In the wars of antiquity amphibious warfare was simple. Just run your trireme up on the beach and the warriors hopped out. The age of sail complicated the manner.
The ships were far too large to run aground and were subject to the direction of the wind. Ship’s boats would be lowered and the soldiers would climb down the ship’
s sides into those boats, which would row ashore. With the age of steam, initially there was little change. Some specialist equipment appeared in World War One,
which had two major amphibious operations. However, both the Gallipoli landings by the Commonwealth in 1915 against Turkey and Operation Albion by Germany in
1917 against the Russian held islands guarding Riga Bay were primarily conducted by boats landing troops. It was World War Two that saw the real birth of
specialized craft, large and small, that were designed specifically for amphibious warfare.

In World War Two the United States relied on naval aircraft flown from fleet or escort carriers for air support of the landings in the Pacific. The fleet carriers could
easily be called away from their ground support operations to counter enemy ships and the land forces would loose the bulk of their air support. Since World War
Two the United States Navy has further refined the design of ships designed to support amphibious operations. On April 2, 1959 a new ship was laid down that
carried amphibious support to a new level.
USS Iwo Jima LPH-2 looked like a small aircraft carrier, sort of like an escort carrier of World War Two. However, the
flight deck was for helicopter operations of the embarked Marine force for vertical envelopment operations. Seven of the
Iwo Jima Class LPH Amphibious Assault
Ships were laid down between 1959 and 1968. They were 592-feet (180m) in length and displaced 18,474-tons full load with an aerial compliment of 25 helicopters
and later some AV-8 Harrier Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) jets. (
Note on Photograph Labels - All of the photographs were mistakenly labeled Orange
Model 1:700 Scale instead of the correct
Orange Hobby 1:700 Scale, before the mistake was noticed.)
The Iwo Jima Class Amphibious Assault Ship was followed by the Tarawa Class Amphibious Assault Ship LHA. USS Tarawa LHA-1 was first of the class and
was laid down on November 15, 1971. Nine were planned but only five were built, laid down from 1971 to 1976. There was a huge jump in size over the
Iwo Jima
Class
. The length was 834-feet (254m) but the displacement was 44,056-tons full load, more than twice that of the Iwo Jima Class. The aircraft complement was
not that much different than that of the
Iwo Jima Class but the helicopters could be larger and heavier with up to 19 CH-53 Sea Stallions or 26 CH-46 Sea Knights
or a mix. It can also operate up to six AV-8B Harrier II VTOL jets. The big difference between the
Iwo Jima Class and the Tarawa Class is that the Tarawa Class
also had a 268-feet (82m) by 78-feet (24m) well deck from which smaller amphibious craft could be launched from a large stern door. The class would typically
carry four LCU 1610 landing craft capable of transporting tanks, although other types could be carried. None of the
Iwo Jima or Tarawa Classes are in service any
longer.

The follow up design for the
Tarawa Class was the Wasp Class Amphibious Assault Ship LHD (Landing Helicopter Dock). The Wasp Class are slightly longer than
the
Tarawa Class at 843-feet (257m) but slightly lower in displacement at 41,150-tons full load. The Wasp Class is based on the Tarawa Class but improved to take
heavier aircraft and amphibious craft. The
USS Wasp was laid down on May 30, 1985 and eight of the class have been built, laid down between 1985 and 2004.
The aerial complement is tailored to fit the mission. The standard complement is six AV-8B Harrier II VTOL jets, four AH-1W Super Cobra gun ships, twelve
CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters, nine CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters and four UH-1N Huey helicopters. An aircraft mix designed for an assault mission could have 22
MV-22 Ospreys or 42 CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters. An aircraft mix for a sea control mission could have 20 AV-8B Harrier II VTOL jets and 6 SH-60F/HH-60H
anti-submarine warfare helicopters. All of the
Wasp Class are still in service. The last ship in the class is USS Makin Island LHD-8 laid down on February 14, 2004
to a modified design that added four feet but was powered by gas turbines and other changes from the other seven members of the class.
