USS Canberra Keel Laying

Marise Payne, minister for foreign affairs in Australia, welds her initials into the keel of the USS Canberra at Austal USA in Mobile, Alabama, Tuesday, March 10, 2020. Austal picture.

Original article appears courtesy of Naval News

The future USS Canberra will be the 30th Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) for the U.S. Navy, and the 15th Independence-class LCS built by Austal USA.

Marise Payne was appointed Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs on 28 August 2018. A Senator for NSW since 1997, she has more than two decades’ parliamentary experience including 12 years’ membership of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. The Senator was appointed Minister for Defence in September 2015. She oversaw a major renewal of the Australian Defence Force’s capabilities and led the organisation’s increased international engagement program with allies and partners.

LCS is a fast, agile, focused-mission platform designed for operation in near-shore environments yet capable of open-ocean operation.  It is designed to defeat asymmetric “anti-access” threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft.  The Independence-variant LCS integrates new technology and capability to support current and future mission capability from deep water to the littorals. Five Littoral Combat Ships are currently under construction at Austal’s state-of-the-art module manufacturing shipyard in Mobile, Alabama.

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Future USS Mobile (LCS 26) Christened

(Image Courtesy of Times San Diego)

An audience of over a thousand dignitaries, community leaders, and Austal USA employees celebrated the christening of the future USS Mobile (LCS 26) today at Austal’s advanced ship manufacturing facility. This is the third U.S. Navy ship christened here in 2019 and the fifth ship named after Mobile, Alabama.  Mobile is the 13th of 19 small surface combatants Austal USA has under contract with the U.S. Navy.

“It is such an honor for a future Littoral Combat Ship to be named after the City of Mobile,” today’s principal speaker, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, (AL-1) said. “Our area takes such pride in building these fine ships, just the latest vessel in Mobile’s long history of shipbuilding. I know the spirit and patriotism of Mobile will be encapsulated in this ship.”

“This is the 20th ship we have christened over the last five years,” said Austal USA President Craig Perciavalle. “We are blessed to have christened so many ships through the years but this one is special. It is a distinct privilege to build a ship named after your namesake city and this has truly been a community effort. The support we have received from Senator Shelby, Senator Jones, Congressman Byrne, the county, and city has been incredible and has played a major role in our success to date.”

“Manufacturing complex small surface combatants efficiently at this pace takes an incredible team, and we have one of the best teams in the business here at Austal USA,” explained Perciavalle. “With Incredible speed, volume, flexibility and firepower, Mobile will be the coolest, most formidable small surface combatant on the planet, one that meets the needs of the Navy of today, while having the adaptability to meet the needs of the Navy of tomorrow, a ship that will represent the best that America has to offer across the globe for decades.”

The ship’s sponsor, Rebecca Byrne, has devoted her career to serving others. She is president and chief executive officer of The Community Foundation of South Alabama and was previously executive director of United Way of Baldwin County.  Byrne has served in leadership roles for numerous civic, cultural and church organizations, including Chair of the Mobile Public Library, Beckwith Camp and Conference Center, and Baldwin County Trailblazers. An Auburn University alum and graduate of Leadership Alabama and Leadership Mobile, she is a member of the Mobile Rotary Club and a Paul Harris Fellow.

“We are honored to host Mrs. Byrne as the ship’s sponsor,” continued Perciavalle. “Her dedication to improving the quality of life for so many deserving members of our community make her a clear choice as the sponsor of the future USS Mobile.”

The Independence-variant littoral combat ship (LCS) is the most recent step in the small surface combatant evolution. A high-speed, agile, shallow draft, focused-mission surface combatant, the LCS is designed to conduct surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and mine countermeasures missions in the littoral near-shore region, while also possessing the capability for deep-water operations. With its open-architecture design, the LCS can support modular weapons, sensor systems and a variety of manned and unmanned vehicles to capture and sustain littoral maritime supremacy. 

In addition to being in full-rate production for the LCS program, Austal USA is also the Navy’s prime contractor for the Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) program. Austal has delivered 10 EPF, with a total of 14 under contract. Austal USA is also leading the evolution of connector and auxiliary ships as Austal EPF designs for dedicated medical, maintenance, logistics, and command and control ships continue to impress fleet commanders.

