The keel has been laid for the US Navy’s future America-class amphibious assault ship USS Bougainville (LHA 8).

The event was conducted at the Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) Pascagoula shipyard. HII is building the vessel under a contract with the US Navy.

The keel laying ceremony marks a major milestone in the ship’s construction. HII started the fabrication of the future Bougainville in October 2018.

PEO Ships Amphibious Warfare programme manager Tom Rivers said: “The production team has made steady progress and we look forward to bringing the next generation of amphibious capabilities to the Navy and Marine Corps warfighters.”

LHA 8 is the third of the America-class of amphibious assault ships designed to facilitate forward presence and power projection.

“The production team has made steady progress and we look forward to bringing the next generation of amphibious capabilities to the Navy.”

It is the second Navy vessel to be named after Bougainville and the first Flight I ship of the class to have a reincorporated well deck to increase operational flexibility.

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The modified well deck also maximises the aviation capability inherent on the Flight 0 ships, USS America and the future USS Tripoli.

The America-class vessels have the ability to perform rapid combat power build-up ashore.

According to HII, the larger flight deck can accommodate the Marine Corps’ Air Combat Element including F-35B Joint Strike Fighter and MV-22 Osprey, which can be used for surface and aviation assaults.

HII’s Pascagoula shipyard is also building Tripoli (LHA 7).

Other vessels being constructed by Pascagoula include the guided-missile destroyers Delbert D Black (DDG 119), Lenah H Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG 123), Jack H Lucas (DDG 125), and amphibious transport dock ships, Fort Lauderdale (LPD 28) and Richard M McCool Jr (LPD 29).

The shipyard will also construct six Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers under a $5bn contract received by HII in September last year.