The keel of the U.S. Navy’s third America-class amphibious warship, the future USS Bougainville (LHA 8) was authenticated during a ceremony at Ingalls Shipbuilding on Thursday, March 14.
Ship’s sponsor Ellyn Dunford declared the keel “truly and fairly laid” after her initials were welded onto a plate.
Ellyn Dunford, spouse of Gen. Joe Dunford, 19th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is the sponsor of Bougainville. A graduate of Simmons College, Mrs. Dunford worked as a physical therapist for close to 30 years. General and Mrs. Dunford have three children.
Bougainville will retain the aviation capability of the America-class design while adding the surface assault capability of a well deck. The well deck will give the U.S. Marine Corps the ability to house and launch two landing craft air cushion (LCAC) hovercraft or one landing craft utility (LCU) as needed during their maritime missions. Other additions to Bougainville include a larger flight deck configured for Joint Strike Fighter and Osprey V-22 aircraft, which can be used for surface and aviation assaults. The additional area on the flight deck comes in part from a smaller deck house and an additional sponson.
LHA 8 will be the second Navy vessel to bear the name Bougainville. The name commemorates the Bougainville Campaign that took place during World War II. During the campaign, which lasted from 1943 to 1944, Allied forces secured a strategic airfield from Japan in the northern Solomon Islands, helping the allies break the Japanese stronghold in the South Pacific.
Ingalls is currently the sole builder of large-deck amphibious ships for the U.S. Navy. The shipyard delivered its first amphibious assault ship, the Iwo Jima-class USS Tripoli (LPH 10), in 1966. Ingalls has since built five Tarawa-class (LHA 1) ships, eight Wasp-class (LHD 1) ships and the first in a new class of ships, America (LHA 6). The second ship in the class, Tripoli (LHA 7) is currently under construction and Bougainville (LHA 8) is the third ship in the class.
With a typical air combat element embarked, an LHA amphibious assault ship can be equipped with:
+ 5 F-35B Joint Strike Fighters
+ 4 AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters
+ 2 UH-1Y Venom attack helicopters
+ 4 CH-53E Super Sea Stallion helicopters
+ 12 MV-22 Osprey
+ 2 MH-60S Search and Rescue helicopters
+ Defensive weapons systems include .50 caliber machine guns, The Phalanx, Sea Sparrow and Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) anti-ship cruise missile weapon systems and decoy launchers.