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Underway on USS America

The amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) conducts flight operations while underway to Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2016. US Navy photo.

The amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) conducts flight operations while underway to Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2016. US Navy photo.

ABOARD USS AMERICA — The new amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) has raised more than a few questions in its short life, with sailors and Marines alike wondering what it will mean to have an amphibious ship without a well deck and therefore without the ability to deploy landing craft to move heavy tanks and equipment ashore.

America’s recent participation in the Rim of the Pacific 2016 international exercise may have allayed some concerns – the resounding feedback from those involved in the ship’s operations is that, if the Marines are willing to tweak the composition of the deploying Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), America can move them faster, more agilely and more safely.

“The idea is rapid mobility air assault. So the thinking with me and my Marines right now is, lighter companies, people that can move quickly via the (MV-22) Osprey and the (CH-53Es),” ship commanding officer Capt. Michael Baze told USNI News from his shipboard office last month.

The plus side to that concept is increased speed and safety for both the Marines and the ship’s crew, he said.

“I’m not looking to build a mountain of supply on the beach like the D-Day invasion, I’m looking to go straight to my objective from a great distance,” Baze explained.
“In terms of operations of the ship, I don’t have to worry about force protection for my ship as much because I don’t have to get two and three miles off the beach to deploy my Marines (on surface connectors). The truth is, I’m over 100 miles right now, we could deploy the Marines from here, I don’t have to get any closer. So in a world with mines on the shore, surface-to-surface missiles, these types of threats are always a concern, these are things that I think about. So it’s about mobility, speed, and when you look at operational maneuver from the sea and some of these concepts the Marines talk about, this ship really exemplifies it.”

The challenge, though, is for Marines to get “lighter.” Over the last decade and a half, the Marine Corps has tacked on more armor to its ground vehicles as protection from roadside bombs, and loaded up units and individuals with more weapons, more gadgets and more protection to succeed in ground wars in the Middle East. They have also grown accustomed to having heavy logistics gear – bulldozers, maintenance vehicles and more – on the ground to support long-term operations.

America was built to move a lot of people and cargo by helicopter very quickly, with enhanced maintenance facilities to support quick turnaround of aircraft and a 40-percent bigger hangar to store more and bigger aircraft.

“This ship’s about speed and maneuver,” Baze said, adding the ship is fulfilling that role very well. But it will never be a ship that moves tanks and heavy logistics trucks, which forces the Marines to decide if they want to load their heaviest gear on a smaller ship in the Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) or leave it at home.

The Navy will only build two LHAs without a well deck, inserting a smaller two-spot well deck into LHA-8 at the expense of some aviation and medical space. But with amphibious forces in high demand and the ship count still far below the Marines’ stated requirement of 38, the service’s ability to best leverage America will be important going forward.

When the flight deck of USS America was redone to support F-35B operations, patches of advanced non-skid material were added to allow the MV-22 Osprey to land in more spots on the deck without causing damage with its extreme heat and wind while landing vertically. USNI News photo.

When the flight deck of USS America was redone to support F-35B operations, patches of advanced non-skid material were added to allow the MV-22 Osprey to land in more spots on the deck without causing damage with its extreme heat and wind while landing vertically. USNI News photo.

USS America

The first-in-class America was designed with many improvements over its fellow big decks, Baze said. Primarily, it was built for the MEU of the future.

The ship has undergone modifications to support the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, including flight deck strengthening to support vertical landings. Portions of the flight deck were paved with a special non-skid material designed to withstand the heat and wind of the MV-22’s nacelle that points down during takeoffs and landings – the non-skid is too expensive to use on the whole deck, but its use on America expands the number of spots on the flight deck the Osprey can use.

And its maintenance area was designed specifically for larger aircraft.

“The future Marine Air-Ground Task Force, the future MEU, is going to be designed around the Joint Strike Fighter, which has incredible capabilities but also takes up more space in the ship than the AV-8Bs; the MV-22s, which bring phenomenal capability but also take up more space in the ship than the frogs that they replaced,” Lt. Col. Eric Purcell, commanding officer of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 463 Reinforced and Aviation Combat Element commander for RIMPAC, told USNI News from the ship.

The hangar is 42 percent larger than a Wasp-class LHD’s hangar, the sealed-in well deck space was reconfigured as a much larger aircraft intermediate maintenance department work area, and the ship carries about four times more jet fuel than other big decks.

In addition to the aviation enhancements, the ship also has increased command and control capabilities compared to older LHAs and LHDs. America has large open architecture command and control spaces, at the request of the Marine Corps, and the new propulsion plant leaves plenty of open space in the engineering rooms that could host new systems in the future.

