USS America (LHA-6), is an amphibious assault ship of the United States Navy and the lead ship of her class. The fourth U.S. warship to be named for the United States of America, she was delivered in spring of 2014, replacing Peleliu of the Tarawa class. The design is based on that of USS Makin Island (LHD-8), itself an improved version of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship. Approximately 45% of the Flight 0 design is based on Makin Island, with the well deck removed to allow more room for aircraft and aviation fuel. The removal of the well deck for landing craft allows for an extended hangar deck with two significantly wider high bay areas, each fitted with an overhead crane for aircraft maintenance.
Her mission is to act as the flagship of an expeditionary strike group or amphibious ready group, carrying part of a Marine expeditionary unit into battle and putting them ashore with helicopters and V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, supported by F-35B Lightning II aircraft and helicopter gunships. With a displacement of 45,000 tons, she is as large as many other countries’ aircraft carriers and can fulfill similar missions when configured with 20 F-35B strike fighters. These changes were required in order to operate the F-35B and MV-22, which are considerably larger than the aircraft they replace.
The typical aircraft complement is expected to be 12 MV-22B transports, six STOVL F-35B attack aircraft, four CH-53K heavy transport helicopters, seven AH-1Z/UH-1Y attack/utility helicopters and two Navy MH-60S for air-sea rescue. The exact makeup of the ship’s aircraft complement will vary according to the mission. America can carry 20 F-35B and 2 MH-60S to serve as a small aircraft carrier as demonstrated by LHD operations in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Other enhancements include a re-configurable command and control complex, an on-board hospital, additional aviation fuel capacity and numerous aviation support spaces.