Navy to Commission Amphibious Assault Ship America
WASHINGTON, Oct. 10, 2014 – The U.S. Navy will commission its newest amphibious assault ship, USS America, Oct. 11 during a ceremony at 1 p.m. EDT in San Francisco, according to a Defense Department news release issued today.
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus will deliver the ceremony’s principal address, the release said. Mrs. Lynne Pace, wife of retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is serving as the ship’s sponsor. In a time-honored Navy tradition, Mrs. Pace will give the order to “man our ship and bring her to life.”
“This ship, forged in America, with components and systems manufactured all across America, shall remind us of the long and historic links between our communities and our Navy and Marine Corps,” Mabus said in the release.
“Having a ship named America, sailing the world’s oceans, always present in defense of our freedoms and ready to respond, is yet another extension of our American spirit,” he said.
Optimized for aviation
USS America is the first ship of its class, replacing the Tarawa class of amphibious assault ships. As the next-generation "big-deck" amphibious ship, the USS America is optimized for aviation and will be capable of supporting current and future aircraft such as the tilt-rotor MV-22 Osprey and F-35B Lightning II, according to the release.
The ship is equipped with a fuel-efficient hybrid electric propulsion system, the same built for USS Makin Island, which is an energy initiative designed to give the ship the benefit of increased range, endurance and time on station enhancing USS America’s combat capability, the release said. It also provides greater flexibility with regards to scheduling refueling and reduced maintenance costs.
The USS America provides a flexible, multi-mission platform with capabilities that span the range of military operations -- from forward deployed crisis response to forcible entry operations, the release said. The ship also provides forward presence and power projection as an integral part of joint, interagency and multinational maritime expeditionary forces.
USS America will operate for sustained periods in transit to, and operations in, an amphibious objective area to include: embarking, transporting, controlling, inserting, sustaining and extracting elements of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force, and supporting forces by helicopters and tilt rotors supported by F-35B Lightning II aircraft, according to the release.
The ship, the release said, includes additional aviation spaces and will have an increased aviation capacity, including an enlarged hangar deck, realignment and expansion of the aviation maintenance facilities, a significant increase in available stowage for parts and support equipment, and increased aviation fuel capacity. USS America, as well as the second ship of the class, the future USS Tripoli, will not include a well deck. As the sixth ship in the “landing helicopter assault” category, it will carry the hull classification LHA 6.
America’s commanding officer
Navy Capt. Robert A. Hall Jr. of Billerica, Massachusetts, is the USS America’s commanding officer and he will lead a crew of 1,200 sailors and nearly 1,900 embarked Marines, according to the release. The 44,971-ton ship is 844 feet in length, has an overall beam of 106 feet, and a navigational draft of 26 feet.
Since the American Revolution, three U.S. Navy warships have sailed with the name America, the release noted. The first America was originally a racing schooner launched in 1851 and taken into Confederate naval service in 1861 before being captured and taken into the U.S. Navy service in 1862.
The ship served in the U.S. Navy until 1873 before returning to civilian life racing and cruising. In 1921 the first America was presented to the Navy for preservation as a relic and remained at the U.S. Naval Academy until being scrapped in 1945.
The second America transported troops during World War I, according to the release. The third ship to bear the name was a Kitty-Hawk class aircraft carrier that supported operations from the Vietnam War through Operation Desert Storm. USS America will be the fourth U.S. Navy ship to bear this name.