Wasp class

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The Bataan 1999 in the Atlantic
The Bataan 1999 in the Atlantic
Type Amphibious assault ship
units 8 approved, 8 in service
Namesake wasp
period of service

since 1989

Technical specifications

40,650-41,772  tons


257.2 meters


33.5 meters


8.2 meters


104 officers, 1,004 sailors, up to 1,894 marines


2 propellers, driven by 2 steam turbines; 70,000 shaft horsepower
Last: 2 gas turbines


20+ knots


9500  nautical miles at 20 knots


2 starters RAM , 2 starters Sea Sparrow , various guns


6 McDonnell Douglas AV-8 or 6 Lockheed Martin F-35 4 Bell AH-1 12 Bell-Boeing V-22 4 Sikorsky CH-53 3–4 UH-1Y Venom

The Wasp-class is a class of amphibious assault ships in the United States Navy . It was developed in the early 1980s. The first unit to go into service in 1989 was the USS Wasp (LHD-1) . The eighth and final unit, USS Makin Island (LHD-8) , was transferred to the fleet in 2009.

The ships, which reach the dimensions of aircraft carriers from World War II , can transport up to 40 aircraft, both helicopters and vertical take-offs , and several landing craft in an internal well deck . These can be landing craft , air cushion vehicles or amphibious armored troop transports , each adapted to the order in different quantities and combinations. They are used in special combat groups for amphibious warfare, but can also carry out humanitarian aid operations.


Planning and construction

Picture of the Wasp 1987 under construction

The planning for the ships of the Wasp class began around 1980, and the plans for the previous Tarawa class were heavily used . Even if both classes are amphibious assault ships, there have been detailed changes to the newbuildings that not only made the Wasps an independent class of ship, but also gave it its own identifier, LHD for Landing Helicopter Dock . The reason is the significantly increased dock capacity compared to its predecessors.

Originally the US Navy wanted to build up to eleven ships of this class, and the first unit was commissioned in 1984. The projected number was later reduced to seven, which were ordered until 1995. The planning and construction yard for all units was Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula , Mississippi . In 2001 the last of the seven units was put into service. The cost of construction and equipment per ship was around 1.2 billion US dollars.

After it became clear that individual ships of the Tarawa class would not achieve their intended lifespan of 35 to 40 years, but that at least one of the units would go out of service as early as 2005, another order was placed in 2002 for the eighth and last unit of the class . As a latecomer, the ship underwent extensive changes, especially to the propulsion system. Due to damage during hurricane “Katrina” and later problems with the cabling on board, it was not put into service until 2009 instead of 2007 as planned. The cost was originally expected to be around $ 2.2 billion, but the delay increased it by over $ 300 million. These were partly carried by the shipyard, also Ingalls.

The naming of the ships does not follow the tradition of choosing names after major battles of the Marine Corps , as was the case with earlier amphibious ships of the US Navy , instead names of historical aircraft carriers were mainly reused.

Present and Future

The seven original Wasp-class ships went into service between 1989 and 2001 and partly replaced the outdated helicopter carriers of the Iwo Jima class , partly they were an independent addition to the amphibious armed forces of the US Navy. In these, the Wasp class , and optionally also the Tarawa class , is the main component of an amphibious combat group until it is finally retired .

The first America-class unit also entered service in 2015 . The Americas take over the previous task of the Tarawas . From 2027, the first Wasp will be decommissioned and replaced by new buildings.


Surname Procurement Keel laying Launch Commissioning Decommissioning home port Whereabouts / remarks
USS Wasp (LHD-1) February 28, 1984 May 30, 1985 4th August 1987 July 29, 1989
USS Essex (LHD-2) September 10, 1986 March 20, 1989 February 23, 1991 17th October 1992
USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) November 20, 1987 February 6, 1990 March 26, 1992 October 16, 1993
USS Boxer (LHD-4) March 10, 1988 April 8, 1991 August 13, 1993 February 11, 1995
USS Bataan (LHD-5) December 20, 1991 June 22, 1994 March 15, 1996 September 20, 1997
USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) December 11, 1992 April 18, 1995 March 14, 1997 August 15, 1998
USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7) February 28, 1995 December 12, 1997 March 25, 2001 June 30, 2001
USS Makin Island (LHD-8) April 19, 2002 February 14, 2004 September 22, 2006 October 24, 2009



This view shows the landing of an LCU on the non-flooded well deck of the Essex .