The next step was based on the Makin Island as the starting point. In January 2006 the USN decided to build a new type of amphibious warfare ship that could
operate larger aircraft than the previous Amphibious Assault Ship designs. A $2.4 Billion contract was awarded to the Ingalls Shipyard of Northrop Grumman
Corporation in Pascagoula, Mississippi in December 2008 to build the first of the class,
USS America LHA-6. The goal was to be able to carry internally the
MV-22 Osprey and the new F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing, i.e. jump jet). Much more hangar space than the
Tarawa or Classes was needed so
the well deck was eliminated and the class has little to no designed large vehicle capability, although Marine infantry are still carried for transport by the Ospreys
and helicopters. In addition to a much larger hangar, the
America carries a greater amount of aviation fuel and much more aviation repair parts and maintenance
capability. The ship is also designed to function as a flagship. The aviation package can vary by mission from the standard package of 12 MV-22B Ospreys, 6
F-35B Lightning II STOVL jump jets, 4 CH-53K Super Stallion helicopters, 7 AH-1Z/UH-1Y attack helicopters and 2 MH-60S rescue helicopters. The
America
can also have an air-control package of 20 F-35B jump jets with 2 MH-60S rescue helicopters and serve as a small aircraft carrier. Indeed the
America is as large
or larger than most other navies largest carrier.
USS America LHA-6 was laid down at the Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi on July 17, 2009. She was launched on June 4, 2012 and commissioned on
October 11, 2014. The length is 844-feet (257m) with a beam of 106-feet (32m) and draft of 26-feet (7.9m). Displacement is 45,693-tons full load. Ship’s armament
consists of two RIM-116 Rolling Airframe missile launchers, two RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile launchers (ESSM). Two 20mm Phalanx CIWS gun mounts
and seven twin .50 Browning Machine Guns. The ship is powered by two marine gas turbines developing 70,000 bhp for the two shafts for an unstated top speed in
excess of 22-knots. A second ship in the
America Class, USS Tripoli LHA-7, was laid down by Ingalls at Pascagoula on June 20, 2014 and was just launched on
May 1, 2017. The
America Class is controversial within the service because of the deletion of the well deck. The USMC believes the amphibious capability was
sacrificed in order to make them small aircraft carriers for the USN. In 2015 the Commandant of the USMC launched an initiative to make sure that aviation
capabilities don’t give an imbalance over amphibious assault capabilities in Amphibious Assault Ships. The Commandant of the USMC and Chief of Naval Operations
(CNO) have signed a Memorandum of Agreement that the well deck will be restored with third ship of the class,
USS Bougainville LHA-8. The contract was
awarded to Ingalls on June 30, 2016 but has not yet been laid down. It will be called a
Flight 1 America Class and will have the hangar reduced to fit in a small well
deck capable of carrying two air cushion landing craft or one landing craft utility.
The America has a home port of San Diego, California and has the motto “Bello vel pace paratus” (Prepared in War or in Peace). On November 5, 2013 she
underwent five days of builder’s trials in the Gulf of Mexico and completed her acceptance sea trials in February 2014. On July 11, 2014
America departed
Mississippi on a voyage to her home port. On August 5, 2014 she made a stop at Rio de Janeiro before continuing on to San Diego, which she reached on
September 15, 2014. The formal commissioning was at San Francisco, California on October 11, 2014 as part as San Francisco’s Fleet Week. Since
commissioning the
USS America has participated in exercises with the navies of Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Peru, Uruguay and Trinidad and Tobago. As of May 1,
2017
USS America was part of the America Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and has the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) embarked . She is currently
conducting a Composite Unit Training Exercise (COMPTUEX) with
USS San Diego LPD-22 and USS Pearl Harbor LSD-52 off the California coast. The first
operational deployment with F-35B jump jets is set for later in 2017.
The Orange Hobby USS America LHA-6 in 1:700 Scale - Orange Hobby has produced a wonderfully detailed multi-media kit of the latest Amphibious Assault
Ship,
USS America LHA-6 in 1:700 scale. The kit has a huge number of parts, including eight relief-etched brass frets, full flight deck markings, as well as two
other decal sheets, and hundreds of fine resin parts. Because of the numbers of parts and complexity of assembly, this kit may not be suitable for beginners. The
resin hull, flight deck and island have thin casting slabs that will needed to be removed and their attachment locations sanded smooth before assembly. The large hull
casting is crammed with detail. There are two openings for aircraft elevators that have roller door segment detail. One on the very stern of the starboard side and
another much further forward on the port side.  There are five more, smaller openings on the starboard side and one on the port side for unrep points and open
galleries. At the bow are two large anchor hawse on either side and a smaller one above the cutwater. The hawse on the sides will need some minor clean up, as my
sample had some mold release dust around their bases. Both sides have various vertical and horizontal pipes with bracket detail. Water discharge scuttles are on both
sides above the waterline. There is plenty of more hull detail with hull access doors, observation positions, port holes and multiple panels.
