USS America Tours South America, Prepares for JSF

USS America 2The Navy’s new big-deck America-class amphibious assault ship is making its way around South America as part of a mission to connect with allies in the southern hemisphere and prepare the ship for the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.

The USS America, the first in a series of 11 planned America class amphibs for the Navy, is configured with more deck space than previous ships of its kind in order to accommodate a range of aircraft — including MV-22 Ospreys and the F-35B Short-Take-Off-and-Landing Joint Strike Fighter.

“The Navy and the Marine Corps will have to work out the conops (concepts of operation) of how we are going to use the Joint Strike Fighter. The ship will not only be able to deliver the capability of the Joint Strike Fighter but will also be able to provide a response capability. This ship is going to surprise a lot of people with its ability to bring forward aviation assets,” Capt. Robert Hall, USS America’s Commanding Officer, told in an interview while aboard the ship.

The Navy is currently making a series of modifications to the USS Wasp, an amphib test ship, in order to better prepare amphibs to accommodate the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter. The modifications are in part designed to allow the ship’s deck to better withstand the heat generated by the F-35B’s vertical landing and take-off, Navy officials said.

“The JSF will be on the USS America for the first deployment. There are still some modifications that need to be done to the ship once we go to our post-shakedown availability. They are being worked through on the USS Wasp which is a test ship right now. The lessons learned are being applied to our ship,” Hall said.

The USS America will receive the same flight deck modifications currently being installed on the USS Wasp, said Lt. Kurt Larson, spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command.

“The flight deck modifications entail adding intercostal structural members underneath flight deck landing spots numbers seven and nine. With the added structure, these two landing spots will provide the capability to perform closely timed cyclic flight operations with the F-35B without overstressing the flight deck,” Larson said.

The modifications are also planned for all other America and WASP-class ships in future availabilities, he added.

Hall said some of the modifications may involve re-adjusting some of the ship’s antennas in order to allow for a clear flight path for the JSF.

This flight deck modification is planned for incorporation onto the USS AMERICA in 2015 and 2016. The USS America will be commissioned in San Francisco in October of this year, Hall added.

The ship is currently transiting around off the coast of South America, conducting joint training exercises with a host of key allies such as Colombia, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Chile and Peru, Hall explained.

“This is as close to a deployment as I’ve ever been on, with the four Osprey and three H-60s that we have along with the special purpose MAGTF (Marine Corps Air-Ground Task Force),” he added.

The integrated training exercises involve security and communications operations with different countries as well as medical asset coordination and mission planning activities, Hall said.

The ship’s MV-22 Ospreys have been flying into allied countries to pick up and deliver distinguished visitors to the ship, he explained.

“We’re getting our crew familiar with the ship through hands on training. The Ospreys are giving us a great opportunity to learn the flight deck and learn the hangar. Most of my crew is on their first mission,” Hall explained. “This is a brand new crew which is pulling together. They have been performing as a solid team, going above and beyond. My hat is off to their dedication and motivation they have been working very hard.”

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • Lance

    Other wise a good ship to make good will tour. Waits for crappy aircraft which may or may not come.

    • Lt_Dave_Mallevic

      Again, a person with likely ZERO experience in aerospace misjudges a revolutionary aircraft as “crappy”.

      Lemme guess, “not enough zoom zoom turn burn”?


      • Ronald

        Well said Lt_ Dave_M… to assume the Osprey is anything but lethal is a serious miscalculation. The USMC can and will take what is deemed crappie and adapt such a vehicle into a messenger of good will, like it or not, if you get my drift. Thank you for standing up for what is plausible. Semper Fi and Fair Winds.

  • Mitch S.

    45,000 tons. So now “baby carriers” are the size of the big boys of the past (about the same displacement as a Midway class).
    I have to see how these compare to the new QE Brit carrier(s).

    • blight_asdf

      The aircraft are getting bigger too. The fighters of WW2 and subsequent early jet aircraft are comparative lightweights.

