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The America-class amphibious assault ships (formerly the LHA(R) class) of the U.S. Navy was designed to put ashore a Marine Expeditionary Unit using helicopters and MV-22B Osprey V/STOLs, supported by AV-8B Harrier or F-35 Lightning II V/STOL fighter planes and various attack helicopters. The first of these warships should be delivered to the U.S. Navy in 2013 to replace the USS Peleliu (LHA-5) of the Tarawa-class amphibious assault ships. The design of the America class was based on that of the USS Makin Island (LHD-8), the last ship of the Wasp class, but the "Flight 0" ships of the America class will not have well decks, and they have smaller on-board hospitals in order to give more space for aviation uses.
Although they only carry helicopters and V/STOL aircraft, the USS America with a displacement of about 45,000 long tons is similar in size to the fixed wing aircraft carriers of France and India.
The America can be used as a small aircraft carrier with a squadron of jet fighters plus several multipurpose helicopters, such as the SH-60 Seahawk. She can carry about 20 AV-8B Harriers, F-35Bs, or a mixture of the two, but the future ships of this class, starting with LHA-8 will have smaller aircraft hangars to leave room for smaller than usual amphibious warfare well decks.
Builders: Huntington Ingalls Industries
Cost: US$10,169.9m program cost for 3,
Length: 844 feet (257.3 meters) Beam: 106 feet (32.3 meters) Propulsion: Two gas turbines, two shafts, with 70,000 total brake horsepower, and two 5,000 hp (3,700 kW) auxiliary propulsion engines.
Speed: 20 knots plus Complement: 65 officers, 994 enlisted men
Armament: Two Rolling Airframe Missile launchers
Aircraft carried: F-35B Lightning II
The design of the USS America is based on the USS Makin Island (LHD-8), herself an improved version of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ships with gas turbine power. About 45 percent of the "Flight 0" design of this class is based on that of the Makin Island, but with her well deck omitted to allow more room for aircraft, their spare parts and weapons, and their fuel. Note that the gas turbines of the Makin Island, the America, and her possible successors burn the same kind of fuel (JP-5) that is burned in the gas turbines of their helicopters, the jet engines of their AV-8B Harrier fixed-wing attack planes, the engines of the MV-22 Osprey aircraft that they can carry, and (in future ships), the gas turbines of the Landing Craft Air Cushions (LCACs) that they could carry in their well decks. All of this greatly simplifies the storage, distribution, and use of the fuels for these craft.
The typical aircraft complement for the first two vessels is expected to be 12 MV-22B Osprey transports, six STOVL F-35B Lightning II multirole jet aircraft, four CH-53K heavy transport helicopters, seven AH-1Z/UH-1Y attack helicopters, and two Navy MH-60S Knighthawks for air-sea rescue. The exact make-up of the ship's aircraft complements will vary according to her mission. She can carry about 20 AV-8Bs or F-35Bs, and two MH-60Ses to serve as a small aircraft carrier as demonstrated by Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) operations in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Any further warships in this class will also have a well deck for amphibious warfare in their sterns to contain landing craft (such as the Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) exactly as in the Tarawa-class amphibious assault ships (LHA)s and the Wasp-class amphibious assault ships.
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