Tarawa class amphibious assault ship

The Tarawa class is a ship class
Ship class
A ship class is a group of ships of a similar design. This is distinct from a ship-type, which might reflect a similarity of tonnage or intended use. For example, the is a nuclear aircraft carrier of the Nimitz class....

 of amphibious assault ship
Amphibious assault ship
An amphibious assault ship is a type of amphibious warfare ship employed to land and support ground forces on enemy territory by an amphibious assault...

s operated by the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 (USN). Five ships were built by Ingalls Shipbuilding
Ingalls Shipbuilding
Ingalls Shipbuilding is a shipyard located in Pascagoula, Mississippi, USA, originally established in 1938, and is now part of Huntington Ingalls Industries...

 between 1971 and 1980; another four ships were planned, but later cancelled. As of 2011, only one vessel is active, and the class is due to be replaced by the America class amphibious assault ships from 2013 onwards.


The vessels have a full load displacement of 39967 tonnes (39,335.7 LT). Each ship is 834 feet (254.2 m) long, with a beam of 131.9 feet (40.2 m), and a draft of 25.9 feet (7.9 m).

Propulsion is provided by two Combustion Engineering
Combustion Engineering
Combustion Engineering was an American engineering firm and leading firm in the development of power systems in the United States with approximately 30,000 employees in about a dozen states at its peak. Headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, C-E owned over two dozen other companies including...

 boilers, connected to two Westinghouse
Westinghouse Electric (1886)
Westinghouse Electric was an American manufacturing company. It was founded in 1886 as Westinghouse Electric Company and later renamed Westinghouse Electric Corporation by George Westinghouse. The company purchased CBS in 1995 and became CBS Corporation in 1997...

 turbines. These supply 70000 hp to the ship's two propeller shafts. A Tarawa class vessel can reach a maximum speed of 24 knots (13.1 m/s), and has a maximum range of 10000 nautical miles (18,520 km) at 20 knots (10.9 m/s). In addition to the main propulsion system, the ships are fitted with a bow thruster
Bow thruster
A bow thruster is a transversal propulsion device built into, or mounted to, the bow of a ship or boat to make it more maneuverable. Bow thrusters make docking easier, since they allow the captain to turn the vessel to port or starboard without using the main propulsion mechanism which requires...


As of 1998, the ships' armament consists of a Mark 49 RAM surface-to-air missile system, two Vulcan Phalanx close-in weapons systems, six Mark 242 25 mm automatic cannons, and eight 12.7 mm machine guns. Previously, the amphibious warships were fitted with a Mark 25 Sea Sparrow
RIM-7 Sea Sparrow
RIM-7 Sea Sparrow is a US ship-borne short-range anti-aircraft and anti-missile weapon system, primarily intended for defense against anti-ship missiles...

 missile system (which was replaced by the Phalanx units), and two 5-inch (127 mm) Mk 45 lightweight guns in bow sponsons (the guns were removed across the class during 1997 and 1998). Countermeasures and decoys include four Mark 36 SRBOC
Mark 36 SRBOC
The BAE Systems Mark 36 Super Rapid Blooming Offboard Chaff is a short-range mortar that launches chaff or infrared decoys from naval vessels to foil anti-ship missiles...

 launchers, a SLQ-25 Nixie towed torpedo decoy, a Sea Gnat unit, SLQ-49 chaff decoys
AN/SLQ-49 Chaff Buoy Decoy System
The AN/SLQ-49 Chaff Buoy Decoy System, commonly referred to as "Rubber Duck", consists of inflatable radar-reflecting decoy buoys. Used by the U.S. Navy, Royal Navy, and other NATO countries, the decoy is designed to seduce radar-guided anti-ship missiles by simulating the radar cross section of a...


The number of helicopters carried by each vessel was up to 19 Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallions, 26 Boeing Vertol CH-46 Sea Knight, or a mix of the two. The 820 by flight deck is fitted with two aircraft lifts, and up to 9 Sea Stallions or 12 Sea Knights can be operated simultaneously. With a small amount of modification, the ships could carry and operate up to six McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II jump-jets.

