LHA-1 Tarawa class Aviation Features
The design of the TARAWA class LHAs is based on the requirements of amphibious assault: carrying Marines and their equipment, and unloading them rapidly, by helicopter, landing craft, and/or amphibious tractors. Helicopters provide the most-rapid and most-flexible means of landing troops in an amphibious assault. Thus, the flight deck-and to a large extent the entire ship-is designed to permit simultaneous loading- of nine large assault helicopters. Then, as soon as these helicopters are loaded and take off for the helicopter landing zone, a second wave of nine helicopters waiting on deck can spread their rotors, move into deck positions, load troops and weapons, and take off.
The LHA normally will operate approximately 25 helicopters. Most of these will be CH-46 Sea Knight troop-carrying helicopters which will be supplemented by a few CH-53 Sea Stallion heavy-lift helicopters and a few UH-1 "Huey" utility helicopters.
The CH-53 type are large helicopters, powered by two or three gas turbine engines, which can lift about 35 troops or 8,000 to 16,000 pounds of cargo (depending upon the type and engines). The smaller CH-46, also powered by two gas turbine engines, carries some 20 troops or about 4,000 pounds of cargo. Both helicopters carry equipment (including small vehicles) either inside their fuselage or suspended underneath by cargo slings.
The third helicopter that normally is carried in assault ships is the small UH-1, officially known as the Iroquois, but generally referred to as the "Huey," the pronounciation of its previous military designation HU-1 E. This is a small helicopter, powered by one or two gas turbines and carrying about seven troops. It generally is employed to carry troop commanders, or for utility and liaison work. However, the Huey can be fitted with machineguns and rocket launchers to provide limited fire support for assault landings.
Other helicopters could be carried if the ship's maintenance facilities are modified. Similarly, the LHA may be adapted to employ the AV-8 Harrier, a Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing (VSTOL) aircraft. Now flown by the Marine Corps, the Harrier is a jet-propelled attack aircraft that can take-off and land vertically, or with very short deck runs. The Harrier provides an improved fire support capability over some helicopters.
All of these aircraft can fly from the LHA flight deck. Below the flight deck the aftermost quarter of the ship consists of a hangar with some 20,000 square feet of deck space. The hangar provides a protected area for the storage and maintenance of aircraft. Two large elevators, one at the stern and one on the port side of the ship, connect the hangar and flight decks. Adjacent to the hangar are maintenance shops and storage spaces for spare parts. These aviation shops can perform routine maintenance and repairs on the helicopters.
Related to the LHA's helicopter capabilities, the ship has storage tanks for thousands of gallons of JP-6 fuel for the turbine-powered helicopters and gasoline for motor vehicles. This large tankage permits the LHA to deploy overseas for long periods while operating helicopters without replenishment from fuel ships, or for the helicopters to fly a large number of sorties during an amphibious assault.
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