The core power of the U.S. relies on its control on the world trade with its superiority over the world’s oceans. As a hegemonic global power, the U.S. would maintain its supremacy over the seas as long as it can shift air, naval and amphibious power to any part of the world with carrier strike groups and amphibious task forces to intervene in crises.
However, the emergence of an important actor such as China, who wants to be the hegemonic power in the global system, and the technological success it has achieved in the commercial field in the weapon production, began to pose a threat to the U.S. naval force. The U.S. aims to deter China and protect its maritime superiority with new technologies and concepts. Undoubtedly, the most critical issue for the U.S. is the persistence of power projection capability. Therefore, the second of the America-class Amphibious Assault ships, the USS Tripoli, is considered an essential step for this purpose.
USS Tripoli was launched in May of 2019. She will serve as an aviation-centric amphibious assault ship built to project power with Osprey helicopters and F-35B stealth fighters at great standoff distances. She was built without a well-deck to allow greater hangar space for aircraft to embark much more airpower, with more onboard hangar space for aircraft and specific accommodations for the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter. F-35B JSF brings a wide range of new sensors, weaponry and aviation technology to the Corps, is a very different aircraft than the Harrier jets it is replacing. F-35Bs can not only rely upon stealth technology and long-range sensors to attack enemy forces and air defences, but small fleets of F-35s can depend upon a common data link to operate as aerial nodes as well. F-35 will expand network coverage, helping unmanned aerial, surface and subsurface drones to operate in the same network.
The Strategy ;
According to the U.S. amphibious assault strategy, as a mother platform, amphibious assault ships are able to dispatch and operate small fleets of attack and surveillance air and surface drones. The concept is to have larger manned ships operating in a command and control capacity while operating amphibious operations at safer standoff distances. Such an approach can leverage the range and advantages of stealth air attack, long-range network-based assault missions and drone boat attacks to find vulnerable points across the enemy coastline.
America-class amphibious ships are capable to carry up to 3,000 sailors and marines, including elements of a Marine Expeditionary Unit, or MEU, designed for amphibious warfare. Amphibious technology onboard the ship can include up to 60 HMMWs, Light Armoured Vehicles, mortars, artillery and smaller Internally Transportable Vehicles, or ITVs, configured to drive into the back of an Osprey, Navy and Marine Corps.
Totally, America-Class amphibious ships are configured to house as many as 31 aircraft including 12 MV-22 Ospreys and the CH-53 Super Stallion, AH-1Z Super Cobra, UH-1Y Huey, F-35 B Short-take-off-and-landing Joint Strike Fighter and MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter. The U.S. has been trying to build a sea wall in the East and South China seas to cut off China’s communication with the rest of the world. Although China aims to demolish this wall with newly developed weapons and ships, the U.S. continues to surround China with new ships and concepts that will contribute to its superiority in new amphibious power and newly designed concepts.
Pacific region has turned into a chessboard on which the U.S. and China have been constantly moving. For sure, America-class amphibious assault ships will contribute to its presence and supremacy over the region. On the other hand, China has been building Type 075 class LHDs which are estimated to be a larger platform than America-class. It’s obvious that China will not give up on the race against the U.S. if it would be able to maintain its growth rate.