Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (HII) has started fabrication of the US Navy’s America-class amphibious assault ship, the future USS Bougainville (LHA 8), at Pascagoula shipyard.
The development represents the readiness of the shipyard to proceed with ship construction.
Named in honour of the Bougainville Island campaign in the Second World War, LHA 8 is due to be delivered in 2024.
The LHA Replacement Programme is intended to replace the original five Tarawa-class LHAs, which have all been decommissioned.
It is expected to offer additional aviation maintenance capability and increased fuel capacities to the Marine Corps’ future Air Combat Element, including F-35B Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) and MV-22 Osprey.
Also known as USS America (LHA 6) class, the replacement programme is intended to provide additional cargo stowage capacities, while enabling more flexible command and control capabilities.
US Navy Research, Development and Acquisition Assistant Secretary James Geurts said: “Expeditionary warfare and power projection ashore is advancing at a historic pace, starting on this unique ship is a proud day for our navy, Marine Corps and industry partners.
“Bougainville represents the next generation of amphibious capabilities and is a key component to meet the demands of the National Defense Strategy. The ability to both support Joint Strike Fighter and put Marines ashore will ensure that the Amphibious Fleet remains agile and capable of expeditionary warfare well into the 21st century.”
LHA 8 is set to become the first Flight I ship and will reincorporate a well deck to enhance operational flexibility.
Additionally, it will feature the Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar volume air search radar, instead of the AN/SPS-48G air search radar on America and Tripoli (LHA 7).