USS America (LHA-6) is on the first leg of its journey to a new homeport in Japan after quietly leaving San Diego last week.
Navy officials confirmed to USNI News America is pier-side in Hawaii. However, officials would not confirm if Pearl Harbor is the first stop in the transit that will ultimately end at America’s new homeport of Sasebo, Japan.
Last week, after America departed San Diego, the ship’s ombudsman posted on Facebook a farewell message from the ship’s families to San Diego. Also posted are Thanksgiving hours for base activities in Sasebo, Japan, and America’s families are alerted Santa Claus is scheduled to visit Nimitz Park, in Sasebo, for a tree lighting on Dec. 6.
In Japan, America will become the flag ship of U.S. amphibious forces in Japan and will be paired with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.
America, the Navy’s newest big deck amphibious warship, will replace the Navy’s oldest, USS Wasp (LHD-1), as the service’s forward-deployed big deck in the Pacific. On Monday, Wasp arrived at its new homeport, Norfolk, after spending nearly two years based out of Japan.
America is an aviation-centric big deck amphibious assault ship. Unlike the Wasp-class ships, America does not have a well deck and instead was built with increased space for jet fuel, aircraft equipment and maintenance.
A second America-class ship, the future USS Tripoli (LHA-7), had its commissioning delayed by shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries. The company is testing some of the ship’s systems to ensure they will last as intended for the life of the ship. Tripoli is now expected to join the fleet in May 2020, and will likely be homeported in San Diego, according to a Navy personnel command notice seeking crewmembers for the ship.