Landing Helicopter Assault

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USS Tarawa (LHA-1) underway in June 1997.
An aerial view of USS America (LHA-6) coming into port in San Diego, California, 15 September 2014

Landing Helicopter Assault (LHA) is the United States Navy's hull classification symbol for the general purpose helicopter-carrying amphibious assault ships of the Tarawa and America classes.

Their purpose is to project power and maintain presence by serving as the cornerstone of the amphibious ready group or expeditionary strike group.[1] They are used to transport Fleet Marine Force personnel and equipment while operating in a deployed Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) or Marine expeditionary brigade (MEB). They normally travel in Task Forces called Amphibious Ready Groups. These ships and their escorts are capable of anything from military landing operations to humanitarian operations.

These vessels are built with a full flight deck similar in appearance to an aircraft carrier to operate utility and attack helicopters. They can also operate tilt rotor aircraft such as the MV-22 Osprey and STOVL aircraft such as the AV-8 Harrier and the F-35B Lightning II.[2]

The Tarawa-class LHAs provided the Marine Corps with a means of ship-to-shore movement by helicopter in addition to movement by landing craft.[1] They were the first ships designed to do both things efficiently at same time.

The first two ships of the new America class, LHA-6 and LHA-7, differ from both the older Tarawa-class LHAs and LHDs in that they will have no well deck; LHA-8 and following ships will again include well deck facilities.[2] LHAs that contain a well deck are able to support use of Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC) and other watercraft.

Three Tarawa Class LHAs were active during Operations Desert Shield / Storm. America Since then LHAs have participated in US Navy operations as launch platforms for Marine Corps expeditionary forces into Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom (2001/2), Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003) and humanitarian support after the Tsunami in 2004. In 2004 LHAs were used to transport Marines and their equipment to Iraq and Afghanistan for combat operations.[1]

Name Commissioned Decommissioned
Tarawa-class amphibious assault ships
LHA-1 USS Tarawa May 29, 1976 September 30, 2009
LHA-2 USS Saipan October 15, 1977 April 20, 2007
LHA-3 USS Belleau Wood September 23, 1978 October 28, 2005
LHA-4 USS Nassau July 28, 1979 March 31, 2011
LHA-5 USS Peleliu May 3, 1980 April 7, 2015
America-class amphibious assault ships
LHA-6 USS America October 11, 2014 The USS America class ships replace the original five Tarawa-class LHAs.
LHA-7 USS Tripoli Under construction
LHA-8 USS Bougainville Planned

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Amphibious Assault Ships (LHD/LHA)". US Navy. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Fact File: Amphibious Assault Ships—LHD/LHA(R)". U.S. Navy. 10 January 2017. Retrieved 26 April 2017.