    • Mick Florence

      HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince Of Wales are both 65,000 tonnes (64,000 long tons) displacement. That’s 5,000 tonnes more displacement than the Forrestal Class Super Carriers were. Not quite Nimitz Class or Ford Class, but then size isn’t everything ;-)

    • Tiger

      This baby is about the size of the French CVN.

  • Mark

    BlackOwl18E is going to love this. How can the F-35 dominate the skies over the BlackOwl18E sainted F-18 Super Hornet is his continual question. The short answer is capabilities. When the F-35 exhast its on board ammo it will still be able to shoot ammo that is not on the plane. Military heads and the manufacture keep tauting capabilities. The F-18 can not shoot other weapons from other assests however the F-35 can. Targeting information goes from F-35s to the network and the closest munition heads out. Sure what I just said is partial unstated, but it can shoot a weapon from another F-35 and that has been stated.

    Here’s a round table talk that diffuses BlackOwl’s arguments.

  • PolicyWonk

    USS America’s ability to bring forward more air assets is pretty simple, and isn’t even slightly revolutionary: its a CV without the angled flight deck or catapult. Its abilities are somewhat compromised by the lack of a ski-jump, which would allow for more ordnance/fuel in the F-35B’s she is intended to launch.

    She will be one of only two of her type built, before they start building on the same hull, with a well-deck design for the remainder of the class.

    But compared to a nuke – she’s a bargain – and can be sent to less volatile parts of the world, freeing the large deck carriers for regions of greater interest.

  • bobbymike

    I would take a retired Assault Ship and use the acres of deck space to house hundreds of MRBM and IRBM’s like the AHW or ATK’s intermediate range global strike missile. Or better yet divide the deck for offensive/defensive systems with the other half loaded with Standard missiles or ballistic missile and air defense.

  • FASnipeHT2

    This is more CV than amphib.

    • tiger

      No, more LPH. It has no well deck. So air lift only.

  • jamesb

    As said here…..

    ‘Baby Aircraft carriers” are back…

    • tiger

      Mission is not the same & the air group is not as well rounded…

      • blight_qwerty

        Other nations don’t have particularly well-rounded groups. It’s just harriers and helicopters to do everything else, like AEW, ASW et al. Or for the Russians, Mig-29K/Su-33 and Helix ASW/AEW helicopters.

  • tiger

    What I would love to see added is however is A navalized Super Tucano. Something to fill the role between the Sea Cobra & the 35B. They should not even need a Catapult on a deck over 800 ft long.

    • Mitchell Fuller

      Super Tucano could have done a lot of the work done by jets in Iraq and A-Stan for a lot less money and it would have saved the hours on jet airframes. Marines could use this type platform.

      It is still yet to be seen if F-35 models reach revised down capabilities and in revised down numbers planned for. Failure to perform, concurrency, time in development, and price are dragging this program down. Google PBS Nova Battle of the X-planes doc to see where it all started and went wrong, plane was projected to cost no more then in the 30 millions…….. Restart F-22 line, make a navalized version and a bomber version of platform, pivot to Pacific will require planes to have long legs (F 18 and F 35 don’t have these, they require tanker support and a lot of it. First thing near peer enemy is going after are those tanker assets, no fuel = splash) and in stealth mode capacity to carry more ordinance internally.

  • Juramentado

    Hangar and magazine space plus AV fuel load. That’s the real limits to using the new LHAs as baby carriers with F-35s. It’s a nice thought to revive the old “Sea Control Ship” concept, but things have to be really really dire to devote an entire LHA to just aviation attack, given how short the rest of the Marines are on amphib lift.

    • John smith

      It’s basically an escort carrier!!!

  • Harvey

    Does any one remember or know what the original “SS America” Was ? It was the fastest passenger Liner on the atlantic. Gave a good run to the the British Queens. During the war it was the SS Lafayett as a troop ship. then converted back to liner. The biggest and fastest until the SS United States was launched.

    • Curt

      You are mixing up your ships. First, there have been numerous SS Americas before the one launched in 1939. And the USS America is actually named after several previous USS AMERICAs, the latest being CV-66.