The ships of the Wasp class is 257.2 meters long (about everything, so the length of the flight deck), the construction waterline is 237.1 meters. The width is 33.5 meters or 32.3 meters. The displacement when fully loaded is a little over 40,000 ts . This gives the ships a draft of around 8.2 meters. In terms of dimensions, the ships are similar to aircraft carriers from World War II, but are significantly heavier than these.

The deck is designed as a flight deck throughout ; only one island, like the one that modern aircraft carriers have, protrudes beyond this and houses control rooms and the antenna forest with all electrical systems on two masts. The flight deck is made of hardened HY-100 steel in order to be able to offer a safe landing area even for jets taking off vertically. A protected hangar deck for the aircraft and helicopters is located in the aft third below the flight deck. An aircraft elevator on the port and starboard sides transports these to the flight deck.

Below the hangar, the aft 82 meters are occupied by the 15 meter wide corrugated deck , which is closed off at the rear by a gate. So that landing craft can enter and exit there, the ships have large ballast tanks that absorb seawater and allow the stern to sink by almost three meters to eleven meters. Further towards the bow there is around 2000 square meters of cargo space.


The first seven units are powered by steam. Two oil-fired boilers heat water, the generated steam drives two geared turbines , each of which in turn drives a shaft with a propeller. The five-bladed propellers are almost five meters in diameter. The performance of the system is around 70,000 wave horsepower , the speed is according to official information 20+ knots, in fact this should be around 24 knots. The range without bunkers is around 9500 nautical miles at a cruising speed of 20 knots. The energy for the on-board network is generated by steam generators, the output is 16 megawatts.

In contrast, the Makin Island unit, which was planned as a straggler , received two LM-2500 + gas turbines from General Electric , which bring the ship performance values ​​similar to their operations, but allow much higher acceleration. The Makin Iceland is the first gas turbine-driven flight deck ship of the US Navy. At low speeds of less than 12 knots, the ship is powered exclusively by two 5000 HP electric motors, which should save up to 25% operating time of the gas turbines and thus over 1.5 million liters of fuel. Energy generation has also been converted; instead of steam generators, six diesel generators generate a maximum output of 24 megawatts. Over the planned 40-year service life, this should save US $ 250 million in fuel costs.

In addition, each ship generates around 900,000 liters of fresh water per day.

To ensure the stability of the ships, the heavy propulsion systems are located amidships on the lowest decks.

Embarked aircraft and watercraft

Two Osprey during tests with the Wasp

In the well deck, each class unit can carry three Landing Craft Air Cushioned (LCAC) boats. Alternatively, two Landing Craft, Utility (LCU) or one of these types fit into the well deck. For pure attack missions, 40 Assault Amphibious Vehicles AAV7 can also be transported, if these are not prepared for combat, up to 61.

Usually, most of the embarked air fleet consists of Boeing-Vertol CH-46 Sea Knight transport helicopters (around twelve) and Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion (around four). Other helicopters on board are the Bell UH-1 Huey and the Bell AH-1W Super Cobra . In addition, each ship has up to six vertical takeoff McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II combat aircraft . The certification of the flight decks for the new Bell-Boeing MV-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft , which is to replace the outdated transport helicopters in the long term, is also currently in progress .

Depending on the mission and aircraft selection, the Wasps can carry between 30 and 40 machines.

Armament and Electronics

Start a RAM from the Bataan

The main armament of the ships consists of two launchers for anti- aircraft missiles of the type RIM-7 Sea Sparrow , and two launchers for RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles have also been retrofitted. In addition, two short-range defense systems of the type Phalanx CIWS are installed, a third was omitted when the RIM-116 was scaffolded. One of the weapons is located in front of the island, pointing forward, the second one is installed on the transom and secures the ship aft . Especially to defend against small boats around the port have the ships three to four 25-mm M242 Bushmaster- -Maschinenkanonen and four cal .50 - machine guns .

