Home » Aviation » USS America Returns From First Deployment

USS America Returns From First Deployment

Sailors and Marines assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) secure from manning the rails on Jan. 25. US Navy Photo

Amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) returned home to San Diego Friday morning, marking the completion of its first overseas operational deployment to the Western Pacific and the Middle East.

America, leading the 4,500-member, three-ship America Amphibious Ready Group, pulled into its berth at San Diego Naval Base on a sun-splashed morning. The America ARG included amphibious transport dock USS San Diego (LPD-22) and amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD-52), both based in San Diego, along with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23 and detachments from Assault Craft Unit 5, Naval Beach Group 1, Beachmaster Unit 1, Fleet Surgical Team 1 and Tactical Air Control Squadron 11.

“Our blue-green team proved themselves time and time again to be a professional and versatile contingency response force whether it was at sea, in the sky, or on land,” Capt. Rome Ruiz, commander of Amphibious Squadron 3, said in a Navy statement.
“As an amphibious task force, our ships gained extensive experience by working with various partner nations and ship platforms, which contributed to the increasing strength of our combat power. I am proud to have been part of this deployment and proud to have served with this talented team.”

“What we have accomplished is something to be proud of. We showed what our MEU can do in a contested environment,” Col. Joseph Clearfield, the 15th MEU commander, said in a Navy statement as the force left Guam for California. “All the time and hard work put in since we began our workup cycle is why we are a ready global response force.

Sailors and Marines with the America ARG/MEU supported a range of missions during the deployment in the U.S. Central Command region as well as in 5th Fleet, 6th Fleet and 7th Fleet. Missions included the bilateral amphibious exercise Alligator Dagger in December, where they worked with French troops and Task Force 51 and 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade off Djibouti. The America ARG/MEU also conducted maritime security missions in the region. America also helped support the crew of the USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) after the ship collided with a container ship in the Malacca Straits.

“Since the ship left for her first operational deployment seven months ago, this crew has grown exponentially in skill and professionalism,” said Capt. Joe Olson, America’s commanding officer. “Our Sailors and the Marines of the 15th MEU fulfilled their tasking proficiently, effectively, and with heart.” During the seven-month deployment, America traveled 42,911 nautical miles and conducted 5,075 flight deck landings, takeoffs and vertical replenishment drop-offs and pick-ups, according to the Navy.

“Our sailors and Marines did an absolutely fantastic job this deployment,” Cmdr. Theodore Essenfeld, Pearl Harbor’sccommanding officer, said in a Navy statement.
“I could not have asked for a better team to come together to complete each mission we were tasked with. During Iron Magic and Alligator Dagger, the coordination between the Navy-Marine Corps team effectively projected power from the sea and ashore. At the same time, we gained the knowledge and training to make us a more cohesive team.”

The amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70) steam in formation while participating in a photo exercise in the Arabian Gulf on Nov. 28, 2017. US Navy photo.

“We had units from the ARG/MEU team operating in several countries and two different fleets simultaneously,” said Capt. Pete Collins, commanding officer of San Diego. “The spread of personnel, geographic influence and contributions to the fight in theater was well received and important to several peripheral missions making this a successful deployment for the Blue-Green team.”

While operating in the Mediterranean, the San Diego and embarked 15th MEU detachment provided intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability to support U.S. Africa Command missions in the region. The force also was on standby to evacuate any casualties or recover downed aircraft.


  • So the “no-well deck” system works.

    • PolicyWonk

      Sure – its worked for a long time. Its called a CVL (not much of an innovation).

  • Rocco

    The ship’s designation should be changed to Air Assault Ship. Including USS Tripoli & if any other ships get built without a welldeck!!

    • PolicyWonk

      There are only 2 ships being built on the LHA-6 (USS America) model, which includes the Tripoli. After this second ship, all subsequent sea-frames will include the well deck (which almost makes it a new class).

      That said, there are an ever-increasing number of folks that think we should build more hulls based on the America/Tripoli model, and use them as light carriers, and send them to less volatile parts of the world. This would free up the CVN’s for duty in the ME, S. China Sea, and other potential hot-spots.

      • LowObservable

        I would have preferred a few more of these to supplement the existing Carrier fleet with more F-35B’s as an CVL/aviation presence. With further modifications to the MV-22 for refueling/and AEWC (EV-22 variant) that can work off the USS America/Tripoli template.

        • PolicyWonk


      • battlestations

        Would the frame work to add 1 catapult or would an angel deck be required for a cat? We wouldn’t necessarily want this type CVL without a cat, right? Jump jets are good, no issues with them except their load out/take off weight. I am 110% behind the idea of CVL’s, much needed in this day and age, hopefully affordable enough to get a dozen or two.

