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LHA 6 Flight I / LHA 8 class

LHA 8 will be the next increment of the LHA(R) ships following the America Class design with LHA 6/7 hull and machinery. This ship will include a well deck for added connector capability and a reduced island for improved aircraft handling and maintenance , both features added to improve the ship's surface and vertical assault capabilities. It incorporates a hybrid well deck designed for two LCAC spots, a smaller island superstructure and updated warfare and communications systems. A modification of the LHA-6 America design, LHA-8 will have a slightly smaller hanger than the America and a slightly smaller well deck than past amphibs like the Kearsage. A redesign of the island structure would free up more room on LHA-8's flight deck to do maintenance on V-22s, compensating for some of the hanger space lost inside the ship.

In March 2010 Phil Ewing at Navy Times wrote that "More than two years before the amphibious assault ship America enters the fleet, Marine officials have already drawn up early plans for a version of the ship that includes a major component America is missing a well deck. The LHA 8 concept, as it was called in a presentation Monday by Marine Corps Combat Development Command, would combine new aviation features the Marines want in the America class with a traditional big-deck capacity for landing craft and green gear."

Mike Burleson at New Wars warned: "I already have a clear vision of what this multipurpose wonder will look like. The 45,000 ton ship will grow another 10,000 tons, perhaps a hundred feet longer. The pricetag, now surpassing $3 billion each, will rise another $1 billion at least. The 10 helicopter carriers we currently possess will likely shrink to about 6 in a decade or two."

Sydney J. Freedberg wrote in 2012 that "The problem is, of course, that not all or even most future operations will be like Libya in 2011. The whole point of having a Marine Corps is so they can go ashore. Modern Marine tactics de-emphasize storming the beach in landing craft a la Tarawa in World War II and instead focus on bypassing enemy defenses by flying forces deep inland. (That mission drove the V-22's unique design). But landing craft are still essential, less for the first wave ashore than to sustain the operation with bulk supplies and heavy equipment trucks, artillery, tanks that aircraft can carry only in small amounts or not at all. And if landing craft are essential, then so is the well deck."

The LHA Replacement (LHA(R)) ships will recapitalize the aging "large deck" amphibious ships by replacing the Tarawa class. LHA(R) ships are a modified version of the Wasp (LHD 1) class, optimized for aviation and capable of supporting current and future aircraft, such as the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter. Large deck amphibious ships facilitate forward presence and power projection as an integral part of joint, interagency, and multinational maritime expeditionary forces. The ships support the Marine Corps tenets of Operational Maneuver from the Sea (OMFTS) and Ship to Objective Maneuver (STOM) and the Navy tenets of Sea Strike and Sea Basing.

In 2014 the Navy was executing an Affordability Design Effort for LHA 8 for the purpose of driving out ship procurement costs that are incurred by overstated specifications, specifications that have not been updated to reflect current industry practices, Government to contractor miscommunication, old processes, and changes to available materials. The Navy engaged General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company [NASSCO] and Huntington Ingalls Incorporated, Ingalls Shipbuilding in the LHA 8 Affordability Design, in which each shipbuilder has the opportunity to propose design changes to reduce the acquisition cost of the ship while maintaining full design integrity.

On July 17, 2014 Huntington Ingalls Industries' Ingalls Shipbuilding division was awarded an affordability design contract for $23.5 million for early industry involvement to reduce the construction and life-cycle cost for the amphibious assault ship LHA 8. "Ingalls Shipbuilding has been constructing large-deck amphibious ships for nearly 50 years, and this contract will build on our company's knowledge and experience to implement cost-saving measures to help the Navy reach their affordability goals," said Ingalls Shipbuilding President Brian Cuccias. "We are committed to building affordable ships, and this contract begins industry involvement in a meaningful way to implement improved cost in amphibious shipbuilding, specifically LHA 8."

The early industry involvement contracts were awarded to U.S. shipyards that have the facilities and resources to build a large-deck amphibious assault ship without major recapitalization. The affordability design phase allows shipbuilders an opportunity to refine contract design requirements for a more affordable ship. The shipbuilders will address the cost-driving requirements within the design trade space that offer the greatest potential for acquisition, production and overall costs. The contract will employ Ingalls design and production engineers, planners, and a variety of operations experts to participate in the preliminary design of the ship and bring their ideas and knowledge of constructing amphibious warships to the table to help the Navy achieve their affordability goals.

