Wasp-class amphibious assault ship

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USS Wasp on 4 October 2007
Class overview
NameWasp class
BuildersIngalls Shipbuilding
Operators United States Navy
Preceded byTarawa class
Succeeded byAmerica class
CostRoughly 2.22 billion in 2023 dollars[1][2]
In commission1989–present
General characteristics
TypeLanding helicopter dock (LHD) amphibious assault ship
Displacement40,500 long tons (41,150 t) full load
Length843 ft (257 m)
Beam104 ft (31.8 m)
Draft27 ft (8.1 m)
Speed22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph)
Range9,500 nautical miles (17,600 km; 10,900 mi) at 18 kn (33 km/h; 21 mph)
Well deck dimensions: 266-by-50-foot (81 by 15.2 m) by 28-foot (8.5 m) high
Boats & landing
craft carried
Troops1,687 troops (plus 184 surge) Marine Detachment
Complement66 officers, 1,004 enlisted[3]
Sensors and
processing systems
Aircraft carried
Aviation facilitiesHangar deck

The Wasp-class is a class of landing helicopter dock (LHD) amphibious assault ships operated by the United States Navy. Based on the Tarawa class, with modifications to operate more advanced aircraft and landing craft, the Wasp-class is capable of transporting almost the full strength of a United States Marine Corps Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), and landing them in hostile territory via landing craft or helicopters as well as providing air support via AV-8B Harrier II attack aircraft or F-35B Lightning II stealth strike-fighters. All Wasp-class ships were built by Ingalls Shipbuilding, at Pascagoula, Mississippi, with the lead ship, USS Wasp, commissioned on 29 July 1989. Eight Wasp-class ships were built, and as of April 2021, seven are in active service, as USS Bonhomme Richard was seriously damaged by fire on 12 July 2020, and subsequently decommissioned in April 2021.[4][5]


The Wasp-class is based on the preceding Tarawa-class design.[6] The design was modified to allow for the operation of AV-8B Harrier II aircraft and Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) hovercraft, making the Wasp class the first ships specifically designed to operate these.[7]

Wasp, left, and Tarawa-class Saipan, in 1993.

The main physical changes between the two designs are the lower placement of the ship's bridge in the Wasp class, the relocation of the command and control facilities to inside the hull,[6] the removal of the 5-inch (127 mm) Mk 45 naval guns and their sponsons on the forward edge of the flight deck, and a lengthening of 24 feet (7.3 m) to carry the LCACs.[citation needed]

Each Wasp-class ship has a displacement of 40,500 long tons (41,150 t) at full load, is 831 feet (253.2 m) long, has a beam of 104 feet (31.8 m), and a draft of 27 feet (8.1 m).[8] For propulsion, most of the ships are fitted with two steam boilers connected to geared turbines, which deliver 70,000 shaft horsepower (52,000 kW) to the two propeller shafts.[8] This allows the LHDs to reach speeds of 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph), with a range of 9,500 nautical miles (17,600 km; 10,900 mi) at 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph).[8] The last ship of the class, USS Makin Island, was instead fitted with two General Electric LM2500 geared gas turbines.[9] The ship's company consists of 1,208 personnel.[8]

Amphibious operations[edit]

The LHDs can support amphibious landings in two forms: by landing craft and by helicopter.[8] In the 266-by-50-foot (81 by 15.2 m) by 28-foot (8.5 m) high well deck,[2] the LHDs can carry three Landing Craft Air Cushion, twelve Landing Craft Mechanised, or 40 Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAVs), with another 21 AAVs on the vehicle deck.[8] The flight deck has nine helicopter landing spots and can operate helicopters and tiltrotors as large as the Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion and MV-22B Osprey.[8] The size of the air combat element varies depending on the operation: a standard air combat element consists of six Harriers or six F-35B Lightning IIs and four AH-1W/Z Super Cobra/Viper attack helicopters for attack and support, twelve Ospreys and four Super Stallions for transport, and three or four Bell UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters.[10][8] For a full assault, the air group can have a maximum of 22 Ospreys, while a Wasp operating in the sea control or "Harrier carrier" or "Lightning carrier" configuration carries 20 AV-8Bs or F-35Bs (though some ships of the class have operated as many as 24 Harriers), supported by 6 Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk helicopters for anti-submarine warfare.[10][8] Two aircraft elevators move aircraft between the flight deck and the hangar; in order to transit the Panama Canal, these elevators need to be folded in.[8]

USS Essex performing a stern gate mating with a landing craft

Each ship is capable of hosting 1,894 personnel of the United States Marine Corps; almost the full strength of a marine expeditionary unit (MEU).[8] A Wasp-class vessel can transport up to 30,800 square feet (2,860 m2) of cargo, and another 20,000 square feet (1,858 m2) is allocated for the MEU's vehicles, which typically include 5 M1 Abrams battle tanks, up to 25 AAVs, 8 M198 howitzers, 68 trucks, and up to 12 other support vehicles.[8] A six-track internal monorail system and six 12,000-pound (5,400 kg) internal elevators are used to shift cargo from the cargo holds to landing craft in the well deck.[2][8]

