Tarawa-Class (Amphibious Assault Ship)

The Tarawa class is a ship class of amphibious assault ships/LHA operated by the United States Navy (USN). Five ships were built by Ingalls Shipbuilding between 1971 and 1980; another four ships were planned, but later canceled. As of 2011, only one vessel is active, and the class is due to be replaced by the America class amphibious assault ships from 2013 on.

Name: Tarawa
Builders: Ingalls Shipbuilding
Operators: United States Navy
Preceded by: Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ship
Succeeded by: Wasp-class amphibious assault ship
Built: 15 November 1971 – 3 May 1980
In commission: 29 May 1976–present
Planned: 9
Completed: 5
Cancelled: 4
Active: 1
Retired: 4
General characteristics
Class & type: Amphibious assault ship/LHA
Displacement: 39,967 tonnes (39,336 long tons; 44,056 short tons) full load
Length: 834 feet (254 m)
Beam: 131.9 feet (40.2 m)
Draft: 25.9 feet (7.9 m)
Propulsion: 2 × Combustion Engineering boilers
2 × Westinghouse turbines
70,000 horsepower (52,000 kW)
2 × propeller shafts
1 × bow thruster
Speed: 24 knots (44 km/h; 28 mph)
Range: 10,000 nautical miles (19,000 km; 12,000 mi) at 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph)
Boats & landing
craft carried:
4 × LCU 1610
Or two LCU and two LCM-8
Or 17 LCM-6
Or 45 LVT
Troops: 1,703
Complement: 56 officers, 874 sailors (1998)
Armament: As of 1998:
Mark 49 RAM missile system
2 × Vulcan Phalanx
6 × 25 mm automatic cannons
8 × 12.7 mm machine guns
Previous weapons:
Mark 25 Sea Sparrow missile system (replaced by Phalanx units)
2 × 5-inch (127 mm) Mk 45 lightweight guns (deleted 1997–1998)
Aircraft carried: Up to 19 Sea Stallions, 26 Sea Knights, or mixed airgroup
6 Harrier jump-jets (after modification)
Aviation facilities: 820-by-118.1-foot (250 by 36.0 m) flight deck with 2 aircraft lifts


The vessels have a full load displacement of 39,967 tonnes (39,336 long tons; 44,056 short tons). Each ship is 834 feet (254 m) long, with a beam of 131.9 feet (40.2 m), and a draft of 25.9 feet (7.9 m).

Propulsion is provided by two Combustion Engineering boilers, connected to two Westinghouse turbines. These supply 70,000 horsepower (52,000 kW) to the ship's two propeller shafts. A Tarawa class vessel can reach a maximum speed of 24 knots (44 km/h; 28 mph), and has a maximum range of 10,000 nautical miles (19,000 km; 12,000 mi) at 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph). In addition to the main propulsion system, the ships are fitted with a bow thruster.

As of 1998, the ships' armament consists of a Mark 49 RAM surface-to-air missile system, two Vulcan Phalanx close-in weapons systems, six Mark 242 25 mm automatic cannons, and eight 12.7 mm machine guns. Previously, the amphibious warships were fitted with a Mark 25 Sea Sparrow missile system (which was replaced by the Phalanx units), and two 5-inch (127 mm) Mk 45 lightweight guns in bow sponsons (the guns were removed across the class during 1997 and 1998). Countermeasures and decoys include four Mark 36 SRBOC launchers, a SLQ-25 Nixie towed torpedo decoy, a Sea Gnat unit, SLQ-49 chaff decoys.

The number of helicopters carried by each vessel was up to 19 Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallions, 26 Boeing Vertol CH-46 Sea Knight, or a mix of the two. The 820-by-118.1-foot (250 by 36.0 m) flight deck is fitted with two aircraft lifts, and up to 9 Sea Stallions or 12 Sea Knights can be operated simultaneously. With a small amount of modification, the ships could carry and operate up to six McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II jump-jets.

A LCU returning to USS Belleau Wood's well dock

The Tarawa class ships are designed to embark a reinforced battalion of the United States Marine Corps and their equipment. Onboard accommodation is provided for up to 1,703 marines, while 33,730 cubic feet (955 m3) is provided for the battalion's vehicles, and 116,900 cubic feet (3,310 m3) is allocated for stores and other equipment. As well as deploying by helicopters, personnel and equipment can be embarked or offloaded via a 268-by-78-foot (82 by 24 m) well deck in each ship's stern. Up to four LCU 1610 landing craft can be transported in and operated from the well deck, along with other designs and combinations of landing craft (two LCU and two LCM-8, or 17 LCM-6, or 45 LVT).

The Tarawa design was later repeated for the Wasp class amphibious assault ships, with some changes. The main changes to the latter eight-ship class include the lower placement of the ship's bridge aboard the Wasps, the relocation of the command and control facilities to inside the hull, modifications to allow the operation of Harrier jump-jets and Landing Craft Air Cushion hovercraft, and removal of the 5-inch guns and their sponsons to increase the overall size of the flight deck.


Laid down
USS Tarawa (LHA-1) 15 November 1971 1 December 1973 29 May 1976 31 March 2009 Awaiting disposal
USS Saipan (LHA-2) 21 July 1972 18 July 1974 15 October 1977 25 April 2007 Sold for scrap
USS Belleau Wood (LHA-3) 5 March 1973 11 April 1977 23 September 1978 28 October 2005 Sunk as target ship on 13 July 2006
USS Nassau (LHA-4) 5 March 1973 21 January 1978 28 July 1979 31 March 2011 In reserve
USS Peleliu (LHA-5) 12 November 1976 25 November 1978 3 May 1980 Active as of 2013


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