Wasp Class LHD : The Game Changer of Modern Warfare

It was early morning on 17 January 1991 ,when a call for air support was made from an OV 10 Bronco forward air controller against Iraqi artillery that was shelling Khafgi was made and the first AV-8B Harrier was called into action .It was launched from a Tarawa class LHA the USS Nassau(LHA-4) marking the beginning of a legacy that will make both Harriers and Amphibious Assault Ships legends .

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During the Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm   United States Navy’s Amphibious Assault Ships launched 86 AV-8Bs 3,380 times to fly for 4,100 hours and be the guardian angel for the infantry marine on the ground Thanks to Harriers VSTOL capability and the ingenious design of Amphibious Assault Ships harriers were able to have a mission availability rate over 90%   . This amazing figure allowed the Amphibious Assault Ships to completely change tide of the battle   .

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Wasp Class

The Wasp class is a Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD)/ Amphibious Assault Ship operated by United States Navy. They are based on the previous Tarawa class with ability to launch more advanced air crafts and landing crafts. They have a displacement of around 40,000 tones making them the second largest ships in the US Navy’s fleet only smaller than Nimitz class aircraft carriers . The Wasp class ships are the largest amphibious assault vessels in the world, providing the US Navy with an unrivalled ability to attack hostile shores around the world. They are the first ships specifically designed to operate both the AV-8B Harrier II and a complement of LCAC hovercraft.. Their primary role is to transport marines from their bases t the frontlines and supporting them in doing so. They are capable transporting almost a complete United States Marine Core Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). 5 of these ships always sailing the worlds seas ready a MEU   embarked ready to respond to anything from a war to a natural disaster

The Evolution

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The Wasp class’s roots can be traced back to the escort carriers of   World War 2  which used to escort the landing ships and troop carriers during the island-hopping campaign. In this role, they would provide air cover for the troopships as well as fly the first wave of attacks on the beach fortifications in amphibious landing operations. On occasion, they would even escort the large carriers, serving as emergency airstrips and providing fighter cover for their larger sisters while these were busy readying or refueling their own planes. In addition, they would also transport aircraft and spare parts from the US to the remote island airstrips.

Despite all the progress that was seen during World War II, there were still fundamental limitations in the types of coastline that were suitable for assault. Beaches had to be relatively free of obstacles, and have the right tidal conditions and the correct slope. However, the development of the helicopter fundamentally changed the equation. It virtually dissolved all the limitations of Amphibious Assault. The modern amphibious assault can take place at virtually any point of the coast,making defending against them extremely difficult. The Wasp class is a follow-on from the Tarawa class and its ships share the same basic hull and engineering plant. However, the bridge is two decks lower than the LHAs (Landing Helicopter Amphibious) and theVehicles61 AAVs command, control and communications centers are inside the hull where they less easy to disable. The last ship of the Wasp class, the USS Makin Island, became a base for a new design of America class amphibious assault ships. Once operational the America class ships will replace the ageing Tarawa class vessels.

Wasp class Aviation facilities

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The Wasp Class carries 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, fourCH-53E Sea Stallion; three UH-1N Huey and four AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters. USS Boxer (LHD 4) became the first ship to deploy the new four-bladed UH-1Y helicopter in October 2008. The vessels will also be able to embark the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.The ship’s air traffic control system supports simultaneous Harrier and helicopter operations on the ship’s 819ft by 112ft flight deck.The ship has two deck edge aircraft elevators, each with a lifting capacity of75,000lbs. The elevators fold for transit through the Panama Canal, and are the largest folding elevators in the Navy.

 

Wasp Class weapons

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For anti-air warfare protection, two rolling airframe missile(RAM) systems and two Phalanx close-in weapon-system (CIWS) mounts to counter threats from low-flying aircraft and close-in small craft.Six super-rapid blooming off board chaff (SRBOC) decoy system launchers augment LHD 6’s anti-ship missile defenses. Three 25mm machine guns and four 12.7mm machine guns are also fitted.

Sensors

 

The Wasp is equipped with the following radars:Northrop Grumman Norden AN/SPS-67 G band primary navigation radar; ITT Gilfillan AN/SPS-48E E/Fband 3D air search radar; Raytheon (Hughes) mk23target acquisition system (TAS) for sea-skimming missiles, which can simultaneously track up to 54targets; Northrop Grumman Norden AN/SPN-43 air search radar; Raytheon AN/SPS-49(V)9 C/D band secondary air search radar;and ITT Gilfillan AN/SPN-35A/B air traffic control radar.Northrop Grumman AN/UPX-24 interrogator friend or foe (IFF) is also fitted.

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Wasp Class amphibious assault capability

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The ship’s assault support system synchronizes the simultaneous horizontal land vertical flow of troops, cargo and vehicles throughout the ship, for insertion of forces ashore via helicopters, landing craft and amphibious vehicles.Six 12,000lb-capacity cargo elevators transport material from cargo holds to staging areas for loading. Cargo to be loaded aboard landing craft within the well deck is moved via a monorail system. This system consists of 2,900ft of track in a six-track layout. The five 32ft monorail trains each have a capacity of6,000lb and a speed of up to 600ft a minute (6.8mph). The vehicle storage area typically accommodates five M-1 tanks, 25 light armoured vehicles, eight M-198 guns, 68 military trucks (HMMVVVs), ten logistics vehicles, 12 5t trucks, two water trailers, a fuel service truck, four rough terrain forklifts and two generator trailers. These vehicles can be loaded aboard landing craft, and the majority can be rigged for transportation to the beach by helicopter.Off the beach, landing craft are launched and recovered through the very large stern gate, which opens the well deck to the sea.

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This well deck is 267ftlong, 50ft wide and is designed specifically for the fly-in/ fly-out capabilities of the air-cushioned landing craft(LCAC). The LHDs carry three LCACs.

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The LCAC is a high-speed landing craft capable of carrying a 60t to.”75t payload. It can carry payloads, such as an M1A1tank and 5t trucks, at a speed of more than 40kt (73.6km/h). The air cushion allows the LCAC to reach more than 70% of the world’s coastline. Conventional landing craft can land at only 15% of coasts.

Alligator

 

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