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TARAWA amphibious assault ships (1976 - 1980)


Saipan 1980


No Name Yard No Builder Laid down Launched Comm Fate
LHA1 Tarawa 4101 Ingalls, Pascagoula 15.11.1971 1.12.1973 29.5.1976 in reserve (2019)
LHA2 Saipan 4102 Ingalls, Pascagoula 21.7.1972 18.7.1974 15.10.1977 stricken 4.2007
LHA3 Belleau Wood 4103 Ingalls, Pascagoula 5.3.1973 11.4.1977 23.9.1978 stricken 10.2005
LHA4 Nassau 4104 Ingalls, Pascagoula 13.8.1973 21.1.1978 28.7.1979 in reserve (2019)
LHA5 Peleliu (ex-Da Nang) 4105 Ingalls, Pascagoula 26.11.1976 25.11.1978 3.5.1980 in reserve (2019)

Technical data

Displacement standard, t

25884 - 27165

Displacement full, t

39438 - 40891

Length, m

237.1 wl 254.2 oa

Breadth, m

32.3 wl 40.2 oa

Draught, m

8.23 max unballasted

No of shafts



2 sets Westinghouse geared steam turbines, 2 Combustion Engineering V2M-VS boilers

Power, h. p.


Max speed, kts


Fuel, t

oil 5900 + aircraft fuel 1200

Endurance, nm(kts)



2 x 8 Sea Sparrow SAM (16 RIM-7), 3 x 1 - 127/54 Mk 45, 6 x 1 - 20/80 Mk 67, up to 46 aircraft (18 CH-46E, 10 CH-53E, 6 AH-1W, 3 UH-1N helicopters or 6 AV-8B VSTOL attackers, 12 CH-46E, 6 CH-53E, 6 AH-1W, 4 UH-1N helicopters or 20 AV-8B VSTOL attackers)

Military load

4 LCU1610 or 1 LCAC or 7 LCM(8), 1903 troops, vehicles

Electronic equipment

SPS-53, SPS-52B, SPS-10F, SPS-40B, SPN-35A, LN-66, SPG-60, SPQ-9A, 4x Mk 95 radars, WLR-1 ECM suite, ITAWDS CCS


957 - 1073

Standard scale images

<i>Tarawa </i>1980
Tarawa 1980
<i>Tarawa </i>2000
Tarawa 2000


<i>Saipan </i>1980
Saipan 1980
<i>Tarawa</i> 2002
Tarawa 2002

Project history

These very large assault ships are the final evolution of the helicopter assault concept, combining the functions of LPH, LPD and LKA. They have both a very large flight deck (with spots for twelve CH-46 Sea Knights or nine CH-53 Sea Stallions), a full-length hangar deck (for, respectively, thirty and nineteen such craft), space for a reinforced marine battalion, considerable vehicle and  cargo stowage, and a 81.7x23.8x8.1(high)m well deck which can accommodate small craft up to LCU size. Helicopters are handled by two elevators, port folding 20t elevator and aft centerline 40t elevator. There is a complex automated cargo-handling system employing conveyors and elevators, and even a 460m² training and acclimatization room permitting troops to exercise in a controlled environment, so that they can adapt to the climate of their target area en route. Perhaps as importantly, they incorporate substantial command and control facilities, which make up for the shortfall in dedicated amphibious flagships (LCCs). Externally, the emblem of these facilities is the extensive electronic array above the island, including an austere three-dimensional radar (SPS-52) for limited fighter control in the operational area. They have a very complete 352-bed hospital, including 4 operating rooms. Originally they had a boat crane and stowage for landing craft on the flight deck abaft the island, but landing craft were not stored on the flight deck. Vehicle stowage garage fwd of the docking well provides 3134m² of parking space and total capacity of palletized cargo holds is 3311m³. In mine countermeasures role each ship can carry 18 CH-46E, 6 MH-53E helicopters and 6 Mk 105 mine countermeasures sleds.

Conceived in 1965, the Tarawa were ordered under the Concept Definition Contract Formulation procedure which also produced the Spruance class destroyers and the abortive Forward Deployment Ships (FDL). Nine were originally planned, but on 20 January 1971 the Navy announced that LHA6-9 would not be built. From time to time the LHA hull, which is about the same size as a Second World War Essex class fleet carrier, is proposed as the basis for a limited or VSTOL carrier, and in fact at one point Litton reportedly made such a proposal to the Australian government; later it was scaled down to an LPH derivative. There have also been Congressional attempts to convert an existing LHA to a light carrier, with an additional unit being built to replace it.

Typical small craft capacity is four LCU1610 class or two LCU and three LCM-8 or 17 LCM-6, plus forty tracked landing craft (LVT) on the vehicle deck.

LHA 5 was originally to have been named Da Nang, but was renamed Peleliu on 15 February 1978, presumably in view of popular feelings about the Vietnam war and particularly about its conclusion.


1983-1988, all: - WLR-1 ECM suite; + SLQ-32(v)3 ECM suite, 4x Mk 36 SRBOC decoy RL

early 1980s, Saipan: - 1 x 8 Sea Sparrow SAM, 2x Mk 95 radars; + 1 x 6 - 20/76 Mk 15 Phalanx, Mk 90 radar

early 1980s, Nassau: + 1 x 6 - 20/76 Mk 15 Phalanx, Mk 90 radar

early 1990s, Tarawa, Belleau Wood, Peleliu: - 1 x 1 - 127/54 (port aft); + 2 x 6 - 20/76 Mk 15 Phalanx, 2x Mk 90, Mk 23 Mod. 3 TAS radars

early 1990s, Saipan, Nassau: - 1 x 1 - 127/54 (port aft); + 1 x 6 - 20/76 Mk 15 Phalanx, Mk 90, Mk 23 Mod.3 TAS radars

1995-1997, Tarawa, Belleau Wood, Peleliu, Nassau: - 2 x 8 Sea Sparrow SAM, 2 x 1 - 127/54, 4x Mk 95, Mk 23 Mod.3 radars

1995-1999, all: - SPS-10, SPS-52B, LN-66 radars; + 2 x 21 RAM SAM (42 RIM-116), SPS-67(v)3, SPS-48E, Mk 23 Mod. 3 TAS, SPN-43B, SPS-64(v)9 radars, SLQ-25A Nixie torpedo decoy

1998-1999, all: - 6 x 1 - 20/80, SPG-60, SPQ-9A radars; + 8 x 1 - 12.7/90

early 2000s, all: + 3 x 1 - 25/75 Mk 38 Bushmaster

Naval service

No significant events.