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USS America Tours South America, Prepares for JSF

by Kris Osborn on August 26, 2014

USS America 2The Navy’s new big-deck America-class amphibious assault ship is making its way around South America as part of a mission to connect with allies in the southern hemisphere and prepare the ship for the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.

The USS America, the first in a series of 11 planned America class amphibs for the Navy, is configured with more deck space than previous ships of its kind in order to accommodate a range of aircraft — including MV-22 Ospreys and the F-35B Short-Take-Off-and-Landing Joint Strike Fighter.

“The Navy and the Marine Corps will have to work out the conops (concepts of operation) of how we are going to use the Joint Strike Fighter. The ship will not only be able to deliver the capability of the Joint Strike Fighter but will also be able to provide a response capability. This ship is going to surprise a lot of people with its ability to bring forward aviation assets,” Capt. Robert Hall, USS America’s Commanding Officer, told Military​.com in an interview while aboard the ship.

The Navy is currently making a series of modifications to the USS Wasp, an amphib test ship, in order to better prepare amphibs to accommodate the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter. The modifications are in part designed to allow the ship’s deck to better withstand the heat generated by the F-35B’s vertical landing and take-off, Navy officials said.

“The JSF will be on the USS America for the first deployment. There are still some modifications that need to be done to the ship once we go to our post-shakedown availability. They are being worked through on the USS Wasp which is a test ship right now. The lessons learned are being applied to our ship,” Hall said.

The USS America will receive the same flight deck modifications currently being installed on the USS Wasp, said Lt. Kurt Larson, spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command.

“The flight deck modifications entail adding intercostal structural members underneath flight deck landing spots numbers seven and nine. With the added structure, these two landing spots will provide the capability to perform closely timed cyclic flight operations with the F-35B without overstressing the flight deck,” Larson said.

The modifications are also planned for all other America and WASP-class ships in future availabilities, he added.

Hall said some of the modifications may involve re-adjusting some of the ship’s antennas in order to allow for a clear flight path for the JSF.

This flight deck modification is planned for incorporation onto the USS AMERICA in 2015 and 2016. The USS America will be commissioned in San Francisco in October of this year, Hall added.

The ship is currently transiting around off the coast of South America, conducting joint training exercises with a host of key allies such as Colombia, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Chile and Peru, Hall explained.

“This is as close to a deployment as I’ve ever been on, with the four Osprey and three H-60s that we have along with the special purpose MAGTF (Marine Corps Air-Ground Task Force),” he added.

The integrated training exercises involve security and communications operations with different countries as well as medical asset coordination and mission planning activities, Hall said.

The ship’s MV-22 Ospreys have been flying into allied countries to pick up and deliver distinguished visitors to the ship, he explained.

“We’re getting our crew familiar with the ship through hands on training. The Ospreys are giving us a great opportunity to learn the flight deck and learn the hangar. Most of my crew is on their first mission,” Hall explained. “This is a brand new crew which is pulling together. They have been performing as a solid team, going above and beyond. My hat is off to their dedication and motivation they have been working very hard.”

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{ 70 comments… read them below or add one }

Lance August 26, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Other wise a good ship to make good will tour. Waits for crappy aircraft which may or may not come.

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Lt_Dave_Mallevic August 26, 2014 at 4:19 pm

Again, a person with likely ZERO experience in aerospace misjudges a revolutionary aircraft as "crappy".

Lemme guess, "not enough zoom zoom turn burn"?

Crappola.

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Ronald August 26, 2014 at 6:05 pm

Well said Lt_ Dave_M… to assume the Osprey is anything but lethal is a serious miscalculation. The USMC can and will take what is deemed crappie and adapt such a vehicle into a messenger of good will, like it or not, if you get my drift. Thank you for standing up for what is plausible. Semper Fi and Fair Winds.

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Caleb F August 31, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Lance wasn’t talking about the Osprey, he was talking about the F-35 an aircraft that has had more issues than most others that I can think of… and the only one of the aircraft that I can think of that have/had as many problems that is still being developed.

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Mitch S. August 26, 2014 at 2:04 pm

45,000 tons. So now "baby carriers" are the size of the big boys of the past (about the same displacement as a Midway class).
I have to see how these compare to the new QE Brit carrier(s).

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blight_asdf August 26, 2014 at 2:23 pm

The aircraft are getting bigger too. The fighters of WW2 and subsequent early jet aircraft are comparative lightweights.