Each Wasp-class ship has a hospital with 64 patient beds and 6 operating rooms. An additional 536 beds can be set up in an overflow casualty ward as needed.[8][11]

Armament and sensors[edit]

Air traffic control aboard the USS Wasp

The armament of the first four Wasp class consists of two Mark 29 octuple launchers for RIM-7 Sea Sparrow missiles, two Mark 49 launchers for RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles, three 20 mm Phalanx CIWSs, four 25 mm Mark 38 chain gun systems, and four .50 caliber machine guns.[8] The next four ships, Bataan, Bonhomme Richard, Iwo Jima, and Makin Island, have a slightly reduced weapons outfit compared to their preceding sister ships, with one Phalanx and one Mark 38 gun removed.[8]

Countermeasures fitted to the ships include four to six Mark 36 SRBOC chaff and decoy launchers, an AN/SLQ-25 torpedo decoy, AN/SLQ-49 chaff buoys, a Sea Gnat missile decoy, and an AN/SLQ-32 Electronic Warfare Suite.[8]

The sensor suite fitted to each ship comprises an AN/SPS-48 or AN/SPS-52 air-search radar backed up by an AN/SPS-49 air-search radar, an SPS-67 surface search radar, an AN/URN-25 TACAN system, along with several additional radars for navigation and fire control.[8]


All Wasp-class ships were built by Ingalls Shipbuilding, at Pascagoula, Mississippi.[12] The first ship of the class, USS Wasp, was commissioned on 29 July 1989.[13]

The fifth ship of the class, USS Bataan, was constructed through a process of modular assembly and prefitting out, which meant that the LHD was almost 75 percent complete when she was launched.[8] Bataan was also the first LHD that was purpose built to house female crew members (as opposed to being modified after completion), with dedicated berths for up to 450 female sailors or Marines.[8]

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera in 2014 suggested that Japan purchase at least one Wasp-class ship to provide robust defensive amphibious capability for Japanese outer islands in the face of Chinese threats.[14]

Ships in class[edit]

Name Hull number Laid down Launched Commissioned Decommissioned Homeport Status
Wasp LHD-1 30 May 1985 4 August 1987 29 July 1989 Norfolk, Virginia Active in service
Essex LHD-2 20 March 1989 23 February 1991 17 October 1992 San Diego, California Active in service
Kearsarge LHD-3 6 February 1990 26 March 1992 16 October 1993 Norfolk, Virginia Active in service
Boxer LHD-4 18 April 1991 13 August 1993 11 February 1995 San Diego, California Active in service
Bataan LHD-5 22 June 1994 15 March 1996 20 September 1997 Norfolk, Virginia Active in service
Bonhomme Richard LHD-6 18 April 1995 14 March 1997 15 August 1998 15 April 2021[15] Sold for scrap
Iwo Jima LHD-7 12 December 1997 4 February 2000 30 June 2001 Norfolk, Virginia Active in service
Makin Island LHD-8 14 February 2004 22 September 2006 24 October 2009 San Diego, California Active in service



  1. ^ Johnston, Louis; Williamson, Samuel H. (2023). "What Was the U.S. GDP Then?". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 30 November 2023. United States Gross Domestic Product deflator figures follow the MeasuringWorth series.
  2. ^ a b c "LHD-1 Wasp Class". Warships Forecast. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Fact File: Amphibious Assault Ships – LHD/LHA(R)". U.S. Navy. 13 April 2016. Archived from the original on 19 October 2016. Retrieved 11 November 2016.
  4. ^ "USS Bonhomme Richard fire: Sailors injured, crews battle blaze at Naval Base San Diego". KGTV. 12 July 2020. Retrieved 12 July 2020.
  5. ^ "Fire-ravaged Bonhomme Richard will be decommissioned, then towed away for scrapping". The San Diego Union-Tribune. 9 April 2021.
  6. ^ a b Bishop & Chant, Aircraft Carriers, p. 230
  7. ^ "Wasp class Amphibious assault ship". Military Today. Archived from the original on 12 May 2015. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Bishop & Chant, Aircraft Carriers, p. 231.
  9. ^ Liewer, Steve (15 September 2009). "Navy Goes Green With New Hybrid Ship". The San Diego Union-Tribune. p. 1. Archived from the original on 29 September 2009. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  10. ^ a b "LHD-1 Wasp class". Federation of American Scientists. 9 May 2000. Archived from the original on 30 March 2013. Retrieved 8 April 2011.
  11. ^ "USS Kearsarge LHD-3 Ship's Loading Characteristics Pamphlet". Archived from the original on 3 April 2015. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  12. ^ "Northrop Grumman Starts Fabrication on Eighth LHD 1 Wasp-class Ship" (Press release). Pascagoula, Mississippi: Northrop Grumman. 27 May 2003. Archived from the original on 3 April 2015. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  13. ^ "Wasp To 'Come Alive' today at Naval Yard". Daily Press. Norfolk, Virginia. 29 July 1989. Archived from the original on 4 April 2015. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  14. ^ Onodera sets out plans to buy amphibious assault ships (archived from the original on 26 July 2014)
  15. ^ "BONHOMME RICHARD (LHD 6)". Naval Vessel Register. Retrieved 15 December 2021.


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