SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) is the first West Coast ship to have its flight deck upgraded with a thermal spray coating in key landing areas in order to more fully support the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) that will be attached to the ship during future operations.
America is more than halfway through its post-shakedown availability period (PSA) in which the ship's crew and contractors make improvements to the ship's design. About 20 percent of the work being performed is the normal maintenance associated with PSAs for newly constructed ships. The rest of the maintenance consists of the upgrades designed to support the JSF.
"When this ship was built, Joint Strike Fighter testing was underway, most recently on the USS Wasp based on the East Coast at the time," said America's Commanding Officer Capt. Michael W. Baze. "The lessons learned during the Wasp testing periods, lessons about the long-term sustainability of our ship flight decks during JSF operations as compared with the legacy AV-8B Harrier, are being incorporated into America's design. These changes will become a part of subsequent LHA/LHDs moving forward, for example our follow-on LHA ship the Tripoli; currently in construction."
The new thermal coatings will allow America, and subsequent ships of the class, to handle the new JSF's thrust and reduce heat sent to decks below allowing for longer time between deck maintenance.
"The beauty of the thermal spray is it is designed to wear a lot better under these types of conditions," said Baze. "The con of thermion is it does costs a little more than the traditional non-skid we use in other parts of the ship that do not have to support Joint Strike Fighter landings."
"As Marine Corps plankowners of America, we are all excited about the improvements being made to America in support of the Joint Strike Fighter," said U.S. Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 4 Shane Duhe, America's mobility Combat Cargo Officer. "This is because we will become one of the first ships to have the Joint Strike Fighter with us in an operational environment. What this is going to do for all of us, with the Navy-Marine Corps team, is it's going to greatly increase the strike capability that Marine air-ground task forces bring to the fight."
The America-class amphibious assault ships have the largest aviation support spaces of all amphibious warships, and are therefore capable of supporting the most advance Marine Corps aircraft, soon to include the JSF.
"All the extra aviation volume and space translates into our ability to stay on station longer, support what we call 'faster sortie accomplishment rate' in aviation terms," said Baze. "That's how fast and how often we can launch aircraft off this ship and keep them flying."
America is currently moored at Naval Base San Diego and scheduled to be in PSA until early next year. Every new ship conducts a PSA that is designed to harness results of a thorough test and evaluation period and pave the way to operational employment.