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Meet America's New 'Assault Ship' Armed with F-35s (And Much More)

Kris Osborn

Security,

Firing deck-mounted guns, intercepting enemy cruise missiles, launching F-35B Joint Strike Fighters and using Osprey tiltrotor aircraft to attack behind enemy lines -- are all mission possibilities envisioned for the Navy’s fast-progressing second big-deck America-class amphibious assault ship, the future USS Tripoli. 

(Washington, D.C.) Firing deck-mounted guns, intercepting enemy cruise missiles, launching F-35B Joint Strike Fighters and using Osprey tiltrotor aircraft to attack behind enemy lines -- are all mission possibilities envisioned for the Navy’s fast-progressing second big-deck America-class amphibious assault ship, the future USS Tripoli (LHA 7).

The new ship just completed its acceptance trials in the Gulf of Mexico, a series of exercises intended to prepare the amphib for deployment by assessing its propulsion, communication, navigation, weapons systems and aviation platforms, a Navy statement said.

“You have a work-up cycle where you do various exercises and training to prepare for deployment,” a Navy official told Warrior.

The first America-class amphib, the USS America, has been operational for a while now. The America-class amphibs are engineered to carry Marine Corps attack units, F-35B Short-Take-Off-and-Landing Joint Strike Fighters, Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, CH-53 Super Stallions and UH-1Y Huey helicopters.

Designed as aviation-centric amphibs, the first two America class ships do not have well-deck for amphibious vehicles but rather are engineered with a larger hangar for aircraft, increased storage for parts and support equipment and additional aviation fuel capacity to support a higher op tempo. The third America-class ship, the now under construction LHA 8, will bring back the well deck for amphibious operations.

“The ability to embark Joint Strike Fighters and MV-22 Osprey enable this versatile platform to increase the lethality of our expeditionary warfighters.” Tom Rivers, amphibious warfare program manager for Program Executive Office Ships,“ said in a Navy report.

Progress with the Tripoli aligns with the Navy's fast-evolving modern amphibious attack warfare strategy which envisions big-deck, F-35 and Osprey-armed amphibs as host-platforms launching air support for amphibious attack -- reaching enemy targets with safer stand-off distance, conducting forward reconnaissance and at times operating small fleets of amphibious assets.

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