According to pictures released by the U.S. Navy on January 9, 2021, F-35B Lightning II fighter aircraft assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit have conducted flight operations from the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6).
US Navy USS America, the lead ship of the America Amphibious Ready Group, along with the 31st MEU, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
In April 2020, The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit with F-35B Lightning II fighter aircraft detachment began conducting flight operations in the South China Sea, on April 16, aboard forward deployed amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6). Over the course of daily flight operations, F-35Bs typically have completed qualifications and mission rehearsals, with control support from Sailors and Marines aboard USS America.
The USS America (LHA 6) is an amphibious assault ship in service with the United States Navy. This type of ship is not an aircraft carrier but the design evolved from aircraft carriers converted for use as helicopter carriers. In the US Navy, the primary role of amphibious assault ships are to host helicopters to support forces ashore rather than to support strike aircraft. However, some are capable of serving in the sea-control role, embarking fighter aircraft F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the F-35 Lightning II fighters for combat air patrol and helicopters for anti-submarine warfare or operating as a safe base for large numbers of STOVL fighters conducting air support for an expeditionary unit ashore.
The USS America is designed to operate 12 MV-22B transport VTOL aircraft, six STOVL F-35B attack aircraft, four CH-53K heavy transport helicopters, seven AH-1Z/UH-1Y attack/utility helicopters, and two Navy MH-60S for air-sea rescue. The America class has an increased aviation capacity to include an enlarged hangar deck, realignment, and expansion of the aviation maintenance facilities, a significant increase in available stowage for parts and support equipment, and increased aviation fuel capacity.
The USS America propulsion system includes two marine gas turbines, two shafts, and two 5,000 hp (3,700 kW) auxiliary propulsion motors. She can reach a top speed of 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph). She has a crew of 1,059 people and can carry 1,687 Marines.
The USS America is two Rolling Airframe surface-to-air Missile launchers, two Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile launchers, 20 mm Phalanx CIWS (Close-In Weapon Systems) mounts, two 25mm M242 Bushmaster automatic cannons, and seven twin .50 BMG machine guns.
The F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant is the world’s first supersonic STOVL stealth aircraft. It is designed to operate from austere bases and a range of air-capable ships near front-line combat zones. It can also take off and land conventionally from longer runways on major bases.