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More than 20,000 Attendees Ship’s Sponsor Christens PCU John F. Kennedy

President John F. Kennedy’s daughter, the Honorable Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, former U.S. Ambassador to Japan and the ship’s sponsor, smashes a champagne bottle over the hull of the John F. Kennedy. On Dec. 7, 2019, the John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) was christened at Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding (HII-NNS) division, in Newport News, Virginia. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Cory J. Daut)

Original article appears courtesy of Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic

With more than 20,000 attendees, President John F. Kennedy’s daughter, the Honorable Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, former U.S. Ambassador to Japan, officially christened Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) during a Huntington-Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding (HII-NNS) division ceremony in Newport News, Dec. 7.

Kennedy thanked the Navy, Newport News Shipbuilding, as well as the leadership and crew of PCU John F. Kennedy for their efforts to build the warship.

“I’m so proud to be the sponsor of this ship and bring her to life,” said Kennedy. “The CVN 79 crew is fortunate to have such distinguished leaders, this is your day, and our chance to say thank you.”

Kennedy reflected on the first ship to bear her father’s name and how the second Ford-class aircraft carrier will continue to represent her father proudly.

“Having a chance to get to know the people who served on the USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67), really gave me insight into who he was, and what kind of leader he was in a way that I wouldn’t have had any other way. And, I know that’s going to be just as true now with a whole new generation,” said Kennedy.

Former NASA Administrator and retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr., delivered the keynote address emphasizing the important role of our 35th president to our nation and the continuation of his legacy through the second Ford-class aircraft carrier.

“This vessel is a symbol of our nation’s strength, technical achievement and critical service our men and women provide for this nation and the entire world,” said Bolden. “This carrier is a tangible example of the legacy of the great man who risked his own life during World War II and the wake of Pearl Harbor,” said Bolden, who added that the future USS John F. Kennedy will join an elite group of aircraft carriers unmatched in strength around the world.

“This incredible ship before us today serves as the biggest instrument of deterrence and carries our nation’s pride and hope for a better world,” said Bolden who added that the future USS John F. Kennedy serves as “a hope for a better tomorrow.”

Some of the additional guests who attended the christening included Edwin Arthur Schlossberg, husband of Ambassador Kennedy; Maid of Honor, Rose Schlossberg, Daughter of Ambassador Kennedy; and Matron of Honor, Tatiana Schlossberg, Daughter of Ambassador Kennedy.

Additional attendees included Mike Petters, President of Huntington-Ingalls Industries; retired Adm. Thomas Fargo, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Huntington-Ingalls Industries; John F. Kerry, former Secretary of State; the Honorable James Geurts, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition; Adm. James Caldwell, Jr., Director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program; Adm. Christopher Grady, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command; Vice Adm. Thomas Moore, Commander, Naval Sea Systems Command; Rear Adm. James Downey, Program Executive Officer for Aircraft Carriers; Rear Adm. Roy Kelley, Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic; the Honorable Elaine Luria, U.S. House of Representatives, 2nd District, Virginia; the Honorable Mark R. Warner, U.S. Senate (D-VA), the Honorable Bobby C. Scott, U.S. House of Representatives (D-VA), 3rd District.

The Honorable Thomas B. Modly, Acting Secretary of the Navy discussed the significance of the day’s event on a truly historical date in our nation’s history.

“Today is the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, a day that forever changed the lives of brave American warriors like John F. Kennedy and transformed the way we fought as a Navy,” said Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly. “Much has changed over the past 78 years, but our nation, and our world, still needs brave American Sailors like the ones who will operate and serve on this ship. Kennedy knew what it meant to serve, to lead, and to sacrifice and his legacy will continue with you.”

CVN 79 is the second aircraft carrier to honor John F. Kennedy for his service to the nation, both as a naval officer and as the 35th President of the United States.

Capt. Todd Marzano, Commanding Officer of PCU John F. Kennedy emphasized the importance of this moment during the life of the aircraft carrier, which is 67 percent complete.

