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First America-class Amphib Nears Completion

by Kris Osborn on June 4, 2013

120605-O-ZZ999-001The U.S. Navy is preparing for final integration and sea trial tests for the amphibious assault ship America (LHA-6), the first in a series of planned next-generation “America-class” big-deck, hybrid-electric amphibs slated to enter the fleet in coming years, service officials said.

The USS America, the first of as many of 11 planned America-class amphibs, is now nearly 90-percent complete at a Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) facility in Pascagoula, Miss., said Capt. Chris Mercer, Amphibious Warfare program manager.

Initial Operating Capability for the USS America is planned for September of 2016, once the ship finishes up its builder’s trails and acceptance trails, Mercer said.

“Eleven ships is our stated requirement for large-deck Amphibious Assault Ships. About every four or five years we are procuring a large-deck amphib. Eventually all of the America-class ships will replace all of the Wasp-class ships and all of the Tarawa-class ships,” Mercer explained.

The second America-class amphib, the USS Tripoli, is now also under construction at the same HII location in Mississippi.

Overall, the America-class amphibs are designed with a larger deck space, compared to prior Wasp-class ships; they are built to accommodate new and emerging Naval and Marine Corps air assets such as the MV-22 Osprey tilt-router helicopter, the Corps’ Vertical Take-off-and-Landing Harrier Jet as well as the Marine Corps’ short take off and landing variant of the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, Mercer explained.

“The future USS America is all about aviation. Think about the power projection and sustained presence of joint or multi-national expeditionary warfare capability centered around ships loaded up with the capabilities that a JSF and MV-22 bring you,” Mercer said.

The amphibs will be the lead vessel in what the Navy calls Amphibious Ready Groups, groups of air, sea and ground assets designed for expeditionary warfare including an Amphibious Transport Dock and a Dock Landing Ship.

The Amphibious Ready Group is able to launch an air cushioned ship to shore transport vessel called the Landing Craft, Air Cushioned (LCAC). LCACs are engineered to transport cargo, personnel, weapons, equipment and even an M1 Abrams tank — from over the horizon onto shore, Mercer explained.

Landing Craft Utility (LCU) vessels are also an integral part of an Amphibious Ready Group, Mercer said. In fact, the Navy is now working on an analysis of alternatives such that it can launch an acquisition program to acquire as many as 32 new LCUs.

The America and the Tripoli will also carry CH-53 Sea Stallion, MH-60 Sea Hawk and AH-1Z Super Cobra helicopters.

LHA 6 and LHA 7, both now under contract and under construction, are being built with what Mercer referred to as a Flight 0 configuration. They are designed as large-deck amphibs with no well-deck, yet engineered to transport a Marine Air Ground Task Force or a Marine Expeditionary Unit with supporting gear including ground and air assets — such that they can project and sustain power as needed.

Following completion and delivery of the America and Tripoli, the next several America-class amphibs, however, will be built with what’s called a Flight 1 configuration with a new increment of capability that includes a well-deck.

LHA 8, 9 and 10 will be engineered with the re-introduction of a well-deck into a ship that is, by design, aviation centric, Mercer explained. Flight 1 America-class amphibs will also have a slightly smaller island so as to allow for more maintenance area for the large aircraft such as the MV-22 and JSF.

“Flight 1 ships will be the next-increment of capability. It is a balanced ship design where we have kept the aviation-support aspects of a large-deck. With Flight 1, we’ll be able to do maintenance without clobbering the flight line,” he said.

HYBRID-ELECTRIC PROPULSION

Unlike the largely steam-powered Wasp and Tawara-class Amphibious Assault Ships, the entire fleet of America-class Amphibs will be propelled by hybrid-electric drive technology, Mercer explained.

Hybrid-electric propulsion systems use a gas turbine engine as well as an electric motor and diesel generator. The electric motors can help propel the ship at speeds up to around 12 knots and the generator can help produce electricity for the ship. When it comes to traveling at speeds greater than 12 knots or so, the ship can then rely upon its gas-turbine engine.

At the same time, the generators can provide on-board power for many of the ships systems such as sensors, weapons and other electronics, Navy officials said.

