The US Navy has awarded HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding a $2.4 billion fixed-price-incentive contract for the detail design and construction of the fourth America-class amphibious assault ship.
The contract award for LHA 9 includes options, that if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of the contract to $3.2 billion. The company received $107 million in April last year for long-lead-time material for the ship.
The yet-to-be-named LHA 9 is expected to start construction in December 2022 as a Flight I ship, meaning it would be reincorporating a well deck to enhance expeditionary warfighting capabilities while maintaining the principal aviation characteristics of the Flight 0 ships.
USS America and USS Tripoli, the first two ships in the class, sacrificed the well deck traditionally found on ships of this class in favor of an enlarged hangar deck, realignment and expansion of the aviation maintenance facilities, which gave them a significant increase in available stowage of parts and equipment and an increased aviation fuel capacity.
“Ingalls shipbuilders are ready to build the Navy’s newest LHA,” said Ingalls Shipbuilding President Kari Wilkinson. “We understand how important this work is, and consider it an honor to be given the opportunity to deliver this capability to the fleet. We value our partnership with the Navy and all of our critical supplier partners.”
According to the Pentagon contract announcement, HI is expected to complete work under the contract by September 2029.
America-class ships are designed to enhance Marine Corps aviation, and are capable of supporting the tilt-rotor MV-22 Ospreys and the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter.
With a typical air combat element embarked, an LHA ship can be equipped with five F-35B Joint Strike Fighters, four AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters, two UH-1Y Venom attack helicopters, four CH-53E Super Sea Stallion helicopters, 12 MV-22 Osprey, and two MH-60S search and rescue helicopters.
The US Marine Corps recently completed a trial that saw amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA 7) operate 20 F-35B fighters to test what was termed as the “Lightning Carrier Concept.” The test took place earlier this year and showed Tripoli and other amphibious assault ships are capable of operating as dedicated fixed-wing carrier platforms.
According to a US Navy fact file, the ships feature two RAM launchers, two NATO Sea Sparrow launchers (with Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM)), two 20mm Phalanx CIWS mounts, and seven twin .50 cal. machine guns.