“CVN 79 has come a long way since I first observed initial construction in the dry dock back in 2015, following the keel laying,” said Marzano. “I’m incredibly honored, humbled, and excited to be given the opportunity to lead such an amazing team of high quality crew members.”

CVN 79 incorporates more than 23 new technologies, comprising dramatic advances in propulsion, power generation, ordnance handling, and aircraft launch systems. These innovations will support a 33 percent higher sortie generation rate at a significant cost savings, when compared to Nimitz-class carriers. The Gerald R. Ford-class also offers a reduction of approximately $4 billion per ship in life-cycle operations and support costs, compared to the earlier Nimitz class.

The new technology and warfighting capabilities that the John F. Kennedy brings to the fleet will transform naval warfare, supporting a more capable and lethal forward-deployed U.S. naval presence. In an era of great power competition, CVN 79 will serve as the most agile and lethal combat platform in the world, with improved systems that enhance interoperability among other platforms in the carrier strike group as well as with the naval forces of regional allies and partners.

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U.S. Navy Christens Expeditionary Fast Transport Newport

Dignitaries, guests, officials and other community members celebrate at the christening ceremony of the USNS Newport (EPF-12) built by Austal USA in Mobile, Alabama, United States of America, Saturday, November 9, 2019. (Photo provided by Austal USA)

The Navy christened its newest expeditionary fast transport, the future USNS Newport (T-EPF 12), during a ceremony, Nov. 9, at the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Alabama.

The principal speaker was Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield, President of the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. Mrs. Charlotte Marshall, a Newport native, served as the ship’s sponsor. In a time-honored Navy tradition, she christened the ship by breaking a bottle of sparkling wine across the bow.

“This ship honors the city of Newport, Rhode Island, and serves as a reminder of the contributions the community has and continues to make to our Navy,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “Newport is a Navy town where many officers begin their careers and then return later for strategic training. It is right that a fourth ship will bear the name Newport to continue our long relationship, and provide our commanders high-speed sealift mobility and agility in the fight to defend our nation.”

The first Newport (Gunboat No. 12) was commissioned Oct. 5, 1897.
During the Spanish-American War, she received credit for assisting in the capture of nine Spanish vessels. The ship was decommissioned in 1898, but recommissioned in 1900 to serve as a training ship at the Naval Academy and at the Naval Training Station at Newport, Rhode Island, until decommissioning in Boston in 1902.

The second Newport (PF-27) was commissioned Sept. 8, 1944, and decommissioned in September 1945 and loaned to the U.S.S.R. under Lend-Lease and returned to United States custody at Yokosuka, Japan, in November 1949. Recommissioned in July 1950, Newport patrolled off Inchon, Korea, screening during the landings. Decommissioned at Yokosuka in April 1952, she was loaned to Japan in 1953, and commissioned as Kaede (PF-13). She was then reclassified PF-293 and transferred to the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force outright in August 1962.

The third Newport (LST-1179) was commissioned on June 7, 1969. Assigned to the Amphibious Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, Newport alternated amphibious training operations along the east coast of the United States with extended deployments to the Caribbean and Mediterranean. She was decommissioned in October 1992, and transferred to the government of Mexico in 2001.

T-EPF class ships are designed to transport 600 short tons of military cargo 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots. The ship is capable of operating in austere ports and waterways, interfacing with roll-on/roll-off discharge facilities, and on/off-loading a combat-loaded Abrams main battle tank (M1A2).

The T-EPF includes a flight deck for helicopter operations and an off-load ramp that will allow vehicles to quickly drive off the ship. EPF’s shallow draft (less than 15 feet) further enhances littoral operations and port access. This makes the EPF an extremely flexible asset for support of a wide range of operations including maneuver and sustainment, relief operations in small or damaged ports, flexible logistics support, or as the key enabler for rapid transport.