Air surveillance on the Essex

The ships have several radar systems to monitor their surroundings . A SPS-48E with a range of around 425 kilometers is installed on the front mast for 3-D air surveillance ; the 2-D air surveillance radar SPS-49 (V) 5 (range 450 kilometers) on the aft mast works together with this. A SPS-67 is used for the surface target search , a SPS-64 for the navigation . The Mk. 91 is used as a fire control system , two associated Mk. 95 radar illuminators illuminate the targets for the missiles. In addition, there are the three systems SPN-35A, SPN-43B and SPN-47 for approach and close-range airspace control.

To protect against attacks, the ships have Wasp-class amphibious assault ship via the electronic combat system AN / SLQ-32 (V) 3 , to deflect the approaching enemy missiles over the SRBOC -Täuschkörpersystem. Torpedoes can be deflected by Nixie decoys. In the meantime, the CEC combat system has been retrofitted on all ships that did not already have it ex works.


The Iwo Jima fair during a movie night

The crew usually consists of 104 officers, 1004 sailors and up to 1,894 soldiers from the Marine Corps . Since the aft area is mainly occupied by the hangar and the well deck as well as cargo stores, the crew is accommodated in the bow area . The trade fairs and lounges are also located in this area. Over 7,000 meals are served on each of the ships every day. Around a ton of meat is processed for this purpose, as well as frozen vegetables, over 50 kilograms of fresh vegetables and 770 fresh and 150 kilograms of frozen eggs. In addition, the crew consumed 170 kilograms of fruit per day.

The medical rooms on board are particularly important for the fleet. The hospital has space for up to 600 injured people and there are six operating theaters.

Mission profile

Amphibious attack ships are mainly used in amphibious ready groups of the US Navy . These are grouped around a Wasp class ship and also contain a cargo ship, for example of the new San Antonio class or the older Whidbey Island or Harpers Ferry class, as well as warships for defense, such as destroyers of the Arleigh Burke or cruiser the Ticonderoga-class cruiser .

These groups transport a marine expeditionary unit with its heavy equipment to war zones and enable it to land on rough, unpaved coasts by means of hovercraft or helicopter. Such missions took place in front of Iraq . Some of the combat groups are also deployed in regions at risk of piracy, for example to combat piracy off the Somali coast , where they respond to emergency calls from civilian ships.

In addition to combat missions, the ships can be used primarily during humanitarian relief operations. Their helicopters and hovercraft can quickly bring large quantities of food, water and relief supplies to regions that have been devastated by floods. For example, the Essex was ready during Cyclone Nargis off Burma's coast, but the helicopters were not given permission to enter the national airspace.

Web links

Commons : Wasp class  - collection of images, videos, and audio files


  1. a b Stefan Terzibaschitsch : Sea power USA . Bernard & Graefe Verlag, Bonn, ISBN 3-86047-576-2 . Pages 886f
  2. ^ Norman Polmar: Naval Institute Guide to the Ships and Aircraft of the US Fleet . US Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 2005, ISBN 978-1-59114-685-8 . Page 184f
  3. ^ The Future of the Navy's Amphibious and Maritime Prepositioning Forces . ( Memento of July 31, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF) Congressional Budget Office, p. 3 (English)
  4. ^ The Future of the Navy's Amphibious and Maritime Prepositioning Forces . ( Memento of July 31, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF) p. 41 (English)
  5. ^ Yard says problems will delay Makin Island .  ( Page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Navy Times@1@ 2Template: Dead Link / www.navytimes.com  
  6. Makin Island transforms 'Big Deck' amphibious force ( Memento from March 9, 2005 in the Internet Archive ), from Surface Warfare Vol. 28 No. 5 (english)
  7. Makin Island Completes INSURV Special Trials . Navy News Stand
  8. a b Statistics on the page of the USS Essex ( Memento from July 30, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) (English)

This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on August 3, 2008 .