“Future warships will have huge electrical demands, in addition to propulsion for things like radar, weapons and electronics,” said Ron Filadelfo, director, environment and energy research team, Center for Naval Analysis. “This is a big plus for the Navy because the system adds fuel efficiency at low speeds and does not detract anything at high speeds – so it seems to be a win-win.”

The hybrid-drive allows the ship to propel itself using either electric drives or a traditional gas turbine engine.  Electric propulsion and turbine engine propulsion are both integrated through what’s called a main reduction gear (MRG), a portion of the ship’s propulsion system which helps convert energy into the revolutions needed for the propellers to move the ship through the water, according to Navy officials.

“This unique auxiliary propulsion system (APS) is designed with fuel efficiency in mind. The APS uses two induction-type auxiliary propulsion motors (APM) powered from the ship’s electrical grid instead of using main propulsion engines to power the ship’s shaft,” a Navy official said.

Instead of using its gas turbines which are less efficient at lower speeds, the ship will be able to use its APS for roughly 75 percent of the time the ship is underway, Mercer added.

“We’ve found the sweet spot in terms of something that is very affordable, regarding the 5,000-horsepower auxiliary propulsion motor that we integrate into our design. It is a good sweet spot, because for about 75-percent of the ship’s life it will be traveling under twelve knots. For that we can be utilizing the hybrid-electric drive,” Mercer said.

The Navy plans to continue studying and advancing hybrid-electric ship propulsion such that it can potentially be applied to other platforms and possibly evolve such that it can propel ships at even faster speeds, Mercer added.

“We’ve done studies and we will continue to do the studies to develop something that gives you a little more speed. We’re always studying ideas that give us even more energy efficiency,” he said.

“The semi-conductor industry is going to get better and better, so you are going to be able to deliver more power with a higher density.”

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{ 77 comments… read them below or add one }

orly? June 4, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Wonderful!

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Nicky June 4, 2013 at 6:16 pm

Maybe we see if we can sell some to UK or Canada for Money

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Brian Black June 4, 2013 at 8:26 pm
USMC-FO June 5, 2013 at 9:10 am

LOL :-)

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Brian Black June 4, 2013 at 8:27 pm
Jayson June 5, 2013 at 9:25 am

Canada seems to only buy substandard surplus. Make a few in that category and it's definite sale.

Bad jokes (Canada in general) aside, I agree this class of ship is useful for a number of NATO countries, Taiwan, India, Aussies, etc etc. It should be a hot seller and in high demand. Good job.

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Guest June 5, 2013 at 10:19 am

This is not an amphib period, exclaimation point. It is a mini-carrier. I am having a hard time figuring out why they spent all this money to build an "amphib" without a well deck. This ship can do nothing more than a conventional carrier. "They are designed as large-deck amphibs with no well-deck, yet engineered to transport a Marine Air Ground Task Force or a Marine Expeditionary Unit with supporting gear including ground and air assets — such that they can project and sustain power as needed. " If the plan is to airlift all the ground support equipment needed to support a ground/beach assault, it can be done from other platforms far more easily. I am just having a hard time understanding this one.

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DaBrain June 5, 2013 at 10:53 am

It makes sure the Marines have an air wing and a ship to support them taht basically they control the direction on. Hence they now will have 2 mini carriers. AFter that, the design will revert to more traditional means. I would not be stunned if various configurations at times will be heavy on f-35's as opposed to choppers and ospreys. The later versions again, more similar to Tarawa and Wasp in the aircraft mix.

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tmb2 June 5, 2013 at 4:14 pm

A MAGTF is made up of several ships. I highly doubt the task force would be just the mini-carriers.

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CharleyA June 5, 2013 at 10:09 pm

Only two will be built to this configuration. The adults have directed that future America class LHAs will have a proper well deck.

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blight_ June 6, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Joke: How does one get a shipyard to make mini-carriers in a country where we like nuclear carriers?

Answer: Call it a Marine amphib.

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Tom June 25, 2013 at 6:04 pm

Super Nuke carriers are dinosaurs. I still luv em, but, they are nothing but beefy targets that we would lose fairly quickly fighting a real naval power.

