The USS America: An LHA Which Isn’t


2012-10-20 by Robbin Laird

The USS America was christened today in the Ingalls shipyard.

This is the fourth ship to bear the name USS America.

History of USS America

It was done with a gathering of veterans, ship workers, and industrialists, members of the crew and various high ranking military officers and civilian officials.

“I know you (the crew of the former USS America) would love the name to go to an aircraft carrier, but this ship is mini-aircraft carrier.” Credit Photo: SLD

The wife of the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (General Pace) was the ship’s sponsor and provided modesty and grace to the ceremony.  She recognized the achievements of the past USS America and the veterans of the ship in the audience.

She also delivered one of the best lines of the day:

“I know you (the crew of the former USS America) would love the name to go to an aircraft carrier, but this ship is mini-aircraft carrier.”

Good insight from Lynne Pace and a response to those troubled by the missing well deck!

The President of Ingalls Shipbuilding (Irwin Edenzon) provided a sterling introduction to the ceremonies by honoring the workers of Ingalls who have collectively built more than half of all active USN surface ships.

One highlight of this presentation was introducing the audience to a father (who is building the ship) and a sone (who is in the USN) and will serve in the ship. 

The executive simply drove home the point that the workers carry about the quality of their work because they understand the consequenc3s of failure for those serving aboard the ships built in the yard.

The Commandant focused upon the meaning of the ship within overall national strategy.

He underscored that having the kind of forward presence which the ship would provide was crucial for influencing events and giving the President options to deal with crises.  He cited the famous operations at the beginning of the Afghan war whereby the USN-USMC team went deep into Afghanistan from large deck amphibs and set up Camp Rhino.

The clear implication was that with the increased capability which new aviation will provide for this class of ship, one could expect more of this type of operational dynamic.

The Vice CNO (Admiral Mark Ferguson) who is a surface warrior focused on the importance of adding a surface ship of such size and capability to the fleet.  He emphasized that global presence was built upon such capability being inherent within the fleet, and able to support the USN-USMC team.

In short, the day provided an opening on the era of innovation which this ship will bring to the USN-USMC team, the joint commander and to coalition operations.

Although it is called an LHA (Landing Helicopter Assault) ship it is not.  It is moving far beyond what a helo amphibious ship can provide for operations and for assault from the sea.

And it is the lead ship in driving a new cycle of innovation for the USN-USMC team.

This will be a focus of follow on pieces.

And for an earlier piece see the following:

And for the Navy reportage on the event see the following text and link:

The newest amphibious assault ship America (LHA 6) was christened Oct. 20 at a ceremony in Pascagoula, Miss.

“When America joins the fleet, we’ll be a stronger, more flexible, and a better Marine Corps team. We need this ship,” said Vice Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mark Ferguson during the ceremony.

The 844-foot ship will be a flexible, multi-mission platform necessary to quickly respond to incidents world-wide and provide forward presence and project power as part of joint, interagency, and multinational maritime expeditionary forces.

America also marks the first of the Navy’s newest class of amphibious assault ships replacing the Tawara class. It is considered to be the next generation “big-deck” amphibious ship. The new ship will be more capable to support current and future aircraft such as the tilt-rotor MV-22 Osprey and Joint Strike Fighter.

“It’s kind of like a mini-aircraft carrier,” said Lynne Pace, the ship’s sponsor prior to breaking a bottle of champagne over the bow. 

As an amphibious ship, its mission will include embarking, transporting, controlling, inserting, sustaining and extracting elements of a marine air-ground task force, and support forces by helicopters and tilt-rotor aircraft.

“To the crew, you are charged with a very special responsibility between now and the commissioning of this ship. You will set the standard of excellence. You will set the personality,” Ferguson told the ship’s crew.

This is the fourth ship in Navy history to be named America. The first was a 74-gun ship-of-of-the-line that was used by the Continental Navy that was then presented to the king of France as a gift in appreciation for his country’s support to the new nation. The preceding America was a Kitty-Hawk class aircraft carrier that played key roles between the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm.

Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., laid the keel in July 2009 and plans to deliver the ship in 2013 after conducting a series of sea trials.

The USS America will be homeported in San Diego.