      SS America was no where near as fast as the Queens, making less than 25kts, and served during WWII as the USS WEST POINT.

      The French liner SS NORMANDIE was in fact larger than the Queen Mary although smaller than the Queen Elizabeth and rivaled the British ships in speed. The ship was interned in the US in 1940 and then taken over by the US in December 1941. Renamed USS LAFAYETTE, it was sunk at the pier by the NYFD extinguishing a fire in the Kapock life preservers storage, while it was being converted to a troop ship. It was eventually scrapped and never actually served in the war.

      SS UNITED STATES was the fastest liner, but was substantially smaller, in terms of either displacement or GRT (Gross Registered Tonnage, a measure of enclosed volume and used for tax purposes) as the NORMANDIE or the two QUEENS.

  • oblatt22

    Great to see the marines putting together what must be in the top 2 or 3 of the worlds third world navies.

  • Frank896

    Is this ship carrying the LCAC landing craft? How many will it hold? How many Marines will it carry? What is the propulsion configuration? What does it have for defence systems?

    • blight_

      The first two LHA-6 (glorified LPH) do not have a well deck.

    • Super Tomcat

      Sorry no well in the back!

  • Mystick

    I don’t see why we don’t refit an existing mothballed/decommed Nimitz platform for the mission. With a minimal complement and on-board fire support systems. Not sure what the draft is(or would be with the mods), definitely not a littoral ship – but I don’t see the America-class ships being risked that way, anyhow.

    But It could probably carry an full MEU with the proper modifications, complete with CAS wing and logistics – with room to spare.

  • Brian B. Mulholland

    I don’t doubt that the F-35 will arrive, eventually. The better worry is that the F-35’s modest load of AA missiles, and endurance in flight, won’t be enough to keep the America safe from cruise missiles launched from shore. These are expensive and vulnerable platforms. It isn’t enough to say there will also be a CV around to cover the operation; if so, why is so much space devoted to F-35s in the first place? They’ll be on the CV too.

    Long term, the greatest value of these ships is the Osprey. Short and long term, I dearly wish these and other classes of vessels carried a short range missile system without the design constraints of reworked Sidewinder and Sparrow systems. Something designed for a cold launch and optimized for that last few kilometers of an approach, when the chance of spotting the target is best in the first place … CAAMM we wish for such a thing?

    If the rest of the class is being built with a well deck to accommodate LCACs and other “connectors,” then you’re dealing with ranges to the target landmass that aren’t much more than line of sight. I rest my case for antimissile point defense drawn on a clean sheet of paper.

  • EarnestTBass

    This ship was designed from the get go for vertical lift aircraft the (Joint Strike)and now we find out we have to redo the flight deck so it won’t warp from the JSF jet blast? Did someone miss some very important memo? REALLY?

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  • Subsailor611

    How can we spend $3billion on a fossil fueled capital ship( good for $$-cheaper than nuke) but we forgot the f35 and mucked it up with antennas. And did not put even a small well deck. Are we fighting the Reds of 1958… Up next..much as I love subs. A $8.5 b per copy ohio class Ssbn…..?there have been 600 subs worldwide in the 60’s and 600 today. All equally lethal to surface ships- see gen belgrano in the Falklands …,in 1970 10 of sub population was us uk nukes. Today..same population but 4 percent are us uk subs(all us are expensive nukes.. Why not a mix of sterling cycled type 206/209 Hockhems (German boats at $400mm along with the nukes,,, we launched 1-2 boats a year from 1955-to 2000 then one boat every five years thru 2004 yikes..105 us boats in 1976. 54 in 2016? Replacements??? Maybe non nuke mix for littoral subs is the way…?

  • DennisJP

    All you have to do is look back in history. During WW2 escort carriers were loaded with Marine Squadrons and used to support Marines ashore so the fleet carriers could engage the enemy fleet and their airbases.
    Same here with the LHA’s and D’s They will be given F-35’s so they can support Marines ashore like the CVE’s of WW2..