But, of course, the conversation always comes back to the well deck. Baze admits the well deck – and therefore the inability to use the fast Landing Craft Air Cushions and the heavy-lift Landing Craft Utilities – takes away from certain missions but said that “in the aggregate I would say it comes out as a wash.”

“What do I lose? I lose volume. So think about something like a humanitarian assistance/disaster relief mission. If I’ve got an area where people need help quickly, my ship is making 200,000 gallons of fresh water a day just sitting here. I can put that on the back of Ospreys. I can take flyaway capabilities – doctors, supplies – I can get those inland very quickly with Ospreys,” the skipper said.
“But, if I have to evacuate hundreds of people from somewhere, I could probably do that with one LCU or one LCAC; we could do that, but it would take us more time” with helicopters that can only carry a couple dozen passengers each.

America will have its first ARG/MEU deployment next year with USS San Diego (LPD-22) and USS Pearl Harbor (LSD-52) and the 15th MEU, and in the intervening year leadership will have to decide how to balance the rapid air mobility capabilities of the big deck with any potential operational need for heavier vehicles.

Marines assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3D Marine Regiment board two CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) as part of Rim of the Pacific 2016. US Navy photo.

Marines assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3D Marine Regiment board two CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) as part of Rim of the Pacific 2016. US Navy photo.

Changes for the Ground Combat Element

The crux of America’s operational concept is that if the Marines can lighten their MEU, this ship can move them ashore faster, going directly to their objective area instead of first stopping on the beach. The ship can project Marines ashore from a great distance from the beach, keeping the ship safe from land-based missile threats and keeping the Marines away from mines and other threats awaiting their beach landing.

While tailoring the MEU for this ship requires more planning upfront, the first battalion landing team commander to leverage America’s capabilities said his ship-to-shore movement during RIMPAC went well.

Lt. Col. Ryan Hoyle, commander of 2nd Battalion 3rd Marines, brought about 350 Marines ashore from America and 560 from San Diego in a landing during RIMPAC, which is the ship’s largest and most complex operational engagement since commissioning less than two years ago.

Moving the Marines ashore from America required flying two companies ashore by helicopter, whereas a typical MEU may only move one company by air. This could involve a slightly different training plan for the infantry companies so they can earn a heliborne certification, but Hoyle said the operational benefit was clear.

“For us, not having a well deck on the USS America actually allowed us to get the forces ashore a little bit quicker because we were able to do helo ops continuously off the USS America and do well deck operations (from San Diego) … without as much of a safety concern as you would have if you did both of those operations off the same platform,” he told USNI News from a training area on the island of Hawaii.
“Granted, command and control was more difficult because we were on two platforms, for me, but that’s going to be common because when a battalion normally goes out they’ll be spread across three amphibious ships.”

In the case of RIMPAC, all the amphibious ships were aggregated in the same area, working together to launch a single amphibious assault. However, that may not be the case in the real world, where high combatant commander demand for amphibious forces often leads to the LPD splitting off and working solo while the big-deck and the LSD stay together.

Knowing that, Marine Corps leadership and future MEU commanders will have to consider what gear to bring and how to spread it out on the ships, given that they could be conducting aggregated or disaggregated operations.

160730-N-VR008-210 PACIFIC OCEAN (July 30, 2016) – A CH-53E Super Stallion cargo helicopter assigned to Heavy Marine Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 463 lifts a supply container from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6). America is underway conducting maritime exercises with partner nations for Rim of the Pacific 2016. Twenty-six nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 30 to Aug. 4, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea-lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2016 is the 25th exercise in the series that began in 1971. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kyle Goldberg/Released)

A CH-53E Super Stallion cargo helicopter assigned to Heavy Marine Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 463 lifts a supply container from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) during RIMPAC 2016.US Navy photo.

Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 4 Shane Duhe, America’s combat cargo officer, said Navy and Marine Corps leaders would have to be transparent with each other and with combatant commanders about which mission-essential tasks the America ARG would lose during split operations – amphibious beach assault potentially being the first one, since America would be left with just Pearl Harbor and its two LCACs. The COCOMs would have to decide for themselves whether to keep the ARG together to retain all mission-essential capabilities or peel off San Antonio to cover more annual objectives with partner nations.

Duhe said that, if the Marines choose to bring a traditional package of vehicles and weapons to meet mission-essential tasks, out of necessity the MEU would have to “really pack out the LPD-17-class ship to the gills” with vehicles that cannot be airlifted off America and their corresponding personnel: tank companies with the M1A1 Abrams tanks, Light Armored Reconnaissance companies and their Light Armored Vehicles, and the logistics combat element and its refueling trucks, maintenance trucks, bulldozers and other heavy equipment.

