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This unit included 12 CH-46E Sea Knight medium lift helicopters, four CH-53E Super Stallion heavy lift helicopters, four AH-1W Super Cobra gunships, two UH-1N utility helicopters and six AV-8B Harrier attack jets.When 15 MEU deployed to West Pac aboard LHD 2 Essex in June 1998, the Aviation Combat Element (ACE) was Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-163 [HMM-163 Reinforced).Six cargo elevators, each 12 by 25 feet, are used to transport material and supplies from the 100,000 cubic foot cargo holds throughout the ship to staging areas on the flight deck, hangar bay and vehicle storage area.Cargo is transferred to waiting landing craft docked within the ship's 13,000 square foot, 266 foot long, well deck.
The Wasp-class are the largest amphibious ships in the world.
WASP class ships are the first to be specifically designed to accomidate the AV-8B Harrier jump jet and the LCAC hovercraft, along with the full range of Navy and Marine helicopters, conventional landing craft and amphibious assault vehicles to support a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) of 2,000 Marines.
The ships also carry some of the most sophisticated communications, command and control capabilities afloat, alongwith state of the art electronic systems and defensive weaponry.
These ships conduct prompt, sustained combat operations at sea as the centerpiece of the Navy's amphibious strategy of "Forward ...
From the Sea." They provide the means to deliver, command and support all elements of a Marine Landing Force in an assault by air and amphibious craft.