The Tarawa class aircraft carrier
) is used by the United States Marine Corps
for amphibious assault
missions. 820 feet long, 100 feet wide, and 20 stories high, it usually carries six Harrier
attack planes, 12 Sea Knight
helicopters, and 9 Sea Stallion
helicopters: it can also carry Cobra
s and Huey
s, as well as smaller landing boats such as the LCU
. 2,000 marines and 1,000 naval personnel make all this stuff work.
Unlike full-fledged carriers, the Tarawa is designed to support ground troops, rather than project air power. Its main purpose is to get marines to their insertion point, and serve as a platform from which they can stage their attack. Semper Fi.
The five Tarawa-class ships (USS Tarawa, Saipan, Belleau Wood, Nassau, and Peleliu) were ordered during the Vietnam War as replacements for the aging Iwo Jima class. They were commissioned in the late 1970's at Norfolk, Virginia and San Diego, California, and built by Northrop Grumman's Ingalls Shipbuilding subsidiary at a cost of $75 million each. Four more Tarawas were scheduled to go into operation, but their orders were cancelled, and the Marines filled the gap with newer Wasp-class ships.
USS Tarawa LHA-1 was named after the Battle of Tarawa in 1943, where one thousand U.S. Marines died in the defeat of a 5,000-strong Japanese garrison. It was commissioned in 1976 and nicknamed "Eagle of the Sea." Today, Tarawa is part of the PHIBRON 7 task force: it was used to land Marines during War on Iraq 2003. The Navy plans to decommission it sometime in the late 2010's.