Staff Writer (Updated: 6/14/2011):
The USS America LHA-6 is essentially a "small" aircraft carrier, fielding a much smaller air arm than her larger nuclear-powered contemporaries such as the USS Ronald Reagan as well as a smaller contingent of 1,059 operational personnel (including 65 officers). Furthermore, the vessel will contain housing for up to 1,687 Marines on mission with room for an additional 184 if pressed. There is one runway running from bow to stern with the island superstructure set off to the starboard side of the vessel. Powered hangar elevators transport aircraft from the flight deck to the subdeck below, for either storage or maintenance. The vessel will measure a length of 844 feet with a beam of approximately 106 feet. Top speed in optimal conditions is estimated at 20 knots, perhaps slightly more. Self-defense will be handled by 2 x Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) systems as well as 2 x Evolved Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missile systems for distance protection against airborne threats. Close-in defense will be managed by 2 x 20mm Phalanx CIWS (Close-In Weapon System) as well as up to seven .50 caliber heavy machine guns.
Northrop Grumman Ship Systems is charged with construction of the new USS America, the contract being awarded on June 1st, 2007. The keel of the USS America was laid down on July 17th, 2009 in a formal ceremony marking the event.
Recent changes to the procurement of some key Marine equipment may lessen the reach of the America-class amphibious assault ships. As of this writing, the USS America is the only planned vessel of her class.