Wasp-Class Amphibious Assault Ship: the Navy’s Pint-Sized Aircraft Carrier That Can Do It All

Wasp-class has been a versatile and more cost-effective alternative to aircraft carriers for low-risk operations.
USS Wasp

The Wasp-Class amphibious assault ship is undoubtedly one of America’s most versatile warships.

Designed to support a wide range of operations, from amphibious assaults to humanitarian relief efforts, these mighty vessels have been a vital part of the US Navy for more than three decades.

They are still expected to support the Navy’s operations in the near future – at least, until they’re fully replaced by the America-class aircraft carriers.


The reliable Wasp-Class amphibious assault ship

The Wasp-Class amphibious assault ship is a multipurpose warship built to support a wide range of military operations.

These vessels are equipped with a flight deck for launching and recovering aircraft and two large hangar decks for storing and maintaining aircraft. In addition, the Wasp-Class features a well-equipped medical facility, a robust communications suite, and a variety of offensive and defensive weapons systems.

The Wasp-class is equipped with three Phalanx systems, which are capable of destroying incoming missiles and aircraft. It also has two Sea Sparrow missile launchers, which provide protection against enemy surface ships.


Moreover, these amphibious assault ships are equipped with a couple of RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile launchers. And the warships feature a variety of other weapons, including .50 BMG machine guns and Mk 38 chain guns.

But the most important characteristic of this class is that it operates both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.

USS Wasp-Class
USS Wasp-Class by M Lewis. Public Domain.

The most common type of aircraft carried by the Wasp-Class is the F-35B Lightning II, a multi-role fighter jet that can take off and land vertically.


However, it carries other top aircraft, including the Harrier jet, the Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, and the Bell AH-1 SuperCobra.

…and it has had an outstanding service in the US Navy

Wasp-Class by Brian Goodwin. Public Domain.

The class’s lead ship, USS Wasp (LHD-1), was commissioned on July 29, 1989. Its primary mission is to provide a platform for conducting amphibious operations and supporting land forces, which it has been performing quite successfully.

However, the second vessel of this class didn’t have the same luck. On 12 July 2020, the USS Bonhomme Richard was seriously damaged by fire while undergoing routine maintenance at Naval Base San Diego.


USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6)
USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) by U.S. Navy. Public Domain.

The ship was quickly evacuated, and the fire got out of control. The damage was extensive, and the warship was decommissioned.

The Bonhomme Richard served with distinction for over 20 years, participating in numerous deployments and earning a number of accolades.

Additionally, there has been some discussion about whether or not to retire the aging Wasp-class vessels in favor of new ships. But, it has had a good performance and just one major incident so far.



  • Type: Amphibious assault ship
  • Builder: Ingalls Shipbuilding
  • Operators: US Navy
  • Unit cost: 1.92 billion
  • Status: In commission since 1989
  • Completed: 8
  • Active: 7
  • Retired: 1
  • Displacement: 41,150 tons
  • Length: 843 feet (257 meters)
  • Beam: 104 feet (31.8 meters)
  • Draft: 27 feet (8.1 meters)
  • Speed: 41 km/h; 25 mph (22 knots)
  • Range: 17,600 kilometers / 10,900 miles
  • Troops carried: 1,894 troops
  • Aircraft carried: It can carry the best aircraft of the US such as  F-35B Lightning II (the short takeoff/vertical landing variant), Harrier II attack aircraft, CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter, Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, among other top aircraft.

The Wasp-Class has been instrumental to the Navy as a light aircraft carrier

With its impressive capabilities, the Wasp-Class amphibious assault ship is truly a versatile warship that can be employed in a wide range of missions.

They are a much more cost-effective alternative to aircraft carriers while keeping an impressive attack and logistical power carrying top aircraft such as the F -35, V-22 Osprey, or Super Stallion.

That’s why the Wasp-class is still relevant and is an excellent alternative to bring considerable firepower to places where it would be excessive and costly to deploy aircraft carriers.


Featured image credit: USS Wasp by Gretchen Albrecht. Public Domain.