Tom June 25, 2013 at 6:03 pm

A FULL air wing to support Marines on the beach. Also, needed the room normally dedicated to the well deck for aircraft maintenance and other operations. I believe that LHA 8 and after will have the well deck reincorporated , though, at that point they may not be able to carry the same complement of aircraft as LHA 6 and 7. The F35 and especially the Osprey take up much more space (especially in maintenance) than the old Harrier and complement of Helos. Also, with the Osprey, they can forward deploy Marines deeper and faster off the beach than the helos and the amphibs that would use the old well deck. Face it, Marines aren't going to be storming any beaches WW2 style going forward.

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Nicky June 11, 2013 at 4:16 pm

I would think that Canada can go with a Mistral LHD or the Juan Carlos I LHD. They would have to make a massive helicopter purchase and man it jointly with the Canadian Army, Navy, Air force and Coast Guard.

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The Old Bear June 5, 2013 at 1:06 pm

We can't afford nor need a ship that huge. We do a need a replacement soon for the obsolete HMS Ocean which was built without a well deck as it is basically a de-rated Invincible class Helicopter Cruiser.
We need a ship about the same size as the French Mistral class, which about 22,000 tonnes. Also please remember we have only a small Brigade size amphibious force of about 3,000 men split into two Battle groups which have a significantly smaller equipment footprint than an equivalent USMC unit. We don't need to carry so many refrigerators stuffed with bottles of beer and rib-eyed steak.

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orly? June 6, 2013 at 9:55 am

"We don't need to carry so many refrigerators stuffed with bottles of beer." – The Old Bear

Who carries beer in their ships?

The US Navy has been sailing "dry" for ALONG time.

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blight_ June 6, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Join the Aussies and buy a Canberra (based off the Spanish Juan Carlos)

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Nicky June 11, 2013 at 4:15 pm

That's why the Brits need to replace HMS Ocean with either a French Mistral Class LHD or Austrailia/Spain's Juan Carlos I LHD. The America Class LHA could possibly replace the Invincible class Helicopter Cruiser.

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Prodozul June 4, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Why Tripoli?

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GetON! June 4, 2013 at 7:36 pm
Prodozul June 4, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Thank you sir

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orly? June 5, 2013 at 12:05 pm

lol, no one started singing

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Greg June 6, 2013 at 1:53 pm

One of the first Amphibious Operations via Naval ships was the Marines intervention in Tripoli to stop the Barbary Coast Pirates of the North African coast who were supressing international commerce by capturing commercial vessels, their cargo and the crews. In 1785 and beyond America and other countires paid a quarter million dollars a year to the pirates for safe passage. About 1805 is when the first action above was taken. It is Naval and Marine Corps history. Marines Hymn ''From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli."

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Mike June 27, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Read US Marine History

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Mitch S. June 4, 2013 at 8:56 pm

Hybrid eh?
Hope the Navy applies for a $7500.00 hybrid/electric vehicle credit from the EPA.
Also hope they didn't use the same designer for the electrical grid that did the electrical systems on Carnival cruise liners!

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Rexford June 5, 2013 at 7:05 pm

well, the USS America is basically a follow on to the last Wasp Class Amphib, LHD-8, the USS Makin Island, which is also a hybrid/electric drive ship..

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stephen russell June 4, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Recall our first carrier CV named USS America, then it got cancelled for the Forrestal class in the 1940s I believe

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blight_ June 5, 2013 at 8:57 am

The first CV was the Langley, a converted collier, followed by the Lex and Saratoga from converted battlecruiser hulls. The next three were (in no particular order) Wasp, Hornet, Ranger?

The escort carriers would come later, along with the Essex class and the USS Midway, then the Forrestal.

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USS ENTERPRISE June 5, 2013 at 5:49 pm

No Big E?

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J4rH34d June 4, 2013 at 10:13 pm

Hybrid is old naval tech. Most submarines used it in both World Wars.

It just may have improved since then.

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PolicyWonk June 4, 2013 at 10:33 pm

LHA-6 and LHA-7 are not innovative in any way as far as flight operations are concerned. These are simply what we used to call a "CV" (without the catapult or angled flight deck). The omission of the well deck is considered by many a serious mistake, which is why the actual America class will end with only 2 ships (LHA-7, Tripoli, being the second and last).

