Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Boxer is set to join a number of its sister ships in the ability to launch and operate the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) fighter jets after the US Navy awarded BAE Systems a $200.3 million contract for the overhaul.
The undertaking, which will take an estimated 18 months to complete, is set to start in June 2020.
During the course of the 18 months, the flight deck of USS Boxer will receive a Thermion coating. The heat resistant material prevents the thrusters of the F-35B from causing severe damage to the deck. The ship will also receive hull, tank and mechanical work, and make other shipboard improvements.
The overhaul will also be significant for BAE Systems, as it will mark the first time the company has used its 950-foot-long Pride of California drydock to service a large-deck warship. The shipyard is currently nearing completion of another major milestone for the drydock: the first simultaneous docking of two guided-missile destroyers on the West Coast.
USS Boxer is starting the overhaul after completing a Middle East deployment in 2019. The US Navy operates a total of eight Wasp-class ships, which deploy as flagships of amphibious ready groups with embarked marine expeditionary units. All ships in the class will eventually be equipped with the necessary systems and upgrades for the operation of F-35B fighters.
The most recent ship in the class to dock for the upgrade is USS Bonhomme Richards. General Dynamics, another shipbuilder capable of servicing the US Navy large-deck warships, will complete the work on the former US 7th Fleet amphibious flagship this year.