JR Potts, AUS 173d AB (Updated: 10/24/2015):
Iwo Jima sports two steam propulsion plants which are currently the largest such implements in operation with the US Navy. These systems generate a total of 400 tons of steam per hour to develop 77,000 shaft horsepower allowing for speeds in excess of 24 knots. She was built using more than 21,000 tons of steel, 400 tons of aluminum, 400 miles of electrical cables, 80 miles of piping and tubing of various types and sizes and 10 miles of ventilation ducting. Soon after her commissioning, the crew and the ship started the Inter Deployment Cycle - that is the age-old "shake down" cruise. Each system on the ship was to be tested under combat conditions, from the RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile) surface-to-air missile systems to the installations within the kitchen - all areas being put through their paces.
The Iwo Jima and the Marines of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26 MEU), along with two other amphibious assault ships, formed the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group. The 26 MEU is a quick-response force that requires only six hours of readiness notification and can be called upon to execute multiple mission types. These mission types range from combat operations, humanitarian assistance, non-combat evacuation, and security operations. The Navy Marine Corps team's newest amphibious warship has, as its primary mission, the support of a Marine Landing Force. USS Iwo Jima and her sister ships are the first to be specifically-designed to accommodate the new class of landing craft - the Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) - for over-the-beach landing craft duty. Also onboard, the Marines utilize the McDonnell Douglas Harrier II (AV-8B), a vertical short take-off and landing (V/STOL) jet that provides close-air support for the advancing assault forces. To carry out its primary mission, the Iwo Jima also has an assault support system that provides troop landings by sea and/or by helicopters, even including the new and highly-advanced MV-22 Osprey VTOL tilt rotor aircraft. Flight operations are accomplished via two aircraft elevators that service the hangar bay and flight deck. Six cargo elevators, each measuring 13 by 26 feet, are used to transport material and supplies from the 110,000 cubic feet cargo holds throughout the ship to staging areas on the flight deck, hangar bay and vehicle storage area. Cargo is transferred to waiting landing craft docked within the ship's 1,200 square foot, 270 feet well deck. Helicopters in the hangar bay or on the flight deck are cargo-loaded by a forklift.