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.
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.
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.