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The Wasp’s New Heat-Resistant Deck Coating

by John Reed on October 25, 2011

Remember a few weeks ago when we ran the picture above showing an F-35B Joint Strike Fighter hovering over what appears to be a new deck coating aboard the USS Wasp?

We wondered is the coating was designed to absorb the F-35B’s hot exhaust that many had worried would melt the ship’s deck. Well, the Navy has just put out a little more detail on the coating in a press release announcing the end of F-35B sea trials.

It turns out, this is indeed a new, heat-resistant deck coating called Thermion. It’s made of bonded ceramic and aluminum and was applied to landing spot nine on the Wasp’s flight deck — “a small area used for vertical landings,” according to the Navy.

The press release quotes a Navy technician who worked on the deck coating as saying, “the Thermion shows no signs of heat stress, which is good for the F-35, and eventually good for all surface ships.”

Interesting. I wonder if Thermion will be applied to the entire flight deck on amphibious assault ships slated to carry F-35Bs or is it too heavy and expensive to apply to the entire flight deck?

The Bravo isn’t slated to return for more sea trials aboard the Wasp until 2013, “after Wasp receives additional modifications for F-35B operations,” states the release.

Speaking of modifications, we also noticed that a large radome has been removed from the ship’s port side, just off the flight deck area where the F-35s were landing. Relocating this radome could be one of the modifications the release is talking about.



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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

RunningBear October 25, 2011 at 11:55 am

The dome mount was instrumented for the "Bee" tests of sound and heat measurement. Easy off, easy on! Thermion (new tough stuff) is also to be tested for the V-22 and if successful will replace (on attrition) deck material for both type a/c landing platforms, LHA, LHD, etc..


Lance October 25, 2011 at 3:15 pm

That's bad news for the B model F-35. The cost of retrofitting all carrier and assault ship decks would cost alot more and in a tight fisted era could prove fatal for the B.


wpnexp October 30, 2011 at 7:40 am

That is silly. To suggest that we would cut a multi-billion dollar fighter program due to resurfacing of a ship deck is silly. Especially since the new deck coating would also be useful for current aircraft like Harriers, V-22s and other aircraft.


Guest October 25, 2011 at 8:05 pm

The Thermion is not the large patch of dark gray non-skid that the jet pictured is landing on. Thermion is the small lighter gray rectangle at the very back of the darker area. Notice the lighter yellow aft on the tram line and the light gray area next to it. That is the Thermion.

The rest is standard non-skid.


Guest October 25, 2011 at 8:14 pm

Lance, read what running Bear said — if it was effective, Thermion will be used as a replacement material for standard non-skid when a ship goes through the yards for standard refit.

If it worked, what a concept — equal or more effective, more durable, and cost-neutral compared to the old stuff.


Hunter78 October 25, 2011 at 8:50 pm

Oh, good, now they can land Harriers.


Kski October 25, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Well at least it won't melt our own flight decks.


G SMITH October 25, 2011 at 9:33 pm



Zach October 25, 2011 at 10:18 pm

i thought the USS Intrepid picked him up?


mhmm... October 26, 2011 at 2:44 am

Wasp picked up plenty of Gemini capsules but no Scot Carpenter or Mercury capsules


itfunk October 26, 2011 at 12:55 am

Expensive and difficult to maintain but when your looking at 1 trillion dollars in maintenance costs to keep the F-35 flying you might as well hit up the Chinese for a few billion more.


jatsims November 23, 2011 at 3:44 pm

The deck coating is by a company called Thermion. http://www.thermioninc.com/


phrogdriver October 26, 2011 at 1:36 am

The USMC isn't buying Rhinos. Unless we tell it to abandon small deck strike, it needs a V/STOL replacement. Yemen and Libya have both validated this requirement. Especially with the V-22 now a majority of medium lift, the JSF has taken an even more important role in the USMC long-term plan. If the USMC is indeed necking-down, it'd be better off shedding CVN/land-based strike than V/STOL.