        • PolicyWonk

          I would expect so, but if we’re using jump-jets then we could add a ski-jump, which would allow us to increase both the amount of fuel and ordnance each aircraft could carry.

          Essentially, the only thing missing from the LHA’s, are the angled flight deck and CATOBAR.

          • Rocco

            No ski jump in a fixed design. Now if it could work by hydraulics that would be cool.

          • PolicyWonk

            True enough – but our allies all use them (except the French). The idea of the ski jump was invented by (from what I recall) a US naval officer, who came up with the idea in his masters thesis.

            The primary benefits are that they’re dirt cheap; highly efficient/effective; as simple as it gets, and could be installed (retrofit) within a year (maybe less). This would gain us significant capability in a very short period of time.

            Redesigning the LHA-6 flight deck for CATOBAR, and converting the existing flight deck to an angled one, would take a lot more funding and time.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            You’d need to add a new powerplant to operate no VSTOL aircraft from cats & traps. Aircraft need at least 30 knots over the deck to launch/recover and if there is a calm you need to create that wind yourself. Only the old S-3 safely recover at less than that…

          • PolicyWonk

            Indeed – this is why I like the idea of the ski-jump and existing sea-frame: its a tremendous benefit for a relatively small amount of cash and/or risk.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            There are tradeoffs, you get a bit more max payload, but you also sacrifice deck area for helicopters, and you still don’t have an AEW, Tanker, etc.
            IMO you probably get better overall efficiency if you go to a clean sheet CVL instead of trying to shoehorn the capabilities you want into what is still a ‘Phib at heart.

          • PolicyWonk

            I like the idea some have had w/r/t converting V-22’s to do the AEW and tanker functions, which could overcome those problems to a fair extent.

            And you’re quite right that it would be more efficient to design a pure CVL from scratch – but I’m looking for relatively inexpensive/pragmatic options, as opposed to the typical USN style of “circling the option page” at maximum cost to the taxpayers, and years of delays. The LHA-6 sea-frame has a hot production line *now*, and is a proven platform.

            What capabilities can be gained today (or quickly) with what we have now?

          • @USS_Fallujah

            It’s a proven platform, but you’re still trying to convert a ‘phib into a CV, so the end product is going to carry with it a ton of inefficiencies, and any CVL will carry significant inefficiencies compared to a CVN. More hulls means more deployments, so there is value in the proposition, but I suspect the ROI on a CVL wouldn’t be great and the ROI on converting at LHA to a CVL will be worse.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            Here is another question, what money are you using to procure these CVLs? Is this in place of CVN construction? If so you’d get 3 CVL or so with the funds needed for one CVN, but is that actually a good thing in terms of fleet capability?
            If you’re talking about having simultaneous CVN & CVL construction then the only place to take the money is from the LHA construction budget, so then you’re shorting the ‘Phib procurement to shoehorn a new capability into that platform, basically you’re killing the Gator Navy’s aviation capability to fill a new role that arguably doesn’t need filling.

          • PolicyWonk

            I’d happily sacrifice a nuke for 3 CVL’s, and maybe two. Our primary problem at this point is coverage – we simply don’t have enough flattops to go around.

            With the advent of smart weapons, a CVL can be pack more punch than a Nimitz before smart weapons came into general use. Hence – even a light carrier can be a formidable asset.

            The idea is to get the coverage we need, and free up the nukes for more problematic parts of the world. And in a pinch, as we found with the Libyan campaign, using a small flattop for the air support mission is entirely feasible.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            Having enough CVNs is as much an issue of COCOMM priorities as it is numbers. The USN finally has the ability to say No now, which I believe will relieve much of the overburdening of the fleet, including CVNs, but especially the CGs & DDGs.
            Once major, and perhaps overwhelming, argument against the CVL vs CVN is that if you “break” from CVN production the building cost will increase exponentially, but if you build CVLs concurrently with CVNs you need to either come up with an additional ~$2b/yr for the shipbuilding budget or “steal” the money from somewhere else, meaning fewer SSNs (very bad idea), LSCs (also a bad idea), ‘Phibs (not great) or SSC (also not great).
            Also the additional carrier decks means the need for additional aircraft, so you’ll need to procure a ton more CVL capable aircraft, traditional the cost of the aircraft is about equal with the cost of the platform, but in this case it would likely be even more as you’ll need new AEW platforms and more expensive F-35Bs instead of the E-2Ds & SHs on the CVN.

