By Capt. Michael W. Baze
Commanding officer, USS America (LHA 6)
Amphibious warfighting is ever-evolving and today’s Navy and Marine Corps team is more versatile and adaptable than ever before. This year, the America-class amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) proudly serves as the amphibious task force command and control platform during the 2016 Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC).
Embarked flag staffs from the Royal New Zealand Navy and Expeditionary Strike Group 3 will join America’s crew alongside over 800 U.S. Marines from 3d Marine Regiment. These Marines make up the Provisional Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Hawaii for the exercise and are joined by Marines, Soldiers and Sailors from Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Republic of Korea and Tonga. United States rotary wing and tilt-rotor Navy and Marine Corps aircraft, as well as multiple aircraft from other RIMPAC participant nations, will operate with USS America during the exercise to improve interoperability while honing the skills needed during amphibious operations.
USS America is capable of supporting a wide range of Navy/Marine missions across the spectrum of conflict, from peacetime operations like humanitarian assistance/disaster relief, defense support of civil authorities and theater security cooperation; to non-combatant evacuation operations; to full combat operations in support of Marine landing forces. In addition to this inherent versatility, USS America is well suited as a command and control platform at the center of an amphibious readiness group.
An aviation-centric platform, USS America truly provides unmatched flexibility in supporting the Marine Corps’ current and future fleet aircraft and was designed with enhanced aviation capabilities in mind to optimally sustain and support the Marine’s newest aircraft — the MV-22 Osprey and the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter — during extended global deployments. For example, our hangar bay is about 40 percent larger than past similar platforms and includes a second high-bay hangar crane area to improve aviation maintenance capabilities. USS America also carries more aviation fuel and possesses more space for aviation repair activities. In addition to supporting the MV-22 and F-35B, we can support a wide range of Marine aircraft such as the AV-8B Harrier II, CH-53D/E Sea Stallion, UH-1N Iroquois and AH-1W Super Cobra, as well as Navy helicopters such as the MH-60S. For RIMPAC, USS America is also embarking MH-60R helicopters that will participate in both anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare training with participating nations.
During RIMPAC, our blue-green force will engage in realistic and relevant training to strengthen our own and our partners’ abilities to communicate and conduct complex maritime operations safely, efficiently and effectively. The embarked Marine forces will learn more about ship-to-shore movements and eventually launch into the U.S. Army’s Pohakuloa Training Area via Marine Corps aircraft, assault amphibious vehicles and landing craft air cushions for combined arms training and live fire ashore. All of this training and planning from sea to shore will culminate in a final training event, including an amphibious assault beach landing.
USS America looks forward to strengthening the bonds of understanding, friendship and teamwork with the many nations contributing to this year’s RIMPAC. We are excited to have the opportunity to improve interoperability with not only our Marine counterparts but with all countries involved in this diverse and intricate exercise.
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