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Wasp-class amphibious assault ship
USS Wasp (LHD 1).jpg
The USS Wasp (LHD-1), in March 2004.
Class overview
Name: Wasp
Builders: Ingalls Shipbuilding
Operators: United States Navy
Preceded by: Tarawa-class amphibious assault ship
Succeeded by: America-class amphibious assault ship
Cost: $750 million each, average[1]
In commission: 1989–present
Completed: 8
Active: 8
General characteristics
Type: Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) amphibious assault ship
Displacement: 40,500 long tons (41,150 t) full load
Length: 831 ft (253.2 m)
Beam: 104 ft (31.8 m)
Draft: 27 ft (8.1 m)
Propulsion: Two boilers, two geared steam turbines, two shafts, 70,000 shaft-horsepower;
two General Electric LM2500 geared gas turbines, two shafts (USS Makin Island)
Speed: 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph)
Range: 9,500 nautical miles (17,600 km; 10,900 mi) at 18 kn (33 km/h; 21 mph)
Boats & landing
craft carried:
3 Landing Craft Air Cushion or
12 Landing Craft Mechanized[2]
Troops: 1,894 Marine Detachment
Complement: 1,208
Armament: Two Rolling Airframe Missile launchers
Two Sea Sparrow missile launchers
Three 20 mm Phalanx CIWS systems (LHD 5–7 with two)
Four .50 BMG machine guns
Four 25 mm Mk 38 chain guns (LHD 5–7 with three)
Aircraft carried: Actual mix depends upon the mission[3]
Standard Complement:
6 AV-8B Harrier II attack aircraft
4 AH-1W SuperCobra attack helicopter
12 CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters or 4+ MV-22 Osprey
4 CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters
3–4 UH-1N Huey helicopters
42 CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters
22+ MV-22 Osprey
Sea Control:
20 AV-8B Harrier II attack aircraft
6 SH-60F/HH-60H ASW helicopters

The Wasp class is a class of Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) amphibious assault ships operated by the United States Navy. Based on the Tarawa class, with modifications to operate more advanced aircraft and landing craft, the Wasp class is capable of transporting almost the full strength of a United States Marine Corps Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), and landing them in hostile territory via landing craft or helicopters. All Wasp-class ships were built by Ingalls Shipbuilding, at Pascagoula, Mississippi, with lead ship USS Wasp commissioned on 29 July 1989. Eight Wasp-class ships were built, and as of 2014, all eight are active.


The Wasp class is based on the preceding Tarawa-class design.[4] The design was modified to allow for the operation of AV-8B Harrier II aircraft and Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) hovercraft, making the Wasp class the first ships specifically designed to operate these.[4] The main physical changes between the two designs are the lower placement of the ship's bridge aboard the Wasps, the relocation of the command and control facilities to inside the hull,[4] the removal of the 5-inch Mk 45 naval guns and their sponsons on the forward edge of the flight deck, and a lengthening of 24 feet (7.3 m) to carry the LCACs.[citation needed]

Each Wasp class ship has a displacement of 40,500 long tons (41,150 t) at full load, is 831 feet (253.2 m) long, has a beam of 104 feet (31.8 m), and a draft of 27 feet (8.1 m).[5] For propulsion, most of the ships are fitted with two steam boilers connected to geared turbines, which deliver 70,000 shaft horsepower (33,849 kW) to the two propeller shafts.[5] This allows the LHDs to reach speeds of 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph), with a range of 9,500 nautical miles (17,600 km; 10,900 mi) at 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph).[5] The last ship of the class, USS Makin Island, was instead fitted with two General Electric LM2500 geared gas turbines.[citation needed] The ship's company consists of 1,208 personnel.[5] The ships are the largest amphibious warfare vessels in the world.[4]