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Huntington Ingalls Industries Authenticates Keel of Guided Missile Destroyer Jack H. Lucas (DDG 125)

Ship’s Sponsors (left to right) Catherine B. Reynolds and Ruby Lucas trace their initials onto a steel plate that will be welded inside the guided missile destroyer Jack H. Lucas (DDG 125). Looking on is Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, who spoke at the ceremony. Photo by Derek Fountain/HII

Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Ingalls Shipbuilding division authenticated the keel of the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer Jack H. Lucas (DDG 125) today. Lucas was the youngest Marine and the youngest service member in World War II to receive the Medal of Honor.

“We are honored to have with us today the sponsors of this great ship, including Ruby Lucas, widow of our ship’s namesake. It is Navy tradition to name destroyers after men and women who served their country with distinction and this ship is certainly no exception,” said Ingalls Shipbuilding President Brian Cuccias. “Jack Lucas was born at a unique point in history and destiny had plans for the youngest service member awarded the Medal of Honor in World War II.”  

DDG 125 is co-sponsored by Ruby Lucas, widow of the ship’s namesake and Catherine B. Reynolds, an entrepreneur and philanthropist who has enabled millions of Americans to attend the college of their choice through her foundation work.

“One of the best days of my life was the day I met Jack. I didn’t know a thing about him, but that day changed my life forever,” said Lucas. “God has always looked out for me and he has always looked after Jack. It has always been my wish that Jack would be remembered for all time. His personal history is without comparison. Now my wish for this ship is that Jack himself would move over it. May God bless this ship named Jack H. Lucas and may God bless America”

This is the first ship named to honor Jack H. Lucas, who, at the age of 14, forged his mother’s signature to join the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II. Lucas, then a private first class in the Marines, turned 17 just five days before the U.S. invasion of Iwo Jima and stowed away on USS Deuel (APA 160) to fight in the campaign. During a close firefight with Japanese forces, Lucas saved the lives of three fellow Marines when, after two enemy hand grenades were thrown into a U.S. trench, he placed himself on one grenade while simultaneously pulling the other under his body. One of the grenades did not explode; the other exploded but only injured Lucas.

DDG 125 is the fifth of five Arleigh Burke-class destroyers HII was awarded in June 2013 and the first Flight III ship. The five-ship contract, part of a multi-year procurement in the DDG 51 program, allows Ingalls to build ships more efficiently by buying bulk material and moving the skilled workforce from ship to ship.

“What makes this place what it is are the men and women you see with these hardhats on,” Mississippi Governor Phil Byant said as he addressed the crowd at today’s ceremony. “Brian I can tell you this, I say it all over the world, ‘We’ve got the best damn shipbuilders in the world.’ A ship like the Jack H. Lucas will keep this world of ours safe. Jack will be back where his spirit has always been, fighting for America.”

James Ellis, a structural welder at Ingalls, welded the two sponsors’ initials onto a steel plate, signifying the keel of DDG 125 as being “truly and fairly laid.” The plate will remain affixed to the ship throughout its lifetime.

Ingalls has delivered 31 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers to the Navy. The shipyard currently has four DDGs under construction, including Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG 123), which is set to be christened in early 2020.

Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are capable, multi-mission ships and can conduct a variety of operations, from peacetime presence and crisis management to sea control and power projection, all in support of the United States’ military strategy. The guided missile destroyers are capable of simultaneously fighting air, surface and subsurface battles. The ship contains myriad offensive and defensive weapons designed to support maritime defense needs well into the 21st century.

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Keel Laid for First-in-Class USNS Navajo

Gulf Island Shipyard held a keel laying ceremony on Oct. 30 for the future USNS Navajo (T-ATS 6), the lead ship of the Navy’s new class of Towing, Salvage, and Rescue vessels. The ceremony was held at the Houma Terrebonne Civic Center in Houma, Louisiana. (U.S. Navy Photo)

Original article appears courtesy of the Military Sealift Command

Gulf Island Shipyard hosted a keel laying ceremony on Oct. 30 for the future USNS Navajo (T-ATS 6), the lead ship of the Navy’s new class of Towing, Salvage, and Rescue vessels. The ceremony was held at the Houma Terrebonne Civic Center in Houma, Louisiana.

A keel laying is the ceremonial recognition of the start of a ship’s construction and the joining of the ship’s modular components. The keel serves as the symbolic backbone of the ship and is said to be “truly and fairly laid” with the etching of an honoree’s initials into the keel plate.

