Navy Names Next Amphibious Assault Ship USS Helmand Province

The naming honors those Marines and sailors who fought for almost 20 years in Afghanistan, especially in the southern province of Helmand.

byHoward Altman|
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chad Swysgood)


The future America class amphibious assault ship with the hull number LHA-10 will be named USS Helmand Province, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro announced Thursday during his keynote speech at the Modern Day Marine trade show which TWZ has been attending. That name recognizes "the bravery and sacrifice of our Marines and sailors who fought for almost 20 years in the mountains of Afghanistan,” he said.

This is only the second time a Navy vessel has been named after a post-9/11 U.S. military presence and the first to recognize the Afghanistan war. In December 2022, Del Toro announced that LHA-9 would be named USS Fallujah. That was a nod to the Marines’ role in the First and Second Battles of Fallujah, American-led offensives carried out during the Iraq War. You can read more about that naming in our story here. You can see a rendering of that vessel below:

The LHA-9 was named after the Fallujah battles. (Huntington Ingalls rendering) Huntington Ingalls

The future USS Helmand Province will be the fifth large-deck amphibious assault ship to join the America class and, like the Fallujah, is being built by the Huntington Ingalls (HII) shipbuilding company. Last November, HII was awarded a $130 million contract to begin building LHA-10. Work is expected to be completed in July of 2028, the Pentagon said in its contract award announcement. Like the other ships in the America class, the future USS Helmand Province will resemble a small aircraft carrier, but it will be the third in the substantially different Flight I subclass within the America class family.

As we noted in our previous story, that’s due to moving away from a central focus on aviation capabilities, with "the return of a floodable well deck and a significant reconfiguration of its flight deck layout and island design. USS Bougainville (LHA-8) was the first to be built in this configuration, which you can read all about in this past War Zone feature. LHA-8 and the subsequent ships with this revised design, including LHA-9, are expected to have a similar displacement of about 43,300 tons to the preceding members of the class.”

You can see the christening of the Bougainville on Dec. 2, 2023 in this video below:

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The America class ships are some of the most versatile warships ever conceived, designed as strike and assault delivery platforms so Marines can get ashore. They typically have a combination of UH-1Y utility and AH-1Z attack helicopters, MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor transports, CH-53E Super Stallions, and CH-53K King Stallions. F-35B stealth fighters or, increasingly less commonly, AV-8B Harrier jump jets provide fixed-wing air support for those forces, as well as airborne reconaisssance, strike and air defense.

PACIFIC OCEAN -- The future Marine Corps' Air Combat Element showcased on the flight deck USS America (LHA 6), floats off the coast of California, November 18, 2016. The USS America is a new class of ship specifically designed for the F-35B and MV-22B. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Thor Larson/Released)

The well deck and landing craft (including giant LCAC hovercraft) added in the LHA-8 and subsequent America-class vessels will support the Marine landing mission set. The versatility of this class also allows them to be employed as hubs for disaster relief operations, counter-terrorism and personnel evacuation platforms, command and control ships, and much more.

Naming LHA-10 after the Marine presence in Helmand is an interesting choice. As we noted in our story about the Fallujah, established convention holds that U.S. Navy amphibious assault ships, regardless of class, be named either after battles where the Marine Corps was victorious, early U.S. sailing ships, or legacy names of older carriers from World War II. 

The Marine Corps arrived in Afghanistan during the first days of the war and maintained a steady presence until 2014. That's when an End of Operations ceremony was held at the former command post of Marine Expeditionary Brigade – Afghanistan aboard Camp Leatherneck, "signifying the transfer of Camps Bastion and Leatherneck to the control of the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps," the Marines announced at the time. They would later return to the province to train Afghan forces.

As 1st Platoon, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines prepares to make a patrol in the upper Gereshk Valley, Taliban shooting is heard directly outside the gates on June 26, 2011 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. (Photo by John Cantlie/Getty Images)

“For Marines, Helmand Province is a place of bittersweet memories,” said Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Eric M. Smith, after Del Toro announced the naming of LHA-10. “An entire generation of Marines wrote another chapter in the storied history of our Corps there, as warriors, but also as peacebuilders. Their legacy is defined by the spirit they embodied and the lives they touched. I look forward to the day when the USS Helmand Province will steam forward and carry Marines on their way to write new chapters — in peace, and if called, in war.”

Trish Smith, the commandant's wife, will serve as the ship sponsor.

The naming of LHA-10 in honor of the war in Afghanistan is significant as well in that Marines made up the bulk of the casualties in the last fatal attack on U.S. service members there. A jihadi suicide bombing at Hamid Karhzi International Airport's Abbey Gate on August 26, 2021, took the lives of 11 Marines, a sailor and a soldier.

U.S. Marines pallbearers salute the casket of Sgt. Nicole L. Gee during a public memorial service at Bayside Church Adventure Campus in Roseville, Calif. Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. Gee, 23, assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, died in a bombing attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 26, along with 12 other U.S. service members. (Stephen Lam/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

Those troops were supporting the withdrawal of U.S. forces from America's longest war and the non-combatant evacuation operations of thousands of Americans and Afghan allies. It is the kind of mission that America-class amphibious assault ships like the future USS Helmand Province are designed to assist.

Update: 4:55 PM Eastern -

HII's Ingalls Shipbuilding spokeswoman Kimberly Aguillard issued the following comment to The War Zone about the future Helmand Province:

"We are in receipt of an advanced procurement contract for the future USS Helmand Province (LHA 10) and the team is currently in procurement discussions with the Navy regarding construction activities. We stand ready to support our Customer in bringing this amphibious warship to the fleet and look forward to leveraging our skilled shipbuilders and supplier partners throughout the U.S."

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