. “This is a big plus for the Navy because the system adds fuel efficiency at low speeds and does not detract anything at high speeds – so it seems to be a win-win.”

The hybrid-drive allows the ship to propel itself using either electric drives or a traditional gas turbine engine.  Electric propulsion and turbine engine propulsion are both integrated through what’s called a main reduction gear (MRG), a portion of the ship’s propulsion system which helps convert energy into the revolutions needed for the propellers to move the ship through the water, according to Navy officials.

“This unique auxiliary propulsion system (APS) is designed with fuel efficiency in mind. The APS uses two induction-type auxiliary propulsion motors (APM) powered from the ship’s electrical grid instead of using main propulsion engines to power the ship’s shaft,” a Navy official said.

Instead of using its gas turbines which are less efficient at lower speeds, the ship will be able to use its APS for roughly 75 percent of the time the ship is underway, Mercer added.

“We’ve found the sweet spot in terms of something that is very affordable, regarding the 5,000-horsepower auxiliary propulsion motor that we integrate into our design. It is a good sweet spot, because for about 75-percent of the ship’s life it will be traveling under twelve knots. For that we can be utilizing the hybrid-electric drive,” Mercer said.

The Navy plans to continue studying and advancing hybrid-electric ship propulsion such that it can potentially be applied to other platforms and possibly evolve such that it can propel ships at even faster speeds, Mercer added.

“We’ve done studies and we will continue to do the studies to develop something that gives you a little more speed. We’re always studying ideas that give us even more energy efficiency,” he said.

“The semi-conductor industry is going to get better and better, so you are going to be able to deliver more power with a higher density.”

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior and a former associate editor at

32 Comments on "First America-class Amphib Nears Completion"

  1. Wonderful!

  2. Maybe we see if we can sell some to UK or Canada for Money

  3. Why Tripoli?

  4. Hybrid eh?
    Hope the Navy applies for a $7500.00 hybrid/electric vehicle credit from the EPA.
    Also hope they didn't use the same designer for the electrical grid that did the electrical systems on Carnival cruise liners!

  5. stephen russell | June 4, 2013 at 9:04 pm | Reply

    Recall our first carrier CV named USS America, then it got cancelled for the Forrestal class in the 1940s I believe

  6. Hybrid is old naval tech. Most submarines used it in both World Wars.

    It just may have improved since then.

  7. LHA-6 and LHA-7 are not innovative in any way as far as flight operations are concerned. These are simply what we used to call a "CV" (without the catapult or angled flight deck). The omission of the well deck is considered by many a serious mistake, which is why the actual America class will end with only 2 ships (LHA-7, Tripoli, being the second and last).

    The well deck is a considerable addition, and should maybe be considered nearly a different class of vessel – though from the outside the ship will resemble each other closely.

    The hybrid diesel-generator/electric drive isn't that much of an innovation, as we had a few ships built that way during WW2. What is comparatively new, is the addition of a turbine to increase the ships speed should it be necessary.

  8. Curious about the ships' radar suites and weapons systems (ESSM and RAM, I'll assume).

    Can't remember which radar contractor it was, but just recently (past few months, February or March maybe) one of them announced plans to marinize one of their newer aircraft AESA radars for shipborne use, grouping 3-4 of them on a multi-sided mast, in effect creating miniaturized SPY/Aegis capabilities but at far lower weights than a full SPY-1 system.
    Damn all wish I save that link, anyone else remember who it was?
    Such a set up would readily fit ships of this size, and being an AESA primarily designed for aicraft, there may even be some spares/commonality if it was/is the same folks building Super Hornet and F-35 AESAs.

  9. ShellfishJello | June 5, 2013 at 8:08 am | Reply

    trails or trials?

  10. the concept is a floating base to operate offshore. this would save lots of $$$ as supply ships could slide right up and offload AT SEA . now can we close some of those overseas bases? hopefully that we will not encounter a land locked enemy. i would be much happier if the entire ship had some kind of a solar system covering the entire ship as a starting source of saving energy. i would place my money on someone coming up with solar system that could be incorporated right into the flight deck, that would really be something, if a system, that produces 50% of a vessels power could be installed.

  11. DC2 Jennings | June 5, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Reply

    I would imagine the combined diesel generator / gas turbine propulsion can also be used when there is a high electrical demand (aka rail gun or laser) as well. Interesting concept. The other 25% of the time the ship is probably considered being in a combat situation where all electricity can be diverted to ships power and the gas turbines fully propel the ship.

    Interesting and well thought out concept.

    BZ Navy.


  12. SO since the F-35B is a waste will this hold more AV-8Bs?

  13. USS ENTERPRISE | June 5, 2013 at 2:21 pm | Reply

    Still larger than a lot of other carriers…..

  14. Looks great, I just really wish it wasn't based around the F35. I still have my doubts about that project ever working out fuly!

  15. Smart way for the Marines to sneak in 2 pocket aircraft carriers for F-35s (like the Brits are building) and then switch back to traditional well decks. Avoided a political debate.

  16. Absolutely awesome!

  17. P w prawl cdr,usn | June 5, 2013 at 8:40 pm | Reply

    I spent a tour on an amphib (AKA96) that could only do 14 kts. Rest of amphib squadron could do 22, so we operated up & down Vietnam coast as an orphan. 12 kts is much too slow, maybe 20 or 22 at least, with spurts to 30-35 for flite ops, defense, etc. the faster the wind over the deck, les hovering v-22 and vertijets have to do and subsequent INCREASED PAYLOADS!

  18. Professor Ski!!! | June 5, 2013 at 10:13 pm | Reply

    Perfect!!! Now how about we reinstate a couple of old battleships for sea-based shock and awe, what pirate would dare shoot at the Wisconsin, Iowa, or New Jersey??? Besides its just another thing we can wave in front of the chicoms to piss them off

  19. Finally getting the ship out of yards is good thing. This ship been in worked on for a while. I'm kinda surprised the Navy / Marines are going with long use it as basis as replacement for Tarawa and ultimately the Wasp Classes. 2 dedicated Aviation dedicated ships while rest are more traditional amphious assault ships.

    I hope the hybrid power plant works out, the older main reduction gears used on the steam ships were so complicated that I was told the Navy leased these things instead of own them because how compicated they are.

    I think only thing makes me uncertain about the Hybrid power plants is their going be dependant on software that seems to be highly vunerable to glitches to hackers.

  20. I think, when the first drone lands on a carrier deck, these ships will be obsolete. Am I misinformed?

  21. First class, business class, couch, America class. A big slow target.

  22. elmondohummus | June 6, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Reply

    Dumb question: Why diesel, even if it is diesel-electric (the old name for "hybrid" systems)? The US Navy pioneered nuclear propulsion, and using petroleum ties you into continuous refueling.

    Yes, I know that nuclear power doesn't have that good a reputation around the world. That doesn't stop the current nuc ships and subs from operating. It just seems to me that it doesn't make sense for the US Navy to put out so many ships as diesel powered. There must be some sort of reason; like, for example, a regulation or requirement for nuclear power raises the cost to where the tradeoff for diesel is worth it.

  23. One Question:

    What kind of heat and electronic silhouette is one of these America class Amphib Carriers going to produce ?

  24. I Have Many Names | June 9, 2013 at 5:52 pm | Reply

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