Having recently returned to the US from an eight-month-long Mediterranean deployment, the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Bataan is set to enter a two-year maintenance and modernisation period before returning to the active fleet in mid-2026.

General Dynamics NASSCO–Norfolk, based out of Norfolk, Virginia, has been awarded a $311.1m firm-fixed-price contract action for maintenance, modernisation, and repair of the USS Bataan, according to a 26 March announcement from the US Department of Defense (DoD).

The DoD statement said that the contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of the deal to nearly $343.7m, with work to be performed in Norfolk, Virginia, and expected to be completed by May 2026. According to the DoD the contract was competitively procured, with two offers received.

The USS Bataan was the centrepiece of the Bataan amphibious ready group (ARG), which also comprised the Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship USS Carter Hall and San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Mesa Verde, which was deployed to the Mediterranean to support US interest in the wake of the war in Gaza following Hamas’ assault into Israel in October 2023.

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As part of the deployment, around 2,400 US Marine from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) were embarked throughout the Bataan ARG.

The US Navy’s Wasp-class LHDs

A total of eight Wasp-class amphibious assault ships (LHD) were built, with all still in service with the US Navy, commissioning from 1989 onwards. The LHDs can embark and support all elements of a USMC MEU of 2,000 marines, inserting forces ashore via helicopter, landing craft, and amphibious vehicles.

The Wasp class was designed to employ air-cushion landing craft (LCACS) and to carry a squadron of Harrier II (AV-8B) STOVL (short take-off vertical landing) jets, with the newer F-35B STOVL aircraft also able to be embarked.

The USS Bataan was commissioned into service in September 1997, with the latest modernisation period taking the vessel into its 29th year of service.

Displacing around 41,000 tonnes at full load, the Wasp class are larger than most countries’ aircraft carriers, and can accommodate a mix of assault helicopters, plus six to eight Harriers for close air support.

A typical mix of helicopters is 12 CH-46 Sea Knight, four CH-53E Sea Stallion, three UH-1N Huey, and four AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters. The vessels are also able to embark the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.