January 24, 2006 The United States Defense Acquisition Board has approved the Landing Helicopter Assault (LHA)-Replacement amphibious assault ship program to enter system development and demonstration (SDD) phase. The Northrop Grumman LHA(R) will be the U.S. Navy's newest multifunctional and most versatile, amphibious assault ship, incorporating enhanced aviation capabilities centred around the STOVL F-35B Joint Strike Fighter and the V-22 tilt-rotor Osprey. The LHA(R) will be a variant of the gas-turbine powered LHD 8. This longer and wider ship will provide increased aviation capability, vehicle lift, cargo magazine capacity, better survivability, increased habitability standards and greater service life margins.
The LHA(R) will replace the LHA 1 class of amphibious assault ships, and will have the flexibility to operate in the traditional role as the flagship for an Expeditionary Strike Group as well as potentially playing a key role in the maritime pre-positioning force future (MPF(F)). As the Navy's Seabasing plan matures in the next few years, the flexibility to operate with the Expeditionary Strike Group and as part of the MPF(F) will make the LHA(R) a vital cog in the Sea Base.
Northrop Grumman has already delivered USS Tarawa-class (LHA 1) and seven USS Wasp-class (LHD 1) amphibious assault ships to the U.S. Navy, with an eighth, Makin Island (LHD 8), currently under construction.