The flight deck is covered with minute tiedown points that are very fine. There are raised scuppers on both sides with multiple small platforms jutting beyond the
flight deck at openings in the scuppers. The starboard side has six larger platforms outboard for the small radomes and other fittings. There are separate large
platforms for the hull mounted large radome positions. Raised locter lines are present for attachment of the island. The island piece is also crammed with detail. It is
lined with doors on both sides with further piping abundantly present. Incised bridge windows are on the front face as bell as both sides of the island. Also at the
base are equipment lockers and sheds and junction boxes. The aft face of the island also has incised windows on the aft face and both sides. The island sides also
have doors for wheeled deck equipment garages. The island deck has its own share of detail with blast shields at the surface to air weapons points, position plates
and recessed locater positions.
Eighteen resin runners have the smaller parts. Some of the smaller superstructure parts are cast on a runner. A very nice touch is that the runners have the
instruction number for every resin part. The two outward slanting exhaust stacks share one runner. These stacks have exhaust trunks, ventilation louvers and cap
detail. Two deck houses for the island, the starboard bridge wing and top of aft operations bridge, also share a runner. One other runner with larger parts has both
aircraft elevators with detailed underneath supports and tiedown points on their decks as well as the stern platform with underneath supports and deck house with
door and junction box detail. Another runner mixes mast platforms with very detailed undersides, platform electronic masts, a detailed RIB with cabin, hull
platform equipment, aft island equipment platform and small stern platform. Another runner has the bulk of the rest of the resin mast parts and mast platform, as
well as radars, and island deck fittings. The rest of the mast parts are on another runner, along with island platforms and structural parts. The large and medium
radomes, anchors, island platforms and fittings are on a runner. The small radomes dominate another runner, which also has SAM mounts, island platforms, and
island fittings.

Two small identical runners contain parts for the Phalanx CIWS platforms, mounts and guns. Two long identical runners have 30 double life raft canisters, which
are mounted along the sides of the hull. Another runner has 8 catwalk winches, 16 catwalk lockers in two different patterns, and an additional double life raft
canisters. Incidently the life raft canister brackets are photo-etch parts, so there is a lot of assembly just for the life raft canisters. The heavy lift crane body, cab,
and wheels occupy their own runner.  The heavy lift crane boom is the only part on a runner. Orange Hobby provides six F-35B Lightning II aircraft on a runner,
which are the only aircraft provided in the kit. The aircraft bodies have nice top and bottom detail with flap lines, detailed intakes, front wing slot and hard point
detail. Two runners are duplicates and contain the F-35B thrust nozzles and tail fins.
With eight frets of relief-etched brass, the Orange Hobby America has more brass parts than most 1:350 scale models. Each part on the fret is numbered with
the same part numer shown in the instructions assembly modules. Fret A is the largest of the frets. More than half of this fret is devoted to the flight deck edge
catwalks. The solid catwalks have folding bulkheads and railing and one catwalk has a platform with relief-etched folding bulkhead detail. Additional relief-etched
parts on the A fret are an island deck bulkhead and aft platform bulkhead. Other parts on the fret are: mast lattice; mast platforms railing; island fittings; antennae
brackets; island railing; island landings with vertical ladder; hull side catwalks and platforms; RIB rig; side access doors; and aft platform safety ladder. Fret B has
all of the brackets for the life raft canisters. Large triangular elevator supports are the largest pieces on the fret. Other parts are the large radome platform
supports, aft  platform bulkhead and supports, small radome platforms, catwalk small antennae and mounts, side platform supports, island platforms and
supports, extended stern platforms, island antennae,

Fret C has the island and other deck railing, safety netting, open doors with frame, short inclined ladders with safety rails, vertical ladders and ,50 MG guns and
gun shields. Relief-Etched parts include the safety netting, and stern platform solid bulkheads. Other parts include radome platform railing, hull side safety cages,
MG platforms, side platform supports, small elevator catwalks, mast antennae array, mast platform railing, missile canister end caps, side gallery railing, cable
reels, and catwalk side extensions. Another small fret has just part C90, which is the large radar array at the top of the mast. The small D fret as the second level
of the aft air operations position and overhead, the forward bridge side extension windows, ten open doors with frames and two catwalk extensions. The heavy
lift crane has its own fret with pulleys, rig, platforms, railing, frame and wheel hubs. Two identical frets have photo-etched parts for the F-35B aircraft. Included
are the under carriage doors, exhaust nozzle ends, bay detail, landing gear, hard points, and air brake. Other metal parts included in the kit are bolts and nuts to
secure the flight deck to the hull.