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Mick Florence August 26, 2014 at 6:12 pm

HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince Of Wales are both 65,000 tonnes (64,000 long tons) displacement. That's 5,000 tonnes more displacement than the Forrestal Class Super Carriers were. Not quite Nimitz Class or Ford Class, but then size isn't everything ;-)

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Tiger August 28, 2014 at 7:42 pm

This baby is about the size of the French CVN.

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Mark August 26, 2014 at 2:07 pm

BlackOwl18E is going to love this. How can the F-35 dominate the skies over the BlackOwl18E sainted F-18 Super Hornet is his continual question. The short answer is capabilities. When the F-35 exhast its on board ammo it will still be able to shoot ammo that is not on the plane. Military heads and the manufacture keep tauting capabilities. The F-18 can not shoot other weapons from other assests however the F-35 can. Targeting information goes from F-35s to the network and the closest munition heads out. Sure what I just said is partial unstated, but it can shoot a weapon from another F-35 and that has been stated.

Here's a round table talk that diffuses BlackOwl's arguments.

http://www.military.com/video/aircraft/jet-fighte

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blight_asdf August 26, 2014 at 2:25 pm

And the B-2 would have orders of magnitude survivability compared to legacy bombers…if we procured more than 21.

And if costs spiral to the point that capabilities are left off the table, the JSF will take a different form than the powerpoint version.

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Mark August 26, 2014 at 2:46 pm

Here is another way to use this ability. The lead unseen F-35s target all air and ground assets. The non-stealth fully loaded f-35s and various other air assets lag behind the stealthy planes. The lead as well as the loaded F-35 target all assets with a few minutes time. The leads keep their load outs and shoot all external ammo from the lag wave. Once shot the remaining F-35s go stealth and further propagate the mission. This is not rocket science here. It is simply good use of the capabilities.

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blight_asdf August 26, 2014 at 4:10 pm

"target all air and ground assets"

The proper aircraft to do that would be a stealthy one that could loiter for hours over airspace, with no particular need for speed and dogfighting. Tacit Blue was somewhat like this, though the Cold War ended before we needed to prove concepts like Assault Breaker. As it is, having a jet be able to perform FAC and ISR functions is a stretch.

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Mark August 26, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Actually since all F-35s have access to all battle field covered by each scanning F-35 every F-35 pilot can split the targeting tasks so max target acquisition in minimal time can happen. You may have 50 stealthing planes but hundreds of targeters. This will bring a whole new definition to shock and awe.

Tango777 August 28, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Hey Blight,
Didn’t we learn that lesson with the F-4′s in Vietnam? The idea to fire, fire and forget, missles was totally ergnious. We lost some very good aviators due to their lack of dog fighting skills and the lack of a forward gun.
Hell, isn’t that what Top Gun is all about?

hialpha August 27, 2014 at 2:58 am

OMG man, please just stop writing this garbage.

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oblatt22 August 27, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Yay the F-35 will be able to do in 10 years what the gripen did 10 years ago.

The only thing revolutionary about the F-35 is the contractor profits

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Mark August 27, 2014 at 2:25 pm

http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks

8% profit. They are definately gouging us.

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blight_ August 27, 2014 at 4:53 pm

There's no competition, and conversely not enough of a market to allow for numerous small competitors to survive without incurring wrath of shareholders and going under.

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Mark August 27, 2014 at 6:26 pm

October 26, 2001 competition ended.

PolicyWonk August 26, 2014 at 7:19 pm

USS America's ability to bring forward more air assets is pretty simple, and isn't even slightly revolutionary: its a CV without the angled flight deck or catapult. Its abilities are somewhat compromised by the lack of a ski-jump, which would allow for more ordnance/fuel in the F-35B's she is intended to launch.

She will be one of only two of her type built, before they start building on the same hull, with a well-deck design for the remainder of the class.

But compared to a nuke – she's a bargain – and can be sent to less volatile parts of the world, freeing the large deck carriers for regions of greater interest.

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tiger August 27, 2014 at 5:40 am

Less volatile? That Marine force on board is not for show.

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PolicyWonk August 27, 2014 at 8:18 pm

Marines are the finest assault troops in the world. But the lack of well deck means they assault without the benefit of heavy gear to provide them with the sustained firepower and support they require to get the job done.