That frees up space on America to load the entire ACE on the ship instead of putting pieces of it on the LPD. Baze said his ship has room for the entire ACE with more room left over, giving future MEU commanders flexibility to bring a bigger ACE or to change up the mix of aircraft.

But it’s still unclear what that stark separation – the heavy ground equipment only on the LPD and the ACE entirely on the big-deck – would mean for split-ARG operations.

Alternatively, Duhe said, the MEU could leave some of this heavy ground equipment behind and “change the way that they make decisions about what to take and still accomplish those mission-essential tasks.” If it takes one LCAC to move a single tank ashore, and the entire ARG only has four LCACs total, the MEU may look for alternate ways to meet mission requirements without tanks, for example.

Several officers emphasized the need to lighten the ground combat element attached to the America ARG. Capt. Homer Denius, commodore of the Amphibious Squadron 3 that will lead the America ARG on deployment next year, made clear that “that idea of a lighter MEU is going to have to come into concept” ahead of the deployment. The balance is that a lighter maneuver element means America can support a larger maneuver element – and striking that balance was part of the success during RIMPAC. When ground troops moved ashore, the largest vehicle they brought with them was Australian LAVs. Baze said America pushed out a company of Marines on a couple CH-53Es from 50 miles offshore “before lunchtime,” with the simplicity of moving a lighter company showcasing what America was built to do.

The follow-on CH-53K, set for fielding at the end of the decade, will only make this easier. Purcell said the next-generation heavy-lift helo will externally carry 27,000 pounds of cargo 110 nautical miles from the ship at 3,000 feet elevation, making it “a key connector for America” in lieu of surface connectors.

“When the 53K is onboard, Humvees and all these things that would have normally been brought ashore by surface connectors can be brought not only from the ship to the shore but from the ship to the objective area, which is going to be a critical combat enabler for the Ground Combat Element to know that they don’t have to just establish a beachhead – we can bring their Humvees, we can bring their artillery tubes, we can bring all their principle end items to a place of their choosing vice where the LCUs can get to or where the LCACs can get to,” Purcell said.
“And that’s something that I think a lot of people don’t understand and they overlook when they talk about the America or what some of the tradeoffs are.”

An MV-22 Osprey, assigned to the "White Knights" of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 165, prepares to land aboard the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) during flight operations. US Navy photo.

An MV-22 Osprey, assigned to the “White Knights” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 165, prepares to land aboard the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) during flight operations. US Navy photo.

A Command and Control Ship

While much of the discussion around America has been focused on taking a new ship design and forcing a traditional mission on it – that of a ARG/MEU flagship – Duhe suggested the ship is actually better suited for a Marine Expeditionary Brigade-level operation.

The MEB is the Marine Corps’ “middle-weight” fighting force, which could be as small as two ARG/MEUs or as big as five, depending on the circumstances around its organization.

USS America (LHA-6), Royal Canadian Navy frigate Her Majesty's Canadian Ship Vancouver (FFH 331), Chilean Navy frigate CNS Cochrane (FF 05), amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego (LPD 22), and guided-missile destroyer USS Howard (DDG 83) in the Pacific Ocean on June 24, 2016. US Navy Photo

USS America (LHA-6), Royal Canadian Navy frigate Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Vancouver (FFH 331), Chilean Navy frigate CNS Cochrane (FF 05), amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego (LPD 22), and guided-missile destroyer USS Howard (DDG 83) in the Pacific Ocean on June 24, 2016. US Navy Photo

Duhe argued America has several key features that lend itself to being the flagship of a MEB. The command and control rooms are spacious and modular, with the ability to bring new systems in and plug into the open architecture set-up to communicate with other ships in the Navy, with forces already on the ground, and with international partners as needed. The hangar is large enough to allow for flexibility in the size and composition of the ACE – or to accommodate other ships’ aircraft as they ferry in leadership as needed for planning. And the ship can stay on station much longer than its counterparts before having to meet a supply ship for refueling at sea – it holds 1.3 million gallons of jet fuel compared to 300,000 or 400,000 gallons on other amphibs, and the ship’s gas turbine engines for primary power and diesel engines for sailing at lower speeds mean the ship may consume as little as half the fuel other big decks would use.

“Ultimately this ship is a wonderful ship to support MEB operations, especially from a command and control perspective,” Duhe said.
“I don’t personally believe this will remain in a traditional MEU role, nor do I believe that’s really what she was built for and really designed for, so there’s a future for the ship that’s still coming about. … It still has a story to be told.”