Amphibious operations

The LHDs can support amphibious landings in two forms: by landing craft, or by helicopter.[5] In the 266-by-50-foot (81 by 15.2 m) well deck, the LHDs can carry three Landing Craft Air Cushion, twelve Landing Craft Mechanised, or 40 Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAVs), with another 21 AAVs in the vehicle deck.[5] The flight deck has nine helicopter landing spots, and can operate helicopters as large as the Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion and Boeing Vertol CH-46 Sea Knight.[5] The size of the air group varies depending on the operation: a standard air group consists of six Harriers and four Bell AH-1W SuperCobras for attack and support, twelve Sea Knights and four Sea Stallions for transport, and three to four Bell UH-1N Iroquois utility helicopters.[3][5] For a full assault, the air group can be maxed out at 42 Sea Knights, while a Wasp operating in the sea control or 'harrier carrier' configuration carries 20 Harriers (though some ships of the class have operated as many as 24), supported by six Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk helicopters for anti-submarine warfare.[3][5] The CH-46 is being replaced by the MV-22 Osprey on a squadron-by-squadron basis, with expected full conversion within all aviation combat elements by 2019.[6] Two aircraft elevators move aircraft between the flight deck and the hangar; in order to transit the Panama Canal, these elevators need to be folded in.[5]

USS Essex performing a stern gate mating with a landing craft

Each ship is capable of hosting 1,894 personnel of the United States Marine Corps; almost the full strength of a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).[5] A Wasp-class vessel can transport up to 30,800 square feet (2,860 m2) of cargo, and another 20,000 square feet (1,858 m2) is allocated for the MEU's vehicles, which typically consists of 5 M1 Abrams battle tanks, up to 25 AAVs, eight M198 howitzers, 68 trucks, and up to 12 other support vehicles.[5] An internal monorail is used to shift cargo from the cargo holds to the well deck.[5]

Each Wasp-class ship has a hospital with 64 patient beds and six operating rooms. An additional 536 beds can be set up in an "Overflow Casualty Ward" as needed.[5][7]

Armament and sensors

The armament of the first four Wasp class consists of two Mark 29 octuple launchers for RIM-7 Sea Sparrow missiles, two Mark 49 launchers for RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles, three 20 mm Phalanx CIWS systems, four 25 mm Mark 38 chain guns, and four .50 BMG machine guns.[5] The next three ships, Bataan, Bonhomme Richard, and Iwo Jima, have a slightly reduced weapons outfit to their preceding sister ships, with one Phalanx and one Mark 38 gun removed.[5]

Countermeasures fitted to the ships include four to six Mark 36 SRBOC launchers, an AN/SLQ-25 torpedo decoy, AN/SLQ-49 chaff buoys, a Sea Gnat missile decoy, and an AN/SLQ-32 Electronic Warfare Suite.[5]

The sensor suite fitted to each ship is made up of an AN/SPS-48 or AN/SPS-52 air-search radar backed up by an AN/SPS-49 air-search radar, an SPS-67 surface search radar, an AN/URN-25 TACAN system, along with several other radars for navigation and fire control.[5]


All Wasp-class ships were built by Ingalls Shipbuilding, at Pascagoula, Mississippi.[citation needed] The first ship of the class, USS Wasp, was commissioned on 29 July 1989.[citation needed]

The fifth ship of the class, USS Bataan, was constructed through a process of modular assembly and pre-fitting out, which meant that the LHD was almost 75% complete when launched.[5] Bataan was also the first LHD built to house female personnel (as opposed to modified after completion), with dedicated berths for up to 450 female Navy or Marine personnel.[5]

Ships and homeports


  2. ARG. "Wasp Class Amphibious Assault Ship". Retrieved 2011-12-29. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "LHD-1 Wasp class". US Navy Ships. Federation of American Scientists. 2000-05-09. Retrieved 8 April 2011. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Bishop & Chant, Aircraft Carriers, p. 230
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 5.16 5.17 5.18 5.19 Bishop & Chant, Aircraft Carriers, p. 231.
  6. Anthony, Marian. "U.S. Marines Nostalgic “Phrog” Helicopters To Be Phased Out By MV22." Business Insider, 12 April 2011.
  8. "List of Homports". U.S. Navy. Retrieved 8 August 2012. 

External links

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