This class of LHA is/was deemed a failure, which is why after the next sea-frame is launched all others will have the well deck. A CV is not an innovation, and those who somehow thought it was had their way, but the error in judgement has been noted and the decisions they made rescinded.

This ins't to say a CV with a passle o' jarheads aboard isn't useful – it certainly is. And any nation that has one stationed off its shores are certain to take notice that the US is very interested in whatever is going on.

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Curt August 28, 2014 at 4:31 pm

It really depends on the other ships in the ARG. If you use another LPDs instead of an LSD, you more than make up for the lack of a well deck space on the LHA and decouple the big deck from being close to the shore to deliver waterborne cargo. Of course, since there is probably not an extra LPD, that will probably never happen, but it could. Also, as proven in Gulf War I and II, in large formations, a dedicated "Harrier Carrier" works a lot better than spreading the air assets out. And the America will have much better aviation maintenance facilities than even the new build LHDs.

They are not so much failures, as the improved aviation support capability was deemed less valuable than a well deck, so the well deck came back.

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blight_qwerty August 29, 2014 at 10:42 am

Kind of wish they'd standardize nomenclature. LHA-6 and LHA-7 are LHP's. Then it's LSD and LPD that seem to be almost overlapping in functionality.

blight_ August 27, 2014 at 5:05 pm

"can be sent to less volatile parts of the world"

Do you take the LHA-6 for a LCS?

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PolicyWonk August 27, 2014 at 8:21 pm

Not at all – the LCS can't be sent anywhere where things might get ugly. A CV remains a very useful asset, regardless of initial intent.

LCS is a complete waste of US taxpayer funds, even according to our own Navy's inspectors report. LHA-6, while not optimal for the role for which she is/was intended, is and remains a useful platform.

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bobbymike August 26, 2014 at 11:01 pm

I would take a retired Assault Ship and use the acres of deck space to house hundreds of MRBM and IRBM's like the AHW or ATK's intermediate range global strike missile. Or better yet divide the deck for offensive/defensive systems with the other half loaded with Standard missiles or ballistic missile and air defense.

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ronaldo August 26, 2014 at 11:49 pm

Old and discredited idea. Do your research on the arsenal ship

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bobbymike August 27, 2014 at 3:41 pm

"Never built" does not equal discredited. There were as many analysts for the idea as against like pretty much every defense concept.

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tiger August 27, 2014 at 5:44 am

Idea of a super VLS ship is good. Your hull choice is bad. A Tanker design is simpler & makes far more sense.

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blight_qwerty August 29, 2014 at 10:38 am

Putting a bunch of Armored Box Launchers on cargo ships isn't a bad idea. Take a page from the ISO container idea for the Klub-K. Maybe put a bunch on the LCS helicopter deck for giggles.

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Nick987654 August 27, 2014 at 2:53 pm

The ability to launch like 1000 cruise missiles in a short time could be a game changer against a near peer enemy.

To lower costs, the ship could have like 100 VLS, with a system of cranes to reload them. The ship would carry 1000 missiles besides the VLS, both on the deck and Inside the ship. The modification + 1000 TLAMs would in the order of than 1 billion ( each TLAM costs 700k + 300M for the launchers and the cranes.)

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blight_ August 27, 2014 at 4:52 pm

The builder of the San Antonios is trying to sell hulls for 'BMD': which means lots of VLS tubes for missions other than BMD.

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Tiger August 28, 2014 at 7:37 pm

Tanker makes more sense. They also are built cheaper & in other yards than Inglis crap work. More firepower of the SSGN, without the sub headache.

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FASnipeHT2 August 27, 2014 at 12:15 am

This is more CV than amphib.

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tiger August 27, 2014 at 5:46 am

No, more LPH. It has no well deck. So air lift only.

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jamesb August 27, 2014 at 12:34 am

As said here…..

'Baby Aircraft carriers" are back…

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tiger August 27, 2014 at 5:49 am

Mission is not the same & the air group is not as well rounded…

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blight_qwerty August 29, 2014 at 10:45 am

Other nations don't have particularly well-rounded groups. It's just harriers and helicopters to do everything else, like AEW, ASW et al. Or for the Russians, Mig-29K/Su-33 and Helix ASW/AEW helicopters.

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tiger August 27, 2014 at 7:14 am

What I would love to see added is however is A navalized Super Tucano. Something to fill the role between the Sea Cobra & the 35B. They should not even need a Catapult on a deck over 800 ft long.