The last time the Marine Corps used a MEB for combat operations was Task Force Tarawa for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Duhe said, and he noted that the amount of time, money and resources it takes to compile a MEB makes it cost-prohibitive to train for such a massive operation in live exercises. But post-Iraq and Afghanistan, the service has been focused on MEB-level command and control rather than MEU-level C2, he said, which could be to the benefit of America and its sister ship, the future Tripoli (LHA-7).

“Everything that we’re doing with our Marines from Hawaii (during RIMPAC), it’s with that higher-level mindset,” he said, with RIMPAC using a MEB-level leadership team but a MEU-sized live force.
“You can’t do that in real live training, it’s too much money and resources, but to have the command and control in place, to stay in the MEB-level mindset and have leadership be in big deck vessels like this, (working on) interoperability with the Navy at sea, that’s very important to the Marine Corps.”

Duhe’s notion of America serving as a MEB flagship harkens back to the previous class of amphibs without a well deck: the LPHs built in the 1960s. They were operated at the MEU level but led a five-ship ARG, obviating any disadvantage caused by not carrying surface connectors of its own. Operating America and Tripoli as MEB flagships would have a similar effect.

Marines from VMM-165 work on their V-22 Osprey in the hangar bay of USS America on July 16, 2016, during RIMPAC. USNI News photo.

Marines from VMM-165 work on their V-22 Osprey in the hangar bay of USS America on July 16, 2016, during RIMPAC. Though the aircraft was folded up for this maintenance job, the ship has high hat spaces that can fit a V-22 with its wings out and nacelles up when needed. USNI News photo.

Benefits for Marine Aviation

If America raises questions about how the ground community will use the ship, it provides endless opportunity for the aviation combat element to experiment with how to best leverage the aviation-centric design.

Purcell said the design – and in particular, two hangar high-hat areas for aircraft maintenance – “has given us a number of opportunities that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

While America was sailing to Hawaii for RIMPAC, one of the Ospreys needed maintenance that required putting the aircraft on a jack and working on it with the wings fully spread.

An F-35B Lightning II takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD-1) on May 25, 2015. US Navy Photo

An F-35B Lightning II takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD-1) on May 25, 2015. US Navy Photo

“On an LHA, the original LHAs, that wouldn’t have been possible. And I don’t think it would have been possible on the LHD because we did have to have the rotors in the up position for the work we were doing,” and the older ships do not have enough space inside the hangar to work on the Ospreys while fully spread out. On the older ships, therefore, the work would have to be done on the flight deck, which could interrupt flight deck operations and slow down sorties during combat operations.

Purcell said the same is true for changing the main rotorblade on the CH-53E – given the clamps and cranes needed for the job, it can only be done inside America thanks to the two high-hat areas in the hangar. The bigger hangars were designed not only for the height of the Ospreys and heavy-lift helos but also for the greater footprint of the Joint Strike Fighter, which will come onboard in the next few years.

Lt. j.g. Nick Haan, assistant maintenance officer for the Aviation Intermediate Maintenance Department, said the ship was not only designed for bigger aircraft, but also for more aircraft.

“AIMD is where the well deck used to be. They laid it out in a way that would flow almost like a carrier, so the whole second deck where the well deck used to be is all AIMD now,” he said after touring USNI News around the I-level maintenance area.
“So we can get components up and down via elevators, weapons elevators, and we can actually perform the maintenance right here without having to jump around, crane things up and down to different decks or have people work on it in the hangar. We can get it to where the actual tools are.”

The AIMD has the same capabilities as on other LHAs and LHDs – it has a structural shop to repair damaged metal components, a non-destructive inspection shop to test the integrity of aircraft and support equipment, a calibration lab to ensure the accuracy of all the tools, and much more – but on a greater scale and arranged to promote a more efficient turnaround for an aviation-centric MEU.

Baze touted the AIMD as a key enabler, saying “all this equates to faster sorties, faster movement of troops.”

“I can’t prove it to you until we do a deployment, but I guarantee you that’s going to translate to faster, more efficient movement of parts and machines to fix the aircraft,” he said.

US Navy fact sheet.

US Navy fact sheet.

Overall, Brig. Gen. Raymond Descheneaux, commanding general of Fleet Marine Forces in RIMPAC 2016, said the services are still sorting through what exactly America’s first deployment with the 15th MEU next year will look like, but he’s confident the new ship will find its niche.

“We’ll only have LHA-6 and LHA-7 before we go back to the well deck, so my conversation with the ship’s captain is, hey, you have an opportunity to capture best practices, and the 15th MEU who will actually be sailing on her soon will have an opportunity to figure out how we task organize to exploit those capabilities,” he said on the Hawaii training range during RIMPAC.
“And what this becomes is just another tool in the tool chest. San Diego still carries the full complement of AAVs and two LCACs. So what we’ve had to do is just slightly shift our load-outs, but at the end of the day restructuring that amphibious capability to allow us to bring additional over-the-horizon (capability) from an F-35 and V-22 will truly become a game-changer, and America’s on the front-end of that.

