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USS America (LHA 6) Is a Different Breed of Gator

The U.S. Navy’s newest amphibious assault ship, USS America (LHA 6), may look familiar, but beneath the skin she is significantly different from her near sisters, the Wasp-class LHDs.

The Navy will commission America Oct. 11, 2014, at 1:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time in San Francisco, California, according to a DOD release. A near sister to the Wasp-class amphibious assault ships, the America lacks what all eight Wasp-class ships have: a well deck.

Instead, America is optimized for air operations, with a large portion of the space that would have been taken up by a well deck devoted to increased aviation spaces. Internally, the ship will have increased aviation capacity through an enlarged hangar deck with greater height, realignment and expansion of the aviation maintenance facilities, a significant increase in available stowage for parts and support equipment, and increased aviation fuel capacity, according to the release. America will be able to operate all the rotary wing and tilt-rotor aircraft that the LHDs do, as well as embark a significant number of the new short take off/vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters.

America at sea

The future amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) transits the Pacific Ocean en route to homeport at San Diego. America was traveling through the U.S. Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet areas of responsibility on its maiden transit, “America visits the Americas.” U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan A. Colon

While a first-of-class ship, America will share the fuel-efficient power plant pioneered by USS Makin Island (LHD 8), a hybrid-electric drive that is expected to save tens of millions in fuel costs over the ship’s lifetime. Before her commissioning, America sailed south from the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard where she was built and through the Strait of Magellan. During the transit, she participated in exercises with the navies of several partner nations, and operated a variety of aircraft, including CH-46 Sea Knights on their last deployment for the Marine Corps. The second ship of the class is to be named USS Tripoli.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus will deliver the principal address during the commissioning ceremony, the release said. Lynne Pace, wife of retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is the ship’s sponsor.

“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.