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Mitchell Fuller August 27, 2014 at 1:43 pm

Super Tucano could have done a lot of the work done by jets in Iraq and A-Stan for a lot less money and it would have saved the hours on jet airframes. Marines could use this type platform.

It is still yet to be seen if F-35 models reach revised down capabilities and in revised down numbers planned for. Failure to perform, concurrency, time in development, and price are dragging this program down. Google PBS Nova Battle of the X-planes doc to see where it all started and went wrong, plane was projected to cost no more then in the 30 millions…….. Restart F-22 line, make a navalized version and a bomber version of platform, pivot to Pacific will require planes to have long legs (F 18 and F 35 don't have these, they require tanker support and a lot of it. First thing near peer enemy is going after are those tanker assets, no fuel = splash) and in stealth mode capacity to carry more ordinance internally.

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blight_ August 27, 2014 at 4:55 pm

"navalizing" an extant aircraft will probably cost as much as the JSF project.

The X-35 seemed to perform all three roles nicely, but was probably designed without room for anything beyond extant systems. In turn it would make a decent 4.5 gen fighter if the JSF program goes down in flames.

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Tiger August 28, 2014 at 7:33 pm

In this case I do not think so. It has worked in the past. The FJ-1 Fury vs F-86 Sabre. The Spitfire & Seafire.

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blight_qwerty August 29, 2014 at 10:39 am

Wartime, or the possibility of wartime is a powerful motivation for efficient engineering. We are in peacetime doldrums again.

Juramentado August 27, 2014 at 11:35 am

Hangar and magazine space plus AV fuel load. That's the real limits to using the new LHAs as baby carriers with F-35s. It's a nice thought to revive the old "Sea Control Ship" concept, but things have to be really really dire to devote an entire LHA to just aviation attack, given how short the rest of the Marines are on amphib lift.

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John smith August 27, 2014 at 1:31 pm

It’s basically an escort carrier!!!

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Harvey August 27, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Does any one remember or know what the original "SS America" Was ? It was the fastest passenger Liner on the atlantic. Gave a good run to the the British Queens. During the war it was the SS Lafayett as a troop ship. then converted back to liner. The biggest and fastest until the SS United States was launched.

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Curt August 28, 2014 at 4:55 pm

You are mixing up your ships. First, there have been numerous SS Americas before the one launched in 1939. And the USS America is actually named after several previous USS AMERICAs, the latest being CV-66.

SS America was no where near as fast as the Queens, making less than 25kts, and served during WWII as the USS WEST POINT.

The French liner SS NORMANDIE was in fact larger than the Queen Mary although smaller than the Queen Elizabeth and rivaled the British ships in speed. The ship was interned in the US in 1940 and then taken over by the US in December 1941. Renamed USS LAFAYETTE, it was sunk at the pier by the NYFD extinguishing a fire in the Kapock life preservers storage, while it was being converted to a troop ship. It was eventually scrapped and never actually served in the war.

SS UNITED STATES was the fastest liner, but was substantially smaller, in terms of either displacement or GRT (Gross Registered Tonnage, a measure of enclosed volume and used for tax purposes) as the NORMANDIE or the two QUEENS.

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Tiger August 28, 2014 at 7:59 pm

The glory days of that tub are long gone. She should have been torpedo target bait 20 years ago.

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blight_qwerty August 29, 2014 at 10:37 am

SS America is already toast. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_America_(1939)#Wr

SS United States will probably go insolvent and then it's off to the scrappers. Or torpedo target bait, as you say. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_United_States

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oblatt22 August 27, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Great to see the marines putting together what must be in the top 2 or 3 of the worlds third world navies.

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Frank896 August 27, 2014 at 4:36 pm

Is this ship carrying the LCAC landing craft? How many will it hold? How many Marines will it carry? What is the propulsion configuration? What does it have for defence systems?

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blight_ August 27, 2014 at 4:51 pm

The first two LHA-6 (glorified LPH) do not have a well deck.

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Super Tomcat August 28, 2014 at 7:51 am

Sorry no well in the back!

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Mystick August 28, 2014 at 3:30 pm

I don't see why we don't refit an existing mothballed/decommed Nimitz platform for the mission. With a minimal complement and on-board fire support systems. Not sure what the draft is(or would be with the mods), definitely not a littoral ship – but I don't see the America-class ships being risked that way, anyhow.

