The USA’s America Class NAAS: Carrier Air + Amphibious Assault
Feb 25/15: Navy to pit two yards against each other in duopolistic design competition for LHA-8, new oilers and LX(R) dock landing ship. Mindful of the trend of shipyards to consolidate to the point where there is barely the opportunity for real competition, the Navy is deliberately packaging three very different major defense acquisition programs together and selecting two shipyards to bid for each, with the explicit expectation that each will be rewarded at least one. General Dynamics NASSCO and Huntington Ingalls Industries will compete for the redesign of the LHA-8 (which sorely needs its well deck back now that Marines vehicles have plumped up); the T-AO(X) fleet oiler and the LX(R) dock landing ship replacement.
“Each shipyard will be awarded one detail design and construction contract for LHA 8 or one DD&C for T-AO(X) ships 1-6,” said a Navy representative. “This approach balances the Navy’s commitment to maintaining a viable shipbuilding industrial base while aggressively pursuing competition.” The arbitrary connection of three disparate programs and the automatic win that could go to a loser seems reminiscent of a kindergarten awards ceremony, but at least the creation and maintenance of this duopoly appears to be deliberate. It may shed light on the decision-making process as it happens for the Ingalls/BIW duopoly on the Arleigh Burke contracts and the ancient Newport News/Electric Boat rivalry for submarine work.
Modern U.S. Navy Amphibious Assault Ships project power and maintain presence by serving as the cornerstone of the Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG) / Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG). LHA/LHD are a key element of the Seapower 21 doctrine pillars of Sea Strike and Sea Basing, transporting, launching, and landing elements of the Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) via a combination of LCAC hovercraft, amphibious transports and vehicles, helicopters, and aircraft.
Designed to project power and maintain presence, LHA-Replacement (LHA-R, aka. LH-X, and now the New Amphibious Assault Ship or NAAS) large deck amphibious assault ships were slated to replace the US Navy’s 6 LHA-1 Tarawa Class vessels. They are based on the more modern LHD Wasp Class design, with the LHD’s landing craft and well deck removed in favor of more planes and hangar space. While its LHA/LHD predecessors were amphibious assault ships with a secondary aviation element, it’s fair to describe the America Class as escort carriers with a secondary amphibious assault role.
The NAAS Program
The LHA-R Ships: 21st Century Escort Carriers
The Well Deck Issue
Power and Influence: Secondary Ship Features
LHA-R: Contracts & Key Events
FY 2010 – 2011
FY 2008 – 2009
FY 2007 and Earlier
Background: The America Class
Background: Ship Ancillaries
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