June 19 (UPI) -- Huntington Ingalls has received a $3 billion modification to an existing contract for the design and construction of the Landing Helicopter Assault Replacement Amphibious Assault Ship, the Department of Defense announced recently.
The majority of the work will take place at Pascagoula, Miss., with smaller sites across the country contributing as well. The program is expected to be completed by January 2024.
Fiscal 2016 and 2017 Navy shipbuilding and conversion funds in the amount of $1.2 billion will be allocated at the time of award and will not expire at the end of the fiscal year.
The Landing Helicopter Assault Replacement, known as the America-class, is meant to gradually replace the current Wasp-class of amphibious assault ships. The first of the class was delivered to the Navy in 2014.
The America-class is designed to carry a mix of vertical take-off and landing aircraft and helicopters, including the VTOL F-35B , MV-22 Osprey, AH-1Z Super Cobra attack helicopter, and a variety of cargo and utility helicopters.
The vessel displaces 43,700 tons when fully loaded and can carry more than 1,800 troops at capacity. Compared to the Wasp-class, the America-class can carry more fuel, has better maintenance capability for aircraft and can carry more cargo, in addition to having upgraded Command and Control systems. It carries a variety of short-range surface-to-air missiles and machine guns for point-defense.
As opposed to the more traditional style of amphibious assault ships deploying landing craft with troops onto coastlines, the America-class is designed with more stand-off capability, relying on its MV-22 Ospreys and CH-53 Sea Stallions to deliver troops. This allows it to avoid shore defenses and gives its troops more mobility.