Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced today that the next amphibious assault ship would be named after Bougainville island in the Solomons, the location of a strategic World War II battle.
The future Bougainville (LHA-8) will be the third America-class ship and the first Flight 1 design that reintroduces a well deck for surface connector operations. USS America (LHA-6) has no well deck and instead devotes a massive amount of internal space for aviation maintenance, storage and support for more aircraft and for the larger next-generation aircraft such as the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter and MV-22 Osprey. The future Bougainville will strike a middle ground, maintaining that emphasis on aviation while adding back a small well through reductions in medical and other spaces.
LHA-8 will be the second ship to bear the name USS Bougainville, following an escort carrier that launched in 1944, was decommissioned in 1946, was brought back to service for five more years and then was struck from the naval register in 1960.
Bougainville was the location of a World War II campaign in 1943-1944 to secure a strategic airfield from Japan. By retaking the island in the northern Solomon Islands, the allied forces isolated the remaining Japanese forces throughout the Solomons.
The future Bougainville is expected to be bought in the Fiscal Year 2017 and 2018 budgets. It will be built at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., and should deliver in 2024.