- The U.S. Navy “virtually” commissioned the new amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli into service.
- Tripoli is similar to the stricken USS Bonhomme Richard but is designed to move troops only by air.
- The ship is the first amphibious ship built to operate the F-35 fighter from the start.
The U.S. Navy welcomed a new amphibious assault ship into the fleet this week even as one of its sister ships lay burning. The ship, designed to deliver Marines by air into hostile territory, was commissioned in a low-key virtual ceremony to ensure social distancing. Tripoli will be based at San Diego Naval Base, California, where sister ship USS Bonhomme Richard is currently on fire.
The ship’s traditional commissioning ceremony, a public event that would have drawn thousands and originally set to take place at Pensacola, Florida, was canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Instead the ship was commissioned by “administrative message” from the Navy to the fleet, while onboard the crew raised the commissioning flag to signify the event.
USS Tripoli is the second ship of the America-class amphibious assault ships, which in turn is a derivative of the Wasp-class ships. The Wasp-class ships were fitted with both an aircraft carrier-like full-length flight deck, island bridge, and hangar to support the aircraft that would shuttle U.S. Marines from ship to shore. The ships also included a floodable bay and voluminous parking area to ferry Marine armored and logistics vehicles—including 60-ton M1A1 Abrams tanks—to the beach.
USS America, and the subsequent USS Tripoli, were built a little differently. The two ships delete the ability to land Marines by sea, instead beefing up the ship’s hangar, aviation support services, and the amount of aircraft fuel and munitions the ship can carry. This allows it to support more MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor assault transports, CH-53E Sea Stallion heavy lift helicopters, UH-1Y Huey armed utility choppers, and AH-1Z Cobra gunships.
Tripoli is also the first amphibious assault ship to be capable of operating the F-35B, the Marines’ version of the Joint Strike Fighter, right away. Other ships in the Wasp and America classes must undergo an expensive $250 million refit to allow them to operate the new plane. The USS Bonhomme Richard had undergone such a refit in 2018.
Tripoli is 855 feet long, displaces approximately 43,745 tons fully loaded, and is operated by a crew of 1,000. The ship has room for up to 1,687 Marines and their aircraft. While the ship lacks offensive armament, it is well equipped to defend itself. Tripoli is armed with two Rolling Airframe Missile launchers, two Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile launchers, two 20mm Phalanx CIWS mounts, and seven twin .50 cal. machine guns.
In addition to its amphibious capabilities, Tripoli is capable of acting as an ad hoc aircraft carrier. In 2019 sister ship America was photographed in the eastern Pacific with 13 F-35B Lightning IIs on her flight deck, more than twice as many as an amphibious ship typically embarks. In a crunch, the Navy and Marines can disembark most of the Marine tiltrotors and helicopters and transform America and Tripoli into temporary “Lightning Carriers.” Lightning carriers could provide extra carrier-based firepower at the front line until larger, purpose-built carriers arrive in theater to relieve them.
Tripoli is bound for its new home port at San Diego Naval Base, California. An eighth amphibious assault ship, USS Bougainville, began construction in 2019. USS Tripoli is named after the Battle of Derna, when in 1805, a unit of U.S. Marines led an attack on Derna, Libya during the First Barbary War.
Source: Task & Purpose
You Might Also Like