On hand to authenticate the keel were Jocelyn Billy, the ship’s sponsor; the Honorable Jonathan Nez, President of Navajo Nation; and the Honorable Seth Damon, the Speaker of the 24th Navajo Nation Council.

“We are honored to have so many members of Navajo Nation in attendance to celebrate this early milestone in the shipbuilding process,” said Mike Kosar, support ships, boats and craft program manager, Program Executive Office Ships. “These ships are critical to the operations of our fleet, and will soon sail with the resilience and determination of the Navajo people of which they honor.”

The Navajo-class will provide ocean-going tug, salvage, and rescue capabilities to support fleet operations. The current capabilities are provided by three T-ATF 166 and two T-ARS 50 class ships, which reach the end of their expected service lives starting in 2020.

Navajo-class ships will be capable of towing U.S. Navy ships and will have 6,000 square feet of deck space for embarked systems. The platform will be 263 feet long, have a beam of 59 feet, and can carry a load of 1,796 tons.
In addition to T-ATS 6, Gulf Island Shipyard is under contract for the detail design and construction of the future USNS Cherokee Nation (T-ATS 7) and USNS Saginaw Ojibwe Anishinabek (T-ATS 8).

As one of the Defense Department’s largest acquisition organizations, PEO Ships is responsible for executing the development and procurement of all destroyers, amphibious ships, sealift ships, support ships, boats, and craft.

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Keel Laid for USS Nantucket

Original article appears courtesy of WLUK/Marinette, WI

A keel-laying ceremony is held at Marinette Marine in Wisconsin for the future USS Nantucket, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. (WLUK/Jessie Basinski)

A keel laying ceremony in Wisconsin marked the ceremonial start of construction of the next ship to carry the name Nantucket.

WLUK-TV reported that Lockheed Martin and Fincantieri Marinette Marine hosted the keel laying ceremony on Wednesday for LCS-27. The littoral combat ship will be the next USS Nantucket.

The ship’s sponsor and secretary of the Navy’s wife, Polly Spencer, authenticated the keel by welding onto the steel plate to be placed on the ship’s hull.

Marinette Marine was awarded the contract to build the future USS Nantucket two years ago.

The USS Nantucket will be the third commissioned U.S. Navy ship to honor the maritime history of the Massachusetts island, and the first in 150 years.

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Navy Lays Keel of Future USS Savannah (LCS 28)

The ship’s sponsor, Dianne Isakson, wife of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, authenticated the keel for the 14th Independence-variant littoral combat ship (LCS) during the ceremony.

The U.S. Navy held a keel-laying and authentication ceremony for the future USS Savannah (LCS 28) at Austal USA’s shipyard Mobile, Ala., on Sept. 20.

The ship’s sponsor, Dianne Isakson, wife of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, authenticated the keel for the 14th Independence-variant littoral combat ship (LCS) during the ceremony. 

“We are honored to lay the keel of what will one day be a magnificent combat ship that will defend our great country as our Sailors operate her around the globe,” said Capt. Mike Taylor, LCS program manager. 

While the keel laying traditionally represents the formal start of a ship’s construction, fabrication of the ship begins months in advance. Today, keel laying continues to symbolically recognize the joining of the ship’s components and the ceremonial beginning of the ship.

LCS is a fast, agile, focused-mission platform designed to operate in near-shore environments, while capable of open-ocean tasking and winning against 21st-century coastal threats such as submarines, mines and swarming small craft. They are capable of supporting forward presence, maritime security, sea control and deterrence.

There are currently four other Independence variant LCSs undergoing construction at Austal USA, with five additional ships in pre-production planning.

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Navy Commissions Littoral Combat Ship Indianapolis

BURNS HARBOR, Ind. (Oct. 26, 2019) Dick Thelen, a veteran seaman 2nd class and a survivor of the sinking of USS Indianapolis (CA 35), hands the long glass (telescope) to Lt. Julian Turner, navigator of the first watch, during the commissioning ceremony of USS Indianapolis (LCS 17). LCS 17 is the 19th littoral combat ship to enter the fleet and the ninth of the Freedom variant. It will be the fourth ship named for Indianapolis, Indiana’s capital city. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Timothy Haggerty)

Original article appears courtesy of Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet

The Navy’s newest littoral combat ship, USS Indianapolis (LCS 17), was commissioned Oct. 26 at Burns Harbor.