There are three decal sheets provided in the Orange Hobby 1:700 scale USS America LHA-6 kit. They are for the flight deck, the rest of the ship’s markings and
the aircraft. The sheet with the flight deck markings is one massive decal with a peel-off backing. There are pros and cons to this approach. It certainly makes
placement of the deck markings easier and makes sure all of the markings are in their proper alignment with each other. However, the decal is glossy and will the
sheen will have to e dulled after attachment. There are plenty of products to dull the decal sheen, so the glossy issue is not too much of a problem. The second
issue can’t be ascertained as far as impact until the decal is attached to the flight deck. Will the full deck decal obscure so of the fine deck detail, such as the
tiedown points? That I don’t know but you would encounter the same problem wherever a decal was placed and hand painting all of the flightdeck markings is not
a realistic option except for the truly obsessed. I think the best option would use the full flightdeck decal as is and dull the sheen, as this decal is beautiful and easy
to use. The other ship’s markings are on a traditional decal sheet. It is first rate with island number, warning lines, island navy wings markings, draft markings, hull
numbers, bridge efficiency markings and flags. The color and registry are spot on. I can’t make the same statement about the third decal sheet for the aircraft. This
small sheet has the national marking for the US in hi-viz and low-viz, the Royal Navy, the Royal Australian Navy, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Spain. However the
registry is off for the kangaroo for the RAN markings and center circles for the RN and Italian markings. The US, Korean, Japanese and Spanish markings are fine.
However, this is a moot point at this time as the America only operates USN F-35B jets. Most likely the aircraft decal sheet is a generic sheet designed for any
Orange Hobby kit of aircraft carrying vessels.
Orange Hobby provides a large painting and decal application guide, which not only provides the guidance but is really a nicely done plate of the America showing
the port and starboard profiles and the plan. There is also a stern view. The views are in the same 1:700 scale as the model. This sheet can also serve for assistance
in parts assembly locations. The assembly instructions are on six back-printed sheets. Page one has a photograph of the finished model, assembly icons and drawing
of using the bolts to attach the flightdeck to the hull. Page two is the stern assembly with detailed insets for assembly of the missile and gun mounts. Page three has
the port aft quarter assembly with insets on assembly of the life raft canister positions, radome position, hull platform assembly and port elevator. Page four has the
rest of the port hull side assembly. Page five has further assembly steps for the port side. Page six starts with the starboard side starting at the bow with an inset on
hull side clamshell door assembly. Page seven continues down the starboard side with insets of radome platforms, equipment platform and boat gallery. Page eight
finishes the starboard assembly at the stern and starts the island assembly. Insets are present for the starboard elevator, cable reels and an island platform. Page nine
is all island assembly with insets for subassembly of various island locations. Page ten has the mast assembly and attachment of the island to the flight deck. The last
page has assembly of the F-35B jump jets on one side and assembly of the heavy lift crane on the back. I find these instructions easy to follow.
Orange Hobby has
gone the distance in making assembly as easy as possible, given the huge number of parts. Since all the brass parts are numbered on their frets and the resin parts on
their runners,
Orange Hobby used those same numbers in the instructions with resin parts noted by “Re” in a gray box with the resin parts number and the brass
parts noted “Pe” in a black box with the brass parts number.
The Orange Hobby USS America LHA-6 is about as good as it gets in 1:700 scale kits. The kit comes with highly detailed resin parts, eight relief-etched brass
frets, three decal sheets and comprehensive instructions. The kit is complex with hundreds of parts, so it may not be the best kit for a beginner. However, for any
modeler with some resin kit experience the
Orange Hobby America is a first rate feast.
Steve Backer
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