The Tarawa class ships are designed to embark a reinforced battalion of the United States Marine Corps
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

 and their equipment. Onboard accommodation is provided for up to 1,703 marines, while 33730 cubic feet (955.1 m³) is provided for the battalion's vehicles, and 116900 cubic feet (3,310.2 m³) is allocated for stores and other equipment. As well as deploying by helicopters, personnel and equipment can be embarked or offloaded via a 268 by well deck
Well deck
A well deck or well dock is a hangar-like deck located at the waterline in the stern of some amphibious warfare ships. By taking on water the ship can lower its stern, flooding the well deck and allowing boats and amphibious landing craft to dock within the ship. This facilitates moving cargo...

 in each ship's stern. Up to four LCU 1610 landing craft can be transported in and operated from the well deck, along with other designs and combinations of landing craft (two LCU and two LCM-8
The LCM-8 is a river boat and mechanized landing craft used by the United States Navy and Army during the Vietnam War and subsequent operations. They are currently used by governments and private organizations throughout the world. The acronym stands for "Landing Craft Mechanized, Mark 8...

, or 17 LCM-6, or 45 LVT
Landing Vehicle Tracked
The Landing Vehicle Tracked was a class of amphibious vehicles introduced by the United States Navy, Marine Corps and Army during World War II. Originally intended solely as cargo carriers for ship to shore operations, they rapidly evolved into assault troop and fire support vehicles as well...


The Tarawa design was later repeated for the Wasp class
Wasp class amphibious assault ship
The Wasp class is a class of Landing Helicopter Dock amphibious assault ships operated by the United States Navy. Based on the Tarawa class, with modifications to operate more advanced aircraft and landing craft, the Wasp class is capable of transporting almost the full strength of a United States...

 amphibious assault ships, with some changes. The main changes to the latter eight-ship class include the lower placement of the ship's bridge
Bridge (ship)
The bridge of a ship is the room or platform from which the ship can be commanded. When a ship is underway the bridge is manned by an OOW aided usually by an AB acting as lookout...

 aboard the Wasps, the relocation of the command and control facilities to inside the hull, modifications to allow the operation of Harrier jump-jets and Landing Craft Air Cushion hovercraft, and removal of the 5-inch guns and their sponsons to increase the overall size of the flight deck.


All five ships were built by Ingalls Shipbuilding
Ingalls Shipbuilding
Ingalls Shipbuilding is a shipyard located in Pascagoula, Mississippi, USA, originally established in 1938, and is now part of Huntington Ingalls Industries...

, at their facilities in Pascagoula
Pascagoula, Mississippi
Pascagoula is a city in Jackson County, Mississippi, United States. It is the principal city of the Pascagoula, Mississippi Metropolitan Statistical Area, as a part of the Gulfport–Biloxi–Pascagoula, Mississippi Combined Statistical Area. The population was 26,200 at the 2000 census...

, Mississippi
Mississippi is a U.S. state located in the Southern United States. Jackson is the state capital and largest city. The name of the state derives from the Mississippi River, which flows along its western boundary, whose name comes from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi...

. The first ship was approved for construction during Fiscal Year 1969, with two more vessels approved in each of the 1970 and 1971 fiscal years. Nine ships were originally planned for the Tarawa class; the other four ships were never ordered.

Work on the first ship of the class, , commenced on 15 November 1971, and was commissioned into the USN on 29 May 1976. The last ship, , was completed on 3 May 1980.

Decommissioning and replacement

The Tarawas began leaving service in 2005. By 2011, four of the five amphibious assault ships had been decommissioned, leaving only Peleliu in active service.

The Tarawa class is to be replaced by the America class amphibious assault ship. The first America class vessel is scheduled to be delivered in 2013. Originally, only four were planned (with the Wasp class built as a direct replacement for Belleau Wood), but since 2007, another eight have been ordered.


Name Laid down Launched Commissioned
15 November 1971 1 December 1973 29 May 1976 31 March 2009 Awaiting disposal
21 July 1972 18 July 1974 15 October 1977 25 April 2007 Sold for scrap
5 March 1973 11 April 1977 23 September 1978 28 October 2005 Sunk as target ship
Target ship
A target ship is a vessel — typically an obsolete or captured warship — used for naval gunnery practice or for weapons testing.-Rationale:Sinking redundant warships is an effective way of testing new weapons and warships in as realistic a manner as possible. Whilst practice torpedoes are fired...

13 August 1973 21 January 1978 28 July 1979 31 March 2011 In reserve
12 November 1976 25 November 1978 3 May 1980 - Active as of 2011

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