But It could probably carry an full MEU with the proper modifications, complete with CAS wing and logistics – with room to spare.

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Mark August 28, 2014 at 5:27 pm

We have yet to decommission even one Nimitz Class Carrier. Only 10 were built and we are using them all.

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Tiger August 28, 2014 at 7:49 pm

Clock on the Geo. Washington is still ticking.

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Tiger August 28, 2014 at 7:47 pm

The are nearing the 50 year life mark & not designed for the job. Too big, Need nuke refueling & deep water to play in.

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Mystick September 2, 2014 at 8:53 am

An Enterprise-class, then.

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Brian B. Mulholland September 3, 2014 at 8:46 pm

By the time they're available, they'll need another refueling and complex overhaul. That alone would cost as much, or more, than an America. They have big manpower needs. The cost to add a well deck? I shudder to think of it.

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Brian B. Mulholland September 3, 2014 at 8:43 pm

I don't doubt that the F-35 will arrive, eventually. The better worry is that the F-35's modest load of AA missiles, and endurance in flight, won't be enough to keep the America safe from cruise missiles launched from shore. These are expensive and vulnerable platforms. It isn't enough to say there will also be a CV around to cover the operation; if so, why is so much space devoted to F-35s in the first place? They'll be on the CV too.

Long term, the greatest value of these ships is the Osprey. Short and long term, I dearly wish these and other classes of vessels carried a short range missile system without the design constraints of reworked Sidewinder and Sparrow systems. Something designed for a cold launch and optimized for that last few kilometers of an approach, when the chance of spotting the target is best in the first place … CAAMM we wish for such a thing?

If the rest of the class is being built with a well deck to accommodate LCACs and other "connectors," then you're dealing with ranges to the target landmass that aren't much more than line of sight. I rest my case for antimissile point defense drawn on a clean sheet of paper.

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EarnestTBass September 4, 2014 at 9:05 pm

This ship was designed from the get go for vertical lift aircraft the (Joint Strike)and now we find out we have to redo the flight deck so it won't warp from the JSF jet blast? Did someone miss some very important memo? REALLY?

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blight_ August 26, 2014 at 6:36 pm

I think that depends greatly on how good F-35's sensors are. If they are good enough to replace AEW and JSTARS….

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Curtis Conway August 26, 2014 at 8:35 pm

No. Why? Energy out limits range resolution and target detection size. Still must have larger antennas with more energy out (regardless of frequency) to track smaller targets at greater range (250+ miles). We simply must have an EV-22 AEW&C for the Expeditionary Strike Groups (ESG), or Light Carrier Battle Groups (CVLBG).

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blight_asdf August 26, 2014 at 8:53 pm

That's what I thought.

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blight_ August 28, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Mark's point is that a magic computer on JSF will magically designate all air and ground targets for follow-on attack. To the contrary we still need AWACS and JSTARS to do this, but those platforms are large and unstealthy. A long time ago a low RCS demonstrator was designed which was intended to stay close to forward battlespace and monitor enemy ground forces and call in fire support assets to destroy them as detected…Tacit Blue if we had ever taken it to the finish line. Asking a JSTARS or AWACS to dogfight is a little much if the core mission is to identify targets for follow-on attack.

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Mark August 28, 2014 at 5:22 pm

The F-35 system would designate all targets however the pilots would select which to hit first.

Next issue, whereas the F-35 is not as strong that the JSTARS or AWACS it is much closer to enemy assets and so does not need be. The F-35 radars/sensors get a better angle on ground assets than that of those other assets and it has been stated that this more top down angle generates better resolutions/detection than is generated with the JSTARS or AWACS.

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guest August 29, 2014 at 10:43 pm

OV-10 that is the answer.

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Riceball September 5, 2014 at 12:08 pm

The problem with that is by going active the F-35, or any aircraft for that matter, is no longer stealthy and is in fact broadcasting their location for everyone to see. For a stealthy aircraft to remain stealthy they need to fly under EMCON conditions because you detect a radar signal from much further away than you'll get a return from it, in other words, if a flight of 35s, or even 22s were to do what you suggest, the enemy would still end up seeing them long before we'd see the enemy.

For your idea to work it would be best if they either worked with a dedicated AEW aircraft or reverse the lineup with the lead aircraft doing the signaling and targeting carry the external armament since its stealth would already be compromised by an active radar.

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