2014 Event Review

USS America (LHA 6) Commissioning, Pier 30/32, San Francisco, CA
Location: San Francisco, CA
Admission :N/A
Parking: N/A
Value: Excellent
Rating out of 10: N/A not an air show
 
the Commanding Officer
Capt. Robert A. Hall Jr., commanding officer of USS America

USS America, the newest and most technologically advanced amphibious assault ship in the fleet, was commissioned during a formal ceremony on October 11, 2014 at San Francisco’s Pier 30/32 during the city’s annual Fleet Week. It is the fourth Navy ship to carry the name America, but it is the first in its class, replacing the Tarawa-class of amphibious assault ships. LHA 6 is a Landing Helicopter Assault ship optimized for aviation and will be able to accommodate a variety of aircraft ranging from current rotorcraft such as the AH-1Z Super Cobra and MV-22 Osprey to the newest addition to the Marine’s STOVL (Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing) jet inventory, the F-35B Lightning II. The ship is distinctive in that it lacks a “well deck,” the area at the rear of amphibious assault ships which can be flooded to allow landing craft such as the LCAC (Landing Craft Air Cushion) to dock. Instead, the space is devoted to sustaining increased aviation operations: much larger hangar space, double the aviation fuel capacity and increased room for ordnance. Both the MV-22 Osprey and the F-35B Lightning II are much larger and much more complex than the aircraft which they replace (the CH-46 Sea Knight and AV-8B Harrier II, respectively), requiring more hangar space and maintenance capacity to keep them up and operating.

Prior to the commissioning, members of the media were invited on board to tour the ship. Capt. Robert A. Hall Jr., commanding officer of USS America, addressed reporters and journalists and answered their questions. The exact composition of the ship’s complement of aircraft at any particular time would depend on its mission. But it is expected to host nine F-35B Joint Strike Fighters, twelve MV-22 Osprey, four each of the AH-1Z Super Cobra and CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters, three UH-1Y Huey helicopter s and two MH-60S Seahawk helicopters. Examples of all of the helicopters were arrayed on the flight deck, as was an AV-8B Harrier II used for maintenance training. An Osprey was stored below decks in the aviation hangar, along with a number of M1161 ITV Growler Fast Attack Vehicles. The Internally Transportable Vehicle was specially designed to be transported internally by the Osprey. Further below deck were several LAV-25s. The Light Armored Vehicle can be transported externally by the CH-53E Super Stallion.

The first America was originally a racing schooner, after which the America’s Cup was named and served in the Navy until 1873. The second ship to bear the name America was a German passenger liner seized during World War I and used as a troop transport. The third USS America, CV-66, was a Kitty-Hawk class aircraft carrier commissioned 50 years ago. It supported operations from the Vietnam War through Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm before being scuttled in 2005 after live-fire testing. USS America, LHA 6, is now home-ported in Naval Base San Diego where it is undergoing a series of test and evaluation procedures. It is expected to take its maiden deployment in 2016.

USS America in her home port San Diego, CA.
USS America in her home port San Diego, CA. (US Navy photo)
Report and photography by Norman A. Graf for The Aviation Magazine

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