          • PolicyWonk

            There is no loss when it comes to not having LCS’s – that are neither capable of carrying weapons of significance, or defending themselves. Nor are they built to the USN’s lowest standard for survivability (Level 1).

            Absent the ability to reach out and touch someone or defend itself, they merely represent monstrously expensive utility b.oats that are all but good for nothing. Even the Navy considers the LCS program “the one that broke the navy”. Hence – it should be killed and those responsible in the PEO punished an drummed out of the service.

            But given the increase in the defense budget, we can now build more destroyers, and if the FFG(X) is properly handled, we can build Frigates as well.

            That said, just dumping money into the DoD represents a gross waste of money, because the acquisition system frankly stinks (to be generous), as the US taxpayers easily get the lousiest deal for defense dollar spent in the western world.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            Whatever you think of the LCS, the money is spent, so there is no sense discussing it in regards to future shipbuilding proposals. Also the LCS ships will provide useful service in peacetime presence and anti-pirate/anti-narcotic missions, freeing up DDGs for service more befitting their capability (and cost!), it may not be the ROI we were hoping for, but again the money is spent and the USN is going to get 32 of them, so we will to find some use for them.

          • PolicyWonk

            I’m well aware that the criminals in the LCS PEO got their funding via defrauding the US taxpayers and the HoR’s. If they had designated it for what it is//was: a hyper-expensive, commercial-grade utility boat that cannot carry weapons of significance or protect itself: the money never would’ve been allocated.

            So they lied.

            Regardless, you are correct, and we should fine something useful for them to do. I happen to think they could be used as tenders for Cyclones or Mark VI patrol boats (that are really meant for littoral operations), which would keep them (relatively speaking) out of harms way.

            The LCS fleet could find other useful duties when the “carrier bottom cleaning” and “fleet septic pumping” mission packages get issued.


          • @USS_Fallujah

            How do the issues with the LCS relate to how to fund a potential CVL program?

          • PolicyWonk

            You asked a question or made a statement, and I replied to it. The real problem with LCS is that it wastes tens of billions of US taxpayer dollars for assets of dubious value, when we could be adding assets with real capabilities.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            I never mentioned the LCS program at all.

          • Rocco

            Another problem with the ski jump is it creates a wind turbulence over the bow which may cause problems for helo launches. Not to mention the deck space it would take up!! Hence why a hydraulic type would have your cake & eat it too lol.

          • El Kabong

            Didn’t cause many problems for HMS Hermes, ‘Vince, ‘Lusty or the ‘Ark.

            Having said that, folks seem to be dreaming for CVL’s and forgetting these are amphibious assault ships.

          • Rocco

            That’s because they mainly operated Harriers!! Not Helos!! Big difference.

          • El Kabong

            Sea Kings…..Wessex….

          • Rocco

            I said mainly!!!

          • El Kabong

            Define, “mainly”.

            A RN air wing wasn’t “mainly” Harriers.

        • Rocco

          I have a picture of that in my phone but cat transfer it to here.

        • Rocco

          The ship would need a major redesign as to put cats on it would be Emals type not steam as well as recovery. All the space area surrounding the systems would need to be redone so EMC’s don’t blow sensitive electronics or Fry people!! This would significantly raise the cost a couple billion!!

      • Rocco

        Yes I know & I’m one of those! But I’d like to see subsequent ship’s built to 900′ long.

        • PolicyWonk


          I sense a shift in the force: we’ve been agreeing a lot over the past month or two!

          • Rocco

            Indeed!! I’ll answer your other reply later as I’m at work.

      • Retired CO

        Not a bad idea. But they should put the Makin Island plant in any new ones, it’s more effiecient and has a slightly higher top speed, to go along with much better fuel economy.

        • delta9991

          From what I understand, the America class is based on Makin Island. She was the “transition” ship into the new class so most of the inner workings are identical

          • Rocco

            Yes including jet propulsion for up to 5 knots!!

        • Rocco

          They are !! Who said they aren’t? America & Tripoli already have this. Besides this has been my idea not Policy Wonks!!

      • Rocco

        Agreed,. USS Boggenville is supposed to be similar from pictures I saw but with a smaller island which looks hideous!!

  • Kenneth Millstein

    What a great group of men and woman. Keep up the great work for our countries defense. Welcome home!

  • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

    Hopefully at the end of the year or next year it will deploy with a squadron of ‘Killer-B’s on board!

  • draeger24

    so, what was the outcome in exercises of the air-heavy concept…anyone get any feedback?

  • Lawman

    Keep up the great work Brothers! And Sisters!