“How that’s going to be employed, what shortfalls we see as we’re [building] the best structure for this, is truly going to have to get filtered out, will get filtered out, they’ve already gotten a great start,” Descheneaux continued.
“But at the end of the day, when America was built there were a lot of people scratching their heads. … Now, by every account I get from America, there’s incredible goodness. And I think once we start populating that platform with the F-35 it will only grow exponentially. And then to have (LHA) 6 and 7 with that capability when we need to have power projection down the road will be just again another more specific tool in our arsenal, a tool in the chest to meet our nation’s intent.”

  • Ed L

    Just like the old Iwo Jima LPH Class. On the Inchon LPH-12 we even operator with a flight of 8 Harriers on board for a exerciser.

  • CharleyA

    Is there enough headroom on the hanger deck to change out the F135 engine or lift fan?

    • delta9991

      F135 change should be no problem as it removes to the rear. Lift fan may be a different story (can’t be worse than a harrier engine change though), but considering we’ve seen and heard nothing about it I’d wager its a part certified to life of the airframe (aka, no replacement needed). Gearbox and maybe the drive shaft would be the only parts that strike me as possibly needing replacement because of regular maintenance.

    • Curtis Conway

      If they can fully un-fold out the rotors on a MV-22 Osprey with it on a jack, I would think so.

  • Curtis Conway

    “…what it will mean to have an amphibious ship without a well deck and therefore without the ability to deploy landing craft to move heavy tanks and equipment ashore.”

    The way this author starts his argument, one would think that the absence of the well deck, and inclusion of more tactical aircraft is a net negative in an amphibious environment. There are other ships in the ARG, and they have larger (LPD-17 Class), or will have larger (LX-R) well decks than they have ever had before. The additional TACAIR will really come in handy, and this aviation centric ship can perform double duty, or additional duty when that TACAIR is needed in another mission area that is less amphibious in nature. Then the author makes the same argument: “For us, not having a well deck on the USS America actually allowed us to get the forces ashore a little bit quicker because we were able to do helo ops continuously off the USS America and do well deck operations (from San Diego) … without as much of a safety concern as you would have if you did both of those operations off the same platform,”… However, there is no mention of the new Mobile Basing and supply at sea. The USS Montford Point Mobile Landing Platform provides all the LCACs they provide for support, but additional TACAIR and its maintenance support is not so readily available. These “Gotta have a well deck” folks are cutting their nose off in-spite of their face.

    The COCOM was structured around a 15 CSG concept in its inception. Budget in recent decades has curtailed any thought of going back to that concept. After the USS America (LHA-6) has an opportunity to sail with the F-35Bs on board, it will become evident to the most casual observer why four more LHA-6 Class vessels would be very advantageous for contingency operations, maintaining presence, fighting GWOT that will continue for the foreseeable future with something less costly than CSGs, and fits well for many future theaters.

    Just my 2ȼ.

    • RunningBear

      With the tactical developments for the F-35B and the MV-22, the “well deck” is not a benefit to the LHA America Class. “If” more ship to shore connectors are required they can be added by the LPD and the LX(R) types with ISR and A-A protection provided by the F-35B. The “RO/RO” in-flight refueling provided by the MV-22 will greatly extend the flight time for the “Bees” and probably the MH-53Ks.

      • Curtis Conway

        Amen Brother. I wish more folks possessed your wisdom and insight.

  • Curtis Conway

    Why this, or any new class of warship should have a 3D AN/SPS-48 rotating radar instead of a non-rotating 3D AESA main sensor that provides fire control tracks, is beyond my comprehension. I would much prefer that type system coupled with the UPX-29 IFF system over the current configuration.

    • Fred Gould

      My guess would be there are refurbished 48’s in storage.

      • Curtis Conway

        I’m an old Aegis Troop so anything slaved to rotation in a Supersonic ASCM environment makes no sense to me, and it is a concern that it doesn’t to those providing these vessels.

        • Fred Gould

          My guess is based on experience in the USN. Often, obsolete equipment was installed to speed construction and save money. With phased array systems, production and training bottlenecks may be a consideration. I remember the WSC3 debacle.

          • Curtis Conway

            All I know about the ‘Wiskey-Threes’ is they were a G-d send to the Air Controllers with their channelization. We never had enough of them, and the V(11) was special!

          • Fred Gould

            Fine equipment, but the maintenance pipeline lagged for several years, leading to casprps and parts issues.