Ingalls is currently the sole builder of amphibious ships for the Navy. The shipyard delivered its first amphibious assault ship, the Iwo Jima-class USS Tripoli (LPH 10), in 1966. Ingalls has since built five Tarawa-class (LHA 1) ships and eight Wasp-class (LHD 1) ships and recently delivered the first in a new class of amphibious assault ships, America (LHA 6).

The Defense Department decided to open the competition for the third ship after NASSCO expressed interest in the contract. Defense Department gave General Dynamics-NASSCO $23.5 million to see if it can come up with a better and cheaper plan than Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) to build LHA-8, expected to cost at least $3.5 billion. The company has experience building large cargo and container-style vessels, but not complex ships like LHA-8.

The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) and Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC) have determined that the force structure required to support a 2.0 MEB assault echelon lift is 38 amphibious assault ships. The 38 ship requirement was communicated to the four chairmen of the Appropriations and Armed Services committees by SECNAV/CNO/CMC letter dated January 7, 2009. Given fiscal constraints, DON has determined a minimum force of 33 total amphibious ships represents the limit of acceptable risk in meeting the 38-ship amphibious force lift requirements for the assault echelon in a two MEB forcible entry operation. In addition, a force of this size will provide sufficient capacity for single-ship deployments for theater security cooperation activities. A minimum of eleven LHA/LHD, eleven LPD 17, and eleven LSD 41/49s is required to meet the requirement for 30 operational ships. Thirty operationally available amphibious ships are required to lift the fiscally constrained assault echelon of 2.0 MEBs.

A strategic review was conducted in 2012 in conjunction with the new defense strategy and the FY2012 Force Structure Assessment, focused primarily on sustaining Amphibious Ready Groups/Marine Expeditionary Units forward in the Western Pacific and Persian Gulf in a crisis response role. It took risk in generating the 30 operationally available ships necessary to conduct a 2.0 MEB assault echelon forcible entry operation. To lower risk, this plan strives to maintain an active inventory of 33 active amphibious ships.

The FY2015 shipbuilding plan met the amphibious ship requirement of eleven LHA/LHDs, eleven LPDs, and eleven LSD/LX(R)s in FY2024. Eleven LHAs/LHDs would be achieved in FY2024 with delivery of LHA 8. The FY2015 shipbuilding plan will result in a projected amphibious ship force structure of at least 30 ships in the near-term and maintains 33 ships throughout the majority of the 30-Year Plan. At the end of FY2015 the Navy would have 30 amphibious ships in the inventory to include one LHA, eight LHDs, nine LPDs, and twelve LSDs. The Navy would procure the first LHA 6 Flight I amphibious assault ship in FY2017. This ship is split funded, with the second year fully funded in FY2018. Beginning in FY2024, Navy planned to begin building LHA 6 Flight l ships every four years.

In the mid-term (FY2025-FY2034) the DON would continue to procure the large, multi-purpose Flight I LHA 6 amphibious assault ships, procuring the third ship in FY2028. This build profile and phased modernization strategy would help maintain the long-term inventory for amphibious ships at or above 33 ships throughout the mid-term period. In the Far-term (FY2035-FY2044) the Navy would continue to build three more LHAs to continue the recapitalization of the LHD and LHA 5 class platforms as they reach the end of their 45 year expected service life.

Huntington Ingalls Inc., Ingalls Shipbuilding Division, Pascagoula, Mississippi, was awarded a $272,467,161 fixed-price-incentive contract on 30 June 2016 for the planning, advanced engineering, and procurement of long lead time material in support of one amphibious assault ship (LHA 8). This contract includes options, which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value to $3,133,852,637. Work will be performed in Pascagoula, Mississippi (44 percent); Beloit, Wisconsin (16 percent); Milwaukee, Wisconsin (15 percent); Santa Fe Springs, California (8 percent); York, Pennsylvania (6 percent); Pittsburg, Pennsylvania (4 percent); Irvine, Pennsylvania (3 percent); Brunswick, Georgia (2 percent); and various other locations (totaling 2 percent), and work is expected to be completed by June 2017. Fiscal 2016 shipbuilding and conversion (Navy) funding in the amount of $272,467,161 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via limited competition pursuant to 10 U.S.Code 2304(c)(3), with two offers received. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, District of Columbia, is the contracting activity (N00024-16-C-2427).




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