The keel for the US Navy’s newest class of large-deck amphibious assault ship America (LHA 6) has been laid by defence company Northrop Grumman Corporation at its Pascagoula facility.

The LHA 6 will replace the navy’s existing Tarawa-class amphibious assault vessels.

The ship is 844ft long, 106ft wide, weighs 44,854t and can accommodate 1,204 crew and 1,871 troops. It can reach speeds over 22kt.

The ship also features an extended hangar deck with two hangar bay areas, each fitted with an overhead crane for aircraft maintenance. It can provide increased aviation fuel capacity, stowage for aviation parts and support equipment.

The vessel can also launch the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, cargo and attack helicopters, the AV-8B Harrier and the short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) variant F-35B Lightning II Strike Fighter.

The milestone marks the country’s plan to step-up aviation capacity of future big deck amphibious ships, aimed at maximising the navy’s investment in future aircraft.