The well deck is a considerable addition, and should maybe be considered nearly a different class of vessel – though from the outside the ship will resemble each other closely.

The hybrid diesel-generator/electric drive isn't that much of an innovation, as we had a few ships built that way during WW2. What is comparatively new, is the addition of a turbine to increase the ships speed should it be necessary.

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Fuse June 4, 2013 at 10:55 pm

right -The company I worked for when I got out of school in 1973 was using diesel generator with electric main shaft motors, electric thrusters etc. for powering their drill ships.

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Fuse June 4, 2013 at 11:00 pm

I also forgot that tubo-electric drives were used in several pre wwii ships- Lexington and Saratoga

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Mitch S. June 5, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Son of a gun I didn't know about Lex and Saratoga.
Today's ships with "pod" drive are all diesel (and /or gas turbine)/electric. That includes most newer cruise ships which is why they get stranded when their electrical system goes down (I assume the Navy built in some redundancy).
And lets not forget about diesel-electric locomotives, large mining equipment etc etc

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Rexford June 5, 2013 at 7:06 pm

looks like LHA-8+ will be follow on's to the USS Makin Island more than anything..

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d. kellogg June 5, 2013 at 7:32 am

Curious about the ships' radar suites and weapons systems (ESSM and RAM, I'll assume).

Can't remember which radar contractor it was, but just recently (past few months, February or March maybe) one of them announced plans to marinize one of their newer aircraft AESA radars for shipborne use, grouping 3-4 of them on a multi-sided mast, in effect creating miniaturized SPY/Aegis capabilities but at far lower weights than a full SPY-1 system.
Damn all wish I save that link, anyone else remember who it was?
Such a set up would readily fit ships of this size, and being an AESA primarily designed for aicraft, there may even be some spares/commonality if it was/is the same folks building Super Hornet and F-35 AESAs.

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ShellfishJello June 5, 2013 at 8:08 am

trails or trials?

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docingram June 5, 2013 at 10:12 am

the concept is a floating base to operate offshore. this would save lots of $$$ as supply ships could slide right up and offload AT SEA . now can we close some of those overseas bases? hopefully that we will not encounter a land locked enemy. i would be much happier if the entire ship had some kind of a solar system covering the entire ship as a starting source of saving energy. i would place my money on someone coming up with solar system that could be incorporated right into the flight deck, that would really be something, if a system, that produces 50% of a vessels power could be installed.

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orly? June 5, 2013 at 12:07 pm

You're new at this aren't you?

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tmb2 June 5, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Solar panels are highly vulnerable to impacts. Coating a flight deck with them would break the cells by sunrise on the first day.

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JoeSovereign June 6, 2013 at 11:18 am

Depends on what kind of solar system you use. Maybe it could absorb enemy radar and convert that to electricity too.

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Dr. Horrible June 6, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Are you being sarcastic, or no?
#PoesLaw

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USS ENTERPRISE June 5, 2013 at 5:50 pm

"Green warfare", for me, means extensive camo.

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DC2 Jennings June 5, 2013 at 12:21 pm

I would imagine the combined diesel generator / gas turbine propulsion can also be used when there is a high electrical demand (aka rail gun or laser) as well. Interesting concept. The other 25% of the time the ship is probably considered being in a combat situation where all electricity can be diverted to ships power and the gas turbines fully propel the ship.

Interesting and well thought out concept.

BZ Navy.

DC2

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Lance June 5, 2013 at 1:55 pm

SO since the F-35B is a waste will this hold more AV-8Bs?

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Rbrtlittle October 21, 2013 at 8:09 pm

What AV-8B's would that be? The planes now have so many hours that the maintenance required to keep them in the air is prohibitive. The Marines will be the first service to go operational with the F-35, and considering how many nations have ordered the plane, and how vituperative China and Russia have been about it, it sounds like you've been reading the wrong mail. In some areas, they (all three F-35 versions) will be superior to the F-22, built by the same company. The Harrier is now older than its pilots, but if you think that's the way to go, I'm sure the Indians would love to sell you theirs.

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USS ENTERPRISE June 5, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Still larger than a lot of other carriers…..