Jeff October 26, 2011 at 10:14 am

I think the largest single cost of canceling the F-35 and going to the Super Hornet is the cost of replacing or modifying ships. You'd probably spend $40B doing that, which wipes out any savings you'd get by going with an older aircraft design. If this were hypothetically part of a more comprehensive plan to expand the number of full sized or nuclear super carriers to supplement existing amphibious assault ships.


blight October 26, 2011 at 8:48 am

One could argue that the point of -A and -C would be to bring the price point down by economy of scale for parts. This may be true…as soon as we pay the butcher's bill in R&D costs, and have the willpower to /not/ cut the buy a la B-2.

This is a sign that we should have strung out the competition longer before selecting between Boeing and Lockmart. Nothing like a little competition to incentivize efficiency.

OTOH, would it be so hard for the military to also encourage innovation in equipment areas independent of these fighter contracts? Otherwise it seems every aircraft contract has to bundle in lots R&D to develop systems as well as integrate them. Encouraging testbed integrations wouldn't be a bad idea either.


Black Owl October 26, 2011 at 4:24 pm

What would you be modifying or replacing? Everything works pretty well in conjunction with the Super Hornets.


Black Owl October 26, 2011 at 4:30 pm

The fact that the design is old doesn't mean anything if it is still effective. The A-10 is old. The AK-47 is old. Old does not equal obsolete.

Yes, the Super Hornet is matched by the Flanker, but our pilots are much better trained than anyone flying the Flanker now. Our pilots are much better than all our potential adversaries and that is what will allow them to win.

The PAK-FA and the J-20 aren't going to be in production for a long time. The smart thing to do would be to cancel the F-35 and use the savings from the F-35 to buy more F-22 Raptors.


tiger October 26, 2011 at 6:36 pm

Don't so sure. We have underestimated the abilities of the bad guys in every war. You sound like guys in 1940 Who thought the ZERO was no big deal.


Guest October 26, 2011 at 7:48 pm

The PAK-FA and J-20 will definately be in service faster than we could design a brand new fighter from the ground up if the F35 is cancelled.

I'm so tired of the Super Hornet being thrown around as the end all solution. As stated, it is outmatched even by the current advanced Flanker models, then there's the issue of it lacking true stealth to protect it from advanced SAMs. Assuming that better enemy fighters will be defeated solely due to incompetant pilots is yet another very dangerous notion.
Don't get me wrong, I love the SuperBug. It's a great fighter-bomber, but in the coming decades it will need to work with stealth aircraft to remain effective.

As much as I'd love to see more Raptors, let's not forget that one of the big reasons why it was truncated is because it lacks multirole capabilities, which are very important nowadays. It can only perform very basic bombing missions. Not exactly a good substitute for an F-16 style aircraft.


Black Owl October 26, 2011 at 8:40 pm

And you sound like those guys that thought the F-4 Phantom was going to be the supreme air dominance fighter before Vietnam.


Black Owl October 26, 2011 at 8:53 pm

I agree that the SH will need to work with stealth aircraft, but what I am saying is the stealth aircraft need to be affordable and practical and the F-35 is not either of those things. In fact the upgraded Super Hornet Block III that Boeing is promoting has drastically improved low observable capabilities. The EA-18G supplements the Super Hornet against modern SAMs with excellent jamming. This can handle a vast majority of modern radars as well as enemy fighters. For everything else there's the F-22.

Not only that, but the JSF when it is in a stealthy configuration can't match the Raptor in the multi-role area either since it holds less ordinance. When it has external ordinance it can't match the Super Hornet's performance in the multi-role arena. The F-35B is a maintenance nightmare and it will cost more money that we can spare to get it operating again. Why not just buy F-22s and Block III F/A-18E/Fs? This is a mixed force that can handle anything, is practical, and is affordable. The F-35 is entirely unnecessary and more expensive than it's performance is worth.


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