Tarawa, LHA-1, class amphibious ships are being replaced by the , LHA-6, class. The five member Tarawa class was built in the mid-1970’s and ‘80’s and are now retired after individual service lives of 33, 30, 27, 32, and 34 years. That’s not very old by major ship standards. America
What’s wrong with the
Tarawa class that they have to be replaced after barely 30 years of service? The class design is largely a repeat of the America Tarawa class with some minor changes to better accommodate the MV-22 Osprey and the anticipated JSF so the basic design must be suitable. will use hybrid electric propulsion and incorporate gas turbines which will offer fuel savings but that’s hardly a reason to scrap an entire class. I’ve never read any document outlining the flaws in the America Tarawa class that justify such an early retirement. Similarly, I’ve not read any document that describes sufficient advances and benefits in the as to justify early retirement of the America Tarawa class.
Consider that the official Marine need for amphibious lift was 36-38 major amphibious ships, depending on what document or statement one wishes to reference. Recognizing fiscal realities, the Marines grudgingly accepted a requirement for 33 ships. The reality is that we only have around 30 ships and appear headed for around 25-28 ships given the current budget challenges. Given a current and worsening shortfall in amphibious lift capacity, then, does it seem reasonable or wise to retire five fully capable amphibious ships in the prime of their lives?
|Tarawa - What Was the Problem?|
Let’s speculate … One possible reason for the actions is that the Marines have stated publicly that frontal amphibious assaults are a thing of the past (so why are they trying to get a new EFV/AAV/ACV?) and that inland airborne assaults are the wave of the future. If that’s the case then the Tarawas with their well decks and LCACs might well be considered obsolete and an accelerated movement to the all-aviation
class might be justified. The only problem with that theory is that the America class is only going to consist of two all-aviation ships, LHA-6 and -7. Starting with LHA-8, the class is returning to the standard well deck arrangement, apparently for all future ships of the class. So, it’s obvious that a movement towards all-aviation assaults is not the reason for dumping the Tarawas (along with the previously stated contradiction by the Marines in continuing to pursue amphibious EFV/AAV type vehicles). In fact, the abrupt reversal back to a well deck in the America class could be interpreted as recognition that the all-aviation concept is already a failure before the first of class is even commissioned! On the other hand, this may have been the Navy’s way of sneaking a couple of small JSF carriers into the force structure without having to go through the usual oversight and reviews – and if that’s the case, it might not be a bad thing but that’s a topic for another post. America
Returning to the Tarawas, we have a perfectly capable ship that served as the design basis for its successor and had many more years of service life left at a time of declining amphibious lift capacity and yet the entire class was retired early. People, I don’t get it. This one is a head scratcher. The Navy is consumed by the drive to fund new construction above all else and I just don’t understand it. The Navy routinely makes poor decisions but this one is bad even by their standards.