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Joe June 6, 2013 at 10:34 am

It is larger than any carrier excepting the forrestal class and larger

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Peter June 5, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Looks great, I just really wish it wasn't based around the F35. I still have my doubts about that project ever working out fuly!

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brownie June 5, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Smart way for the Marines to sneak in 2 pocket aircraft carriers for F-35s (like the Brits are building) and then switch back to traditional well decks. Avoided a political debate.

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Jay June 5, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Absolutely awesome!

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P w prawl cdr,usn June 5, 2013 at 8:40 pm

I spent a tour on an amphib (AKA96) that could only do 14 kts. Rest of amphib squadron could do 22, so we operated up & down Vietnam coast as an orphan. 12 kts is much too slow, maybe 20 or 22 at least, with spurts to 30-35 for flite ops, defense, etc. the faster the wind over the deck, les hovering v-22 and vertijets have to do and subsequent INCREASED PAYLOADS!

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Jay June 5, 2013 at 10:09 pm

it's 12 kts on just electric power. faster than that with the gas-turbine engine.

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Professor Ski!!! June 5, 2013 at 10:13 pm

Perfect!!! Now how about we reinstate a couple of old battleships for sea-based shock and awe, what pirate would dare shoot at the Wisconsin, Iowa, or New Jersey??? Besides its just another thing we can wave in front of the chicoms to piss them off

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Big-Dean June 6, 2013 at 9:18 pm

The chicoms are already pissed off because some countries are pushing back on their ancient claim that they own ALL of the planet earth and the moon.

But their claim to Pluto is a little dubious…

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Restore Palestine June 8, 2013 at 2:06 am

Actually China and Japan co-own planet earth – they own the US, and through that the rest of the earth. Since China will be the first nation to land a man on the moon, Japan will probably concede Lunar ownership to China.

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Rob C. June 5, 2013 at 10:19 pm

Finally getting the ship out of yards is good thing. This ship been in worked on for a while. I'm kinda surprised the Navy / Marines are going with long use it as basis as replacement for Tarawa and ultimately the Wasp Classes. 2 dedicated Aviation dedicated ships while rest are more traditional amphious assault ships.

I hope the hybrid power plant works out, the older main reduction gears used on the steam ships were so complicated that I was told the Navy leased these things instead of own them because how compicated they are.

I think only thing makes me uncertain about the Hybrid power plants is their going be dependant on software that seems to be highly vunerable to glitches to hackers.

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Dr. Horrible June 6, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Why must it be vulnerable to glitches and/or/to hackers? Like the guy up top said: hybrid's been around for half of a century.

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Rob C. June 7, 2013 at 9:17 pm

This is differient. Todays warships are more computer driven & controled. Its nothing against it being Hybrid. Its its computer network that controls the ship itself is what i'm concerned about. USS Langley CV-1 was a hybrid, but it was using analog equipment which couldn't be tampered with by outside sources.

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Ken Badoian September 17, 2013 at 8:38 am

Old wives tale…Navy owned them and they were very reliable. All steam powered ships had/have reduction gears. The design has not changed much since prior to WW2. Served on two "nuke" submarines and three steam powered ships and never had a problem. They all had the same basic designed reduction gears. Also all Gas turbine Ships (currently and not the new high-bred) have reduction gears. High speed turbine (team or gas) RPM's reduced to low speed shaft speed.
Turbines operate more effecently at high speed, props at low speed. Gas turbine ships have variable pitch props so the shaft speed is constant and the prop blades are rotated. Steam ships have a direct drive with the shaft speed controlled by the amount of steam admitted to the turbines. Also steam turbines have a seperate astern throttle. To go astern in a gas turbine ship the prop blades are changed. MMCS(SS)(SW)

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blight_ September 17, 2013 at 9:11 am

Surprised they don't call the first two LHA's LHP (Landing Helicopter Platform) due to removal of well-deck. The remainder of the America class would be LHD, since "Assault" (the A in LHA) is just a overly-applied buzzword, and highly redundant.

That said, I wonder if they will build more LHP's…maybe have a yard cranking out LHP's and another LHD's, and then we can gradually replace the older types with new construction? Mmm, mmm…

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Nilsplat June 6, 2013 at 8:45 am

I think, when the first drone lands on a carrier deck, these ships will be obsolete. Am I misinformed?

