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 Military.com 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.

  • 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.

    http://www.military.com/video/aircraft/jet-fighte

    • blight_asdf

      And the B-2 would have orders of magnitude survivability compared to legacy bombers…if we procured more than 21.

      And if costs spiral to the point that capabilities are left off the table, the JSF will take a different form than the powerpoint version.

      • Mark

        Here is another way to use this ability. The lead unseen F-35s target all air and ground assets. The non-stealth fully loaded f-35s and various other air assets lag behind the stealthy planes. The lead as well as the loaded F-35 target all assets with a few minutes time. The leads keep their load outs and shoot all external ammo from the lag wave. Once shot the remaining F-35s go stealth and further propagate the mission. This is not rocket science here. It is simply good use of the capabilities.

        • blight_asdf

          “target all air and ground assets”

          The proper aircraft to do that would be a stealthy one that could loiter for hours over airspace, with no particular need for speed and dogfighting. Tacit Blue was somewhat like this, though the Cold War ended before we needed to prove concepts like Assault Breaker. As it is, having a jet be able to perform FAC and ISR functions is a stretch.

          • Mark

            Actually since all F-35s have access to all battle field covered by each scanning F-35 every F-35 pilot can split the targeting tasks so max target acquisition in minimal time can happen. You may have 50 stealthing planes but hundreds of targeters. This will bring a whole new definition to shock and awe.

          • Tango777

            Hey Blight,
            Didn’t we learn that lesson with the F-4’s in Vietnam? The idea to fire, fire and forget, missles was totally ergnious. We lost some very good aviators due to their lack of dog fighting skills and the lack of a forward gun.
            Hell, isn’t that what Top Gun is all about?

          • blight_

            Mark’s point is that a magic computer on JSF will magically designate all air and ground targets for follow-on attack. To the contrary we still need AWACS and JSTARS to do this, but those platforms are large and unstealthy. A long time ago a low RCS demonstrator was designed which was intended to stay close to forward battlespace and monitor enemy ground forces and call in fire support assets to destroy them as detected…Tacit Blue if we had ever taken it to the finish line. Asking a JSTARS or AWACS to dogfight is a little much if the core mission is to identify targets for follow-on attack.

          • Mark

            The F-35 system would designate all targets however the pilots would select which to hit first.

            Next issue, whereas the F-35 is not as strong that the JSTARS or AWACS it is much closer to enemy assets and so does not need be. The F-35 radars/sensors get a better angle on ground assets than that of those other assets and it has been stated that this more top down angle generates better resolutions/detection than is generated with the JSTARS or AWACS.

          • Riceball

            The problem with that is by going active the F-35, or any aircraft for that matter, is no longer stealthy and is in fact broadcasting their location for everyone to see. For a stealthy aircraft to remain stealthy they need to fly under EMCON conditions because you detect a radar signal from much further away than you’ll get a return from it, in other words, if a flight of 35s, or even 22s were to do what you suggest, the enemy would still end up seeing them long before we’d see the enemy.

            For your idea to work it would be best if they either worked with a dedicated AEW aircraft or reverse the lineup with the lead aircraft doing the signaling and targeting carry the external armament since its stealth would already be compromised by an active radar.

    • hialpha

      OMG man, please just stop writing this garbage.

    • oblatt22

      Yay the F-35 will be able to do in 10 years what the gripen did 10 years ago.

      The only thing revolutionary about the F-35 is the contractor profits

  • 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.

    • tiger

      Less volatile? That Marine force on board is not for show.

    • blight_

      “can be sent to less volatile parts of the world”

      Do you take the LHA-6 for a LCS?

      • PolicyWonk

        Not at all – the LCS can’t be sent anywhere where things might get ugly. A CV remains a very useful asset, regardless of initial intent.

        LCS is a complete waste of US taxpayer funds, even according to our own Navy’s inspectors report. LHA-6, while not optimal for the role for which she is/was intended, is and remains a useful platform.

  • 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.

    • ronaldo

      Old and discredited idea. Do your research on the arsenal ship

      • bobbymike

        “Never built” does not equal discredited. There were as many analysts for the idea as against like pretty much every defense concept.

    • tiger

      Idea of a super VLS ship is good. Your hull choice is bad. A Tanker design is simpler & makes far more sense.

    • Nick987654

      The ability to launch like 1000 cruise missiles in a short time could be a game changer against a near peer enemy.

      To lower costs, the ship could have like 100 VLS, with a system of cranes to reload them. The ship would carry 1000 missiles besides the VLS, both on the deck and Inside the ship. The modification + 1000 TLAMs would in the order of than 1 billion ( each TLAM costs 700k + 300M for the launchers and the cranes.)

    • blight_

      The builder of the San Antonios is trying to sell hulls for ‘BMD’: which means lots of VLS tubes for missions other than BMD.

  • 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

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • Mark

      We have yet to decommission even one Nimitz Class Carrier. Only 10 were built and we are using them all.

    • Tiger

      The are nearing the 50 year life mark & not designed for the job. Too big, Need nuke refueling & deep water to play in.

    • Mystick

      An Enterprise-class, then.

    • Brian B. Mulholland

      By the time they’re available, they’ll need another refueling and complex overhaul. That alone would cost as much, or more, than an America. They have big manpower needs. The cost to add a well deck? I shudder to think of it.

  • 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..