Really what it comes down to, the new USS America should not be an LHA, it should be a CVA - but that probably would have attracted too much attention in Congress.
|USS America (LHA-6)|
The Navy may as well let a Marine aviator skipper the boat for the way the Navy capitulated to the Congress and Marine Corps when they let them get away with taking out the well deck. (At least they got the Marines to agree that they wouldn't be operating F-35B's off their carriers.)
Why? Money, or rather more precisely: Funding.
The USS George H. Bush (CVN-77) cost a little over $6 billion to make. (Don't even ask how much the new CVN-21 Ford class carriers are going to cost once you weigh in the Research & Development costs.) The new two-ship America class, (and let's hope there will only be the two as the LHD is more capable and far less expensive,) the America will cost a little over $3 billion, and the LHA-7 USS Tripoli was just awarded by the Navy on 31 May, 2012 for $2.38 billion. link
An LHD class ship similar to the USS Makin Island (LHD-8) costs around $750 million dollars.
Because this new class is essentially an aircraft carrier, it directly takes away from the Navy's argument for needing (even more) expensive, nuclear powered, full sized aircraft carriers. And the air wings that operate off of it. Why spend all that money on the new class of Ford carriers when you can spend half the price and get an aircraft carrier like this? To a salvo of Iranian anti-ship Mehrab missiles in the Straits of Hormuz, or Chinese Dong Feng DF-21D Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles (ASBM),why spend billions on CVN's when you can spend half the amount on a new LHA(R)?
|USS Essex (LHD-2)|
What good is the Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG) if they can't get any vehicles to shore? How will a standard three ship ARG make up for loss of hull space for all their ground vehicles? Surely the answer isn't to add a fourth LPD or LPH to the ARG, that certainly would not be cost effective.
A typical Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) will float with three Gator-Navy ships comprised of either an LHD or LHA at the center, and two other supporting LPD's or LPH's, (in addition to of course, a standard Navy CG, DDG, FFG, and SSN that together form to comprise the entire Amphibious Squadron.) So if you take away the well deck on the largest of the three ships carrying the Marines ground equipment, where is all that going to go?
A typical 2,200 Marine MEU will in addition to the composite air element (ACE) aboard, carry 4 60+ ton M1A1 main battle tanks, up to 16 LAV's, up to 15 AAV's, a couple 16 ton D7 bulldozers, 60+ HUMVEE's, and 30 7-ton MTVR's. The Marine on the ground is supported by the vehicles on the ground, and they are supported by the Wing.
|F-35B on USS Wasp (LHD-1) in October, 2011|
Instead of those 80 F-35C's that they are going to use on CVN's anyways, they ought to save the money and just buy what the Navy is already using in the F/A-18F, which is perfectly suited for the FAC(A) role that the present Marine F/A-18D's utilize, (of whom because their range is so low, aren't even allow to deploy with the CVW's.) And those F/A-18F's could all be pre-wired so as to relatively easily be converted into EA-18G's, which again the Navy is readily replacing their EA-6B's with. But not the Marines, oh no. Solider on (or should we say Marine-on?) as the last sole operator of the type, and they are going to pay through the nose in hourly costs as opposed to solving a need, and saving money in the long run with a far less expensive to operate modern Super Hornet.
Save money and field a comparable (if not superior in many aspects) force at the same time? Sounds a little déjà vu considering the Marines went the opposite direction as well with the H-1 upgrade. MH-60S and AH-64D III's would have been vastly superior to the UH-1Y and AH-1Z's - and yet at the same time could have been done for far less money to boot. What a marvel concept that would be.