Tarawa-class amphibious assault ship

The Tarawa class is a ship class of Landing Helicopter Assault (LHA) type amphibious assault ships operated by the United States Navy (USN). Five ships were built by Ingalls Shipbuilding between 1971 and 1980; another four ships were planned, but later canceled. As of March 2015, all vessels have been decommissioned. The class was replaced by the America-class amphibious assault ships from 2014 onward.

USS Saipan during Expeditionary Strike Group integration training in 2004
Class overview
Name: Tarawa class
Builders: Ingalls Shipbuilding
Operators:  United States Navy
Preceded by: Iwo Jima class
Succeeded by: Wasp class
Built: 15 November 1971 – 3 May 1980
In commission: 29 May 1976–31 March 2015
Planned: 9
Completed: 5
Cancelled: 4
Retired: 5
General characteristics
Class and type: Amphibious assault ship/LHA
Displacement: 39,967 tonnes (39,336 long tons; 44,056 short tons) full load
Length: 834 feet (254 m)
Beam: 131.9 feet (40.2 m)
Draft: 25.9 feet (7.9 m)
Speed: 24 knots (44 km/h; 28 mph)
Range: 10,000 nautical miles (19,000 km; 12,000 mi) at 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph)
Boats & landing
craft carried:
Troops: 1,703
Complement: 56 officers, 874 sailors (1998)
Aircraft carried:
Aviation facilities: 820-by-118.1-foot (249.9 by 36.0 m) flight deck with 2 aircraft lifts


The vessels have a full load displacement of 39,967 tonnes (39,336 long tons; 44,056 short tons).[1] Each ship is 834 feet (254 m) long, with a beam of 131.9 feet (40.2 m), and a draft of 25.9 feet (7.9 m).[1]

Propulsion is provided by two Combustion Engineering boilers, connected to two Westinghouse turbines.[1] These supply 70,000 horsepower (52,000 kW) to the ship's two propeller shafts.[1] A Tarawa-class vessel can reach a maximum speed of 24 knots (44 km/h; 28 mph), and has a maximum range of 10,000 nautical miles (19,000 km; 12,000 mi) at 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph).[1] In addition to the main propulsion system, the ships are fitted with a bow thruster.[1]

As of 1998, the ships' armament consisted 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.[1] Previously, the amphibious warships were fitted with 2 Mark 25 Sea Sparrow missile systems (which were replaced by the Phalanx units), and three 5-inch (127 mm) Mk 45 lightweight guns in bow and starboard aft sponsons (the guns were removed across the class during 1997 and 1998).[1] Countermeasures and decoys include four Mark 36 SRBOC launchers, a SLQ-25 Nixie towed torpedo decoy, a Sea Gnat unit, SLQ-49 chaff decoys.[1]

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.[1] The 820-by-118.1-foot (249.9 by 36.0 m) flight deck is fitted with two aircraft lifts, and up to nine Sea Stallions or 12 Sea Knights can be operated simultaneously.[1] With a small amount of modification, the ships could carry and operate up to six McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II jump-jets.[1]

The Tarawa-class ships are designed to embark a reinforced battalion of the United States Marine Corps and their equipment.[1] Onboard accommodation is provided for up to 1,703 marines, while 33,730 cubic feet (955 m3) is provided for the battalion's vehicles, and 116,900 cubic feet (3,310 m3) is allocated for stores and other equipment.[1] As well as deploying by helicopters, personnel and equipment can be embarked or offloaded via a 268-by-78-foot (82 by 24 m) well deck in each ship's stern.[1] 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, or 17 LCM-6, or 45 LVT).[1]

The Tarawa design was later repeated for the Wasp-class amphibious assault ships, with some changes.[2] The main changes to the latter eight-ship class include the lower placement of the ship's bridge 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.[2][3]


All five warships were built by Ingalls Shipbuilding, at this company's shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi.[1] Tarawa was approved for construction during Fiscal Year 1969, with two more ships of this class ordered by Congress in the 1970 and 1971 fiscal years.[1]

Design problems emerged early in the LHA program and contrary to the intent of the Total Package Procurement concept, the Navy became heavily involved in the design process.[4] Nine ships were originally contracted for the Tarawa class, but that number was reduced to five in January 1971.[4] The other four ships were never built for the Navy.[1]

Work on the first warship of this class, USS Tarawa, began on 15 November 1971, and she was commissioned into the Navy on 29 May 1976.[1] The last of the five ships, USS Peleliu, was completed on 3 May 1980.[1]

Operational history

Decommissioning and replacement

The Tarawas began leaving service in 2005. By April 2011, four of the five amphibious assault ships had been decommissioned, leaving only Peleliu in active service.[5] Peleliu was decommissioned on 31 March 2015 in San Diego.[6]

The Tarawa class is to be replaced by the America class.[3] The first America-class vessel was delivered and commissioned in 2014.

Ships in class

Name Hull number Laid down Launched Commissioned Decommissioned Fate
Tarawa LHA-1 15 November 1971 1 December 1973 29 May 1976 31 March 2009 Requested as museum ship
Saipan LHA-2 21 July 1972 18 July 1974 15 October 1977 25 April 2007 Scrapped 2009
Belleau Wood
(ex-Philippine Sea)
LHA-3 5 March 1973 11 April 1977 23 September 1978 28 October 2005 Sunk as target ship on 13 July 2006
(ex-Leyte Gulf)
LHA-4 5 March 1973 21 January 1978 28 July 1979 31 March 2011 In reserve
(ex-Da Nang, ex-Khe Sanh)
LHA-5 12 November 1976 25 November 1978 3 May 1980 31 March 2015 In reserve


  1. Sharpe (ed.), Jane's Fighting Ships 1998–99, p. 822
  2. Bishop & Chant, Aircraft Carriers, p. 230
  3. Wertheim (ed.), The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, p. 921
  4. Two Navy Ship Contracts Modified By Public Law 850804 -- Status As Of July 29, 1979 (PDF). Washington, D.C.: General Accounting Office. 29 July 1979. p. 1. Retrieved 4 January 2016.
  5. "United States Navy Fact File - AMPHIBIOUS ASSAULT SHIPS - LHA/LHD/LHA(R)". Retrieved 23 May 2014.
  6. "US Navy decommissions USS Peleliu". naval-technology.com. 2 April 2015. Retrieved 25 June 2015.


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