          • Curtis Conway

            I always though the aviation equipment (ARC-182/210s) were the way to go. They had the capability, took up less space on the racks, and performed well in the shipboard environment.

          • Fred Gould

            Good possibility, but Airedales don’t talk to skimmers and both don’t talk to Bubbleheads. Spent 4 years with Airlant, 4 years with Sublant, 4 years training command and the rest Surflant.

          • Curtis Conway

            You are Definitely right about that. The Reserves was a real eye opener, particularly in the Joint Arena.

          • Fred Gould

            Even worse in civilian life. I have one company I support, 3 facilities doing the same work 150 miles apart and they do not talk to one another, share capabilities or key personnel. Kennedy Space Center, if one contractor had one facility, a second would need a mirror image. My favorite case one a 5 million one that was used maybe 5 days a week. So a second contractor needed a 5 million facility that would be used maybe 3 days a month. Time share was unacceptable.

          • Curtis Conway

            A people wonder why government is not the answer!?

          • Fred Gould

            The company I mentioned is involved in aviation airlines. By for profit companies I have been asked to lie, falsify reports, and perform work on the side to lower costs. I have found ethics are very rare. I have called A**H**E a few times while on for profit work sites. Its human nature.

          • Curtis Conway

            The ‘Devil is in the Details’, and there is no replacement for integrity in the aviation maintenance processes, particularly when the safety of human life is concerned. If ANYONE places lives in danger to make a buck . . . well I better stop there!

          • Fred Gould

            I would say integrity in any process. Several years ago executives from 2 metal supply companies went to prison for providing substandard steel. Remember the submarines with cracking in the center of the hull plates? Caused by greed in the manufacturing process. Last year a company in Jacksonville was charged for provided substandard fittings for submarine reactors. As for aviation, counterfeit parts are a big issue with the airlines. How about the Fat Lenard scandal.? Money makes people discard their morals and ethics.

          • Curtis Conway

            I can recall the scandal of substandard/out of spec turbine blades being recycled from the salvage yard back into turbo-prop engines, and SAAB 340 commuters were falling out of the sky over South America over the jungle.

          • Fred Gould

            I work in the non-destructive industry. We provide and maintain among other systems, x-ray. As we are a small industry, when we meet a competitor or state inspector we swap war stories. Also, during the course of a year, I visit military sites of all branches and most of the major corporations. That is why I bristle when I hear there are too many regulations. Actually there are too many regulations ignored to increase profit, regardless of the consequences. Your life is of no meaning to some.

          • Curtis Conway

            Integrity comes from within, and cannot be legislated from without. Mankind is just too resourceful in cheating any system. Respect for G-d’s Laws much be paramount, and concern and empathy for one’s fellow man must be sincere, or one just identifies themselves with the mindset of those who have created atrocities against their fellow man (neighbors) from the beginning of time.

      • Curtis Conway

        Hopefully the AN/SPY-6(V)X with fewer array faces can be back-fit easily, and perhaps save weight. Using optical in the -48 helped reduce weight, but it’s still a heavy beast.

  • John B. Morgen

    The Marines should see the USS America (LHA-6) as a duel role mission warship. She can operate as an aircraft carrier to support amphibious operations, or act as amphibious assault ship (helicopter) LPH by carrying and deploying troops ashore. If more Americas are built, then the larger aircraft carriers could be free-up to seek enemy fleets and destroy them. If the Marines recognizes this new paradigm, then the Marines are going to need several more Americas.

    • Matthew

      Actually being purely aviation capability has drawn a lot of criticism from the marines as it limit’s there options. Should any half decent AA be in place then deploying troops becomes quite dangerous, That being the only way to deploy the troops put’s them into the choice of accepting the casualties or calling off the attack until more suitable asset’s arive.

      The Marines want choices in how they arrive depending on the situation, With the America there is only one way, Forget landing armoured assets to support the ground forces, Cant be done using a helicopter.

      • John Locke

        LHA’s/LHD’s don’t sail alone. In an ARG there are other ships with well decks so there are always options for getting troops and equipment ashore.

      • John B. Morgen

        It’s obvious that the USS American was not designed, built and deploy as a pure LHA or a LHD, but rather as an advanced LPH designed carrier. The main problem here which is quite a minor one, and that is, the USS America’s designation should be changed to as a LPH-13, and once that is done; things should clear-up very quickly.

      • Yes, without a well deck this America class amphib would be heavily reliant on the helo lift reliability of the Marines’ CH-53 fleet. The MV-22 Ospreys are primarily a medium troop transport, leaving the 53’s to sling heavy loads (Humvees, LAVs, artillery, fuel bladders, supplies). Those 53s are hurting bad right now after 30+ years since a model upgrade and 15 years of war usage. Availability is down to around 30% or less.
        .
        Amphibious ops are still about moving tonnage more than rifles. ‘Lieutenants think tactics, generals think logistics.’

