The USS America is slated to replace the Tarawa class of ships and achieve operational capability this year. As the lead ship in her American class family, she will take the role of amphibious assault ship and feature top of the line systems and resources in support of US Navy and US Marine operations around the globe. Her offensive air arm will consist of the tilt-rotor Bell V-22 Osprey transport helicopter as well as the Lockheed F-35B “Lightening II” Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing (V/STOL) series of next generation jet fighters. In all the USS America will be able to stock up to 36 fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. Additionally, the USS America will be able to field modern helicopter types already in use by the USN and Marine Corps. Machinery for the vessel will consist of gas turbine propulsion brought about by a pair of marine gas turbines delivering 70,000bhp to two propeller shafts. Additional power will come from the fitting of two 5,000 horsepower auxiliary propulsion motors.
The USS America LHA-6 is essentially a small aircraft carrier, fielding a much smaller air arm than her larger nuclear powered contemporaries such as the USS Ronald Reagan as well as a smaller contingent of 1,059 operational personnel including 65 officers. Furthermore, the vessel will contain housing for up to 1,687 Marines on mission with room for an additional 184 if pressed. There is one runway running from bow to stern with the island superstructure set off to the starboard side of the vessel. Powered hangar elevators transport aircraft from the flight deck to the subdeck below, for either storage or maintenance. The vessel will measure a length of 844 feet with a beam of approximately 106 feet. Top speed in optimal conditions is estimated at 20 knots, perhaps slightly more. Self defense will be handled by 2X Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) systems as well as 2X Evolved Sea Sparrow surface to air missile systems for distance protection against airborne threats. Close-in defense will be managed by 2X 20mm Phalanx CIWS (Close In Weapon System) as well as up to seven .50 caliber heavy machine guns.
Northrop Grumman Ship Systems is charged with construction of the new USS America, the contract being awarded on June 1st, 2007. The keel of the USS America was laid down on July 17th, 2009 in a formal ceremony marking the event.
Recent changes to the procurement of some key Marine equipment may lessen the reach of the America class amphibious assault ships. As of this writing, the USS America is the only planned vessel of her class.