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blight_ June 6, 2013 at 10:32 am

Depends. If drones can be made to STOL from an LPD/LHD/LHA, it may give the amphibious warfare ships a means to fly fixed wing without resorting to larger manned STOVL aircraft.

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USS ENTERPRISE June 6, 2013 at 10:58 am

Good luck, with that.

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Rob C. June 7, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Ships that are Amphibious ships like America are more transports. Even if UCAV and other UAVs (Drones) take over air combat, they still need human troops to secure land.

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hibeam June 6, 2013 at 11:24 am

First class, business class, couch, America class. A big slow target.

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Big-Dean June 6, 2013 at 9:20 pm

for your information hibeam, they are working on warp drive for the LHA-10, it should be ready by 2025

Will that make you happy?

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Restore Palestine June 8, 2013 at 2:09 am

Actually it should be: First Class, Business Class, Economy Class, Sub-Economy Class, Sub-Sub-Economy Class, Sub-Sub-Sub-Economy Class, and lastly America Class (a disposable class for target practice).

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elmondohummus June 6, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Dumb question: Why diesel, even if it is diesel-electric (the old name for "hybrid" systems)? The US Navy pioneered nuclear propulsion, and using petroleum ties you into continuous refueling.

Yes, I know that nuclear power doesn't have that good a reputation around the world. That doesn't stop the current nuc ships and subs from operating. It just seems to me that it doesn't make sense for the US Navy to put out so many ships as diesel powered. There must be some sort of reason; like, for example, a regulation or requirement for nuclear power raises the cost to where the tradeoff for diesel is worth it.

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Chad June 6, 2013 at 1:43 pm

There have been nations that wouldn't let nuclear powered naval ships dock at their ports. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Zealand%27s_nucl

I'm not sure how widespread this is, but it might be of some concern.

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elmondohummus June 7, 2013 at 10:08 am

I'd bet it was of some concern too, but at the same time I'd be boggled if it were so much of one that it made the Navy take on the painful costs of refueling.

Then again, maybe this Navy's got "UNREP" down to where refueling isn't a bad burden to add. It's obviously a significant one, but at the same time maybe it's just not worth the savings of cutting the refueling out. The underway replenishments have to happen for other things anyway.

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blight_ June 6, 2013 at 4:56 pm

I'm guessing that the decision was made in the '80s that nuclear was expensive and fuel was cheap. Little did we know that fuel prices were poised to shoot up in the '90s and beyond…

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elmondohummus June 7, 2013 at 10:10 am

Probably not a bad guess. I take it that a nuclear "refuel" is a rather big deal. I was told once that a sub was actually decommissioned rather than refueled and power-plant refurb'd because the cost associated with that sort of work on a nuke teakettle was that high. So you may be on to something there.

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blight_ June 7, 2013 at 10:57 am

The costs of the nuclear platform are also in refueling time. You can refuel underway with conventional hydrocarbon; but nothing of the sort for nuclear power. The next question is where would you refuel nuclear-powered destroyers and cruisers? Homeport (and trigger NIMBY)? A finite number of docks? Would it occupy a slip at the shipyards for refueling, and create a backlog if insufficient facilities are available to get every ship refueled at once? And if there is a backlog, would that be used to inflate ship orders, knowing that a given percentage will be in refuel limbo at the yard?

Perhaps in the future we will combine long-life reactors with ships such that a ship is obsolete at the same time the reactor is due for refuel, recycle instead of refuel.

Or we assume ship lifetimes continue to be long, then the focus of research should be on making it easier to refuel, even at the expense of time-between-refueling. A ship that could be easily refueled once a year might be advantageous, or perhaps every two years, with an emphasis on ease of refuel; but not at the expense of survivability. If we can't make the refuel easy to do, then we focus on long-life nuclear reactors.

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Lem G. June 8, 2013 at 10:23 pm

One Question:

What kind of heat and electronic silhouette is one of these America class Amphib Carriers going to produce ?

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I Have Many Names June 9, 2013 at 5:52 pm

Here Am I.

Come, Let us reason together. Would it not be better for those with the most experience to work closely with the inspired youth on any project. When completed, does the Ship builder become the Captain or does he build another Ship.

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