  • Hugh

    Has anyone considered a ski ramp on the bow to enhance take-off payloads etc for the F-35s and the Ospreys?

    • draeger24

      Ski ramps pose problems to the nose gear in loading during rotation to flight; that said, they also take deck space that could be used for other things, so it is a tradeoff. A ramp would not be beneficial for the Osprey.

    • El_Sid

      A ramp takes up space that could be used to land rotorcraft, which is the primary mission of these ships. It’s a different for eg QNLZ, where F-35 operations are the main focus.

  • Paladin

    If the Navy/USMC were smart they’d invite the Army 101st. Abn. Air Assault to experiment on board. This unit is already tailored for helo transport.

    • John Locke

      The Navy transporting Marines via helicopters is not a new thing. SOCEX is the primary example.

    • Common Tater

      And the USMC has no experience with helo transport??

      • Paladin

        Not my point. US Armed Forces fight jointly, we learn from each other. After the MEU deploys from an LHA, wouldn’t a reinforcing TF from the 101st. be a welcome capability?

        • Common Tater

          OK, so your point is that you have no idea how the US military is structured and want to put Army grunts on a Navy ship to do a Marine’s job. Got it.

          • Paladin

            I’m not sure you “got” anything.

  • Dan Tootle

    If so successful a ship design, why only two to be built? One for PAC and one for LANT. And then when what happens if one of the two is in restricted availability or ROH and the flag goes up? Being able to embark a major command element with the TFCC space support is good, but where does the USMC commander hang his hat when one of the two is unavailable. This really sounds like a square peg being forced into a round hole no matter how much gold is being applied to the pig..

    • John Locke

      Where would TFCC’s locate before LHA 6?

      Amphibious assault has been around a while..

    • most likely both for Pacific.

    • The one armed man

      3 are planned

  • Angus

    Meghan, you got it wrong and so did the captain of the ship. Talk to MCWL at Quantico to find the truth. Look at the TM NWDC 3-02.1 1-13 that describes the limitations. MEU’s are not better off with this ship. The medical capability is worse and C2 is not better. It is designed for MEB level amphibious assaults, the likelihood of which is small. This is why they cancelled more of these.

  • chris p

    Good
    article. The COs got it right – the key to success with the America-led ARG is
    a shift in paradigm for the MEU to a light, faster, aviation-centric
    employment. These Sailors and Marines are ingenious warfighters who are quickly
    figuring out how to work the new LHA to the advantage of the Amphibious Force,
    and I think PACOM and the other GCCs will be pleased with the capability LHA6/7
    bring to the fight. Only thing I’d urge PACFLT to consider is a recommendation from
    the TM working group – use a craft variant LSD-41 class (can carry 4 LCAC;
    LSD-52 only carries 2) with America’s maiden deployment while the force evolves
    to being more aviation-centric.

  • CaptainParker

    The ship is designed so that it can be converted into a “poor man’s” aircraft carrier with small modification. Face it…the 100,000 atomic-powered monsters are just too expensive, even for the USA. Moreover, can you imagine the political repercussions if a Nimitz or Ford class carrier got taken out by an enemy missile barrage or a salvo of submarine torpedoes. That’s why the big carriers will never get close to a hot fire zone. The “poor man’s” carrier can be sent in much closer…and if lost, infinitely less political fallout.

  • Duncan Stewart

    OK, I am an old Army air mobile grunt. I got all the stuff about the troop operations. What I did not understand were the three photos in the article showing MH-60s on America. Does she have MH-60R or S tasks above and beyond classic MEU air capabilities, or did Army’s 160th SOAR have their ’60s aboard for RIMPAC SOC training?

    • John Locke

      They’re carried on the bird farms as a multi-mission/utility aircraft.

  • Ed L

    On the old Inchon we use to take hanger queens F-4’s F-14’a A-7′ etc. back to the states with us from Rota. those old F-4’s were not even close to being as tall as the CH-53’s. Plenty of room on those old IWO JIMA class ships to do engine changes. We even use to practice with Army Ch-47, Huey’s Loaches, and the new 60’s back then doing touch and go on the flight. Clear spot 3 and 6 for helicopter operations. But I never care for doing Race track 3 to 10 miles out from the Beach supposing the Marines on the beach. Now every once in a while we would operate by ourself with a couple of Frigates and ASW aircraft onboard.

