USS America (LHA-6) — the first in a new class of aviation centric amphibious warships — will commission on Saturday in San Francisco, according to a statement from the U.S. Navy.
The 45,000-ton ship, and its crew of 1,200 sailors, is equipped to transport 1,900 Marines and their aircraft as part of a three ship Amphibious Ready Group with an embarked Marine Expeditionary Unit (ARG/MEU).
The ship arrived in San Francisco on Oct. 7 as part of the city’s Fleet Week.
“This ship, forged in America, with components and systems manufactured all across America, shall remind us of the long and historic links between our communities and our Navy and Marine Corps,” Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said in a Friday statement. “Having a ship named America, sailing the world’s oceans, always present in defense of our freedoms and ready to respond is yet another extension of our American spirit.”
The ship was designed without a well-deck — a feature that allows amphibious to deploy landing craft— to allow space to support the Navy and Marines aviation detachment and the eventual inclusion of the short takeoff and vertical landing variant of the F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).
Follow on ship, Tripoli (LHA-7), will be built without a welldeck while the yet unnamed LHA-8 will be redesigned to include the capability.
America will directly replace the last Tarawa-class amphibious warship — USS Peleliu (LHA-5). Peleliu is planned to be decommissioned in 2015 and enter the Navy’s reserve fleet, according to the Navy’s latest long-range shipbuilding plan.
The ship will be based at Naval Station San Diego, Calif.