  • nickdanger

    The fact of the matter is that the America class is a small carrier and not an amphibious assault ship. In a MEB configuration with a composite Air Group as the aviation combat element, and the command element embarked, with at least one other large deck ship with a well deck this design makes sense. One America on each coast is optimal, but no more “CVP” (amphibious aircraft carrier). The Marine Air Ground Task force has proven itself too many times to ignore and change the nature of MAGTF Ops. Just wait for the first opportunity the Navy gets to load 3/4 of a squadron of F-35Bs and use it as an auxiliary carrier with no Marine Mission.

    • Common Tater

      Sorry but no. The plan is to put F-35Bs on board, but they’ll all be USMC. The Navy isn’t ordering any B-variant (STOVL) F-35s at all, they’re only acquiring the F-35C (CATOBAR). While these things will functionally be light aircraft carriers, they’ll still be operating USMC aircraft and missions.

  • RobM1981

    Since Desert Storm, the USA has gathered a steady stream of data on ground combat. What ground combat has taught us, as is mentioned here, is that the ground pounders need heavier stuff. More armor. More heavy weapons. Even when they, themselves, don’t like carrying it… doesn’t matter. Heavier weapons and protection is what appears to work best, most of the time. Not all of the time, but most of the time.

    It’s nice that the USN is looking to protect one of its hulls by ensuring that it can deploy safely from 100 miles offshore, but at what cost? If the Marines are raiders, that’s probably fine – raiders have always traveled very light. SEALS, Rangers, etc. – all the same.

    But if the objective is actually defended, are we sending in Marines who would significantly benefit from heavier loadouts, without them, specifically to defend our hulls? Are we trading Navy security for Marine security? Furthermore, what is the cycle-time to reinforce troops from 100 miles off shore? How long does it take to return the MV-22’s to the LHA, reload it with troops and fuel, and get it back to shore – 100 miles away? Is that what’s best for the Marines?

    I always respected the dual approach, where a lightly loaded shock-contingent would land and secure, knowing that the heavier forces are already on their way. The older designs include that, intrinsically. I believe the new design should, as well.

    What we have here is mostly a light carrier, posing as an amphib. Can it provide the shock? Yes. But without LST’s or other well-equipped hulls, it cannot deliver the heavy equipment needed. Why is that a good thing?

    • disqus_zommBwspv9

      there is always the scenario of use the emen’s armor against them. I knew a lot of marines that were not tankers but knew how to operate soviet armor vehicles.

    • Common Tater

      These things don’t sail alone. They’ll be accompanied by multiple vessels with well decks.

  • lugnutmstr

    Si Senor’, let me see. I think there was a good reason why the Corps went to the Three ship configuration. THE COLD WAR? Yes that’s it, if you lose one ship you only lose 1/3 of your men and equipment. Never put your eggs in one basket. The other reason is to be able to move your aviation assets ashore as soon as possible, a land aircraft carrier is harder to sink! Now if you take out the America you take out the units command and control and all the aviation. Yes you can fly off what aircraft you can save to the other LPDs with the bigger landing decks and have a small hanger, to fix them if broken. The newer Aviation is good when it’s working, but there’s a good reason to use LCACs and LCUs, it cheaper, you don’t wear out you transport aircraft or loose them to ground fire. Again the main reason for the ARG is to drop off the Marines or Army and go get more. These people on the video seem to be trying to make excuses as to why having no well deck is a good idea. Remember the Cold War. We were expected to lose one out of three ships have another badly damaged but able to get underway that was against the Russians or China. Now their back. USS America was designed post Cold War to be used against a country like Iraq. Now again without a well deck you lose 1/3 of your amphibious capability. If you split up your ARG there would be no way to get heavy equipment on board the America, like move heavy equipment from a badly damage LPD. I don’t think there will be another CMC Aviator that will make that same mistake. If you plan for the worst the worst won’t catch you by surprise! Anything that can go wrong probably will. Good read for Admirals and Generals-Sun Tzu “The Art of War”!

    • disqus_zommBwspv9

      that happen when they got those oversize LPH, called LHA’s and the retirement of the LST’s sorry riding Ships in heavy seas. But worth it. We use to have an LPH, LPD, LSD and LST. The LKA were put into when a fourth was needed. Boats were LCU’s usually 2, LCM-8 2 to 6, LCM-6, 3 to 6 of them. LCVP from 6 to 10 of those. I even got to beach a LCVP on more than one occasion when there was no causeway provided by the LST. I love the causeway’s.

  • The one armed man

    The Diplomat reported that the class will be expanded to 3 Americas

  • lugnut master

    There is inherently something wrong when the people we depend on to lead us say, ” We can leave the tanks and LCAC’s at home”. When you start losing aircraft to ground fire and wear out the rotor aircraft, how many lives is it going to cost? Don’t forget about the one missile hit that will get through will stop it all in it’s tracks.