Burns Harbor is known for producing steel and has a long, rich history of supporting U.S. defense capabilities.

“To the citizens of the great state of Indiana who have joined us here today, thank you so much for enduring the weather to show your support for the men and women of America’s military and this fantastic new addition to the fleet,” said Lisa W. Hershman, deputy chief management officer for the Department of Defense and the ceremony’s principle speaker. “It is always a thrill to see a Navy ship commissioned, but it is truly a historic moment to do so on the shores of Lake Michigan.”

The ceremony honored veterans of USS Indianapolis (CA 35), a cruiser which sunk in the final days of World War II after completing a secret mission to deliver components for an atomic bomb. Her crew spent several days in the water awaiting rescue.

As part of the ceremony, Dick Thelen, veteran seaman 2nd class and a survivor of that mission, handed the long glass (telescope) to Lt. Julian Turner, navigator of the first watch.

“Now, a combat-ready ship is necessary but not sufficient for our Navy to fight and win decisively in combat,” said Adm. Christopher W. Grady, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command. “To fight and win you, the Hoosier Sailors of Indianapolis must join as one and become a battle-minded crew. You must waste no time in preparing yourself to function as a team-of-teams, masterfully exercising your ship to the very extent of its limits. Only through the combination of this combat-ready ship and you, its battle-minded crew, both blue and gold, can Indianapolis carry on the proud legacy of your predecessors.”

The ship’s motto, “Legacy of War,” reflects that ships named Indianapolis have served in World War I, World War II, and the Cold War. LCS 17 is the fourth ship to bear the name.

“I feel honored to represent the ship’s namesake and the history that goes with that. Our crew has put in a tremendous amount of work preparing the USS Indianapolis,” said Lt. j.g. Eric Wilkerson. “There is a lot of Navy pride here today. The support from earlier crews being here is a strong reminder of the commitment needed to defend our nation and maritime freedoms.”

Jill Donnelly, the ship’s sponsor, gave the first order, “Man our ship and bring her to life!”

More than 8,000 people attended the commissioning ceremony including Indiana residents and friends and family of the crew.

“It was all-hands effort. We work together to get the ship up and ready to go. There is a lot of teamwork and everyone really does pull their weight to accomplish the mission,” said Operations Specialist 1st Class Devin Morris. “It’s a brand new ship so everyone has to go through all the certifications to make sure we are mission ready.”

Littoral combat ships are outfitted with mission packages that deploy manned and unmanned vehicles and sensors in support of mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare, or surface warfare missions. The warship’s modular mission packages can be quickly and cost effectively updated with new weapons and weapon systems without taking the ship out of service for modifications and modernizations.

LCS class ships allow the Navy to strengthen its partnership with other countries’ navies and coast guards. LCSs perform maritime security operations, theater security cooperation engagements, and freedom of navigation patrols – keeping critical maritime commerce routes open. Littoral combat ships are able to patrol the littorals and access ports where other ships may be unable.

USS Indianapolis (LCS 17) will be homeported in Naval Station Mayport, Florida.

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USNS Miguel Keith Christened at General Dynamics NASSCO San Diego

Rear Adm. Thomas Wettlaufer, Commander, Military Sealift Command, addresses attendees of the christening ceremony for MSC’s newest ship, USNS Miguel Keith (T-ESB 5), at the General Dynamics, NASSCO shipyard in San Diego. (Military Sealift Command Pacific)

This article appears courtesy of Military Sealift Command Pacific

Expeditionary sea base USNS Miguel Keith (T-ESB 5), the Military Sealift Command’s newest ship, was christened during a ceremony at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego, Calif.

The event was attended by the family of the ship’s namesake as well as dignitaries such as Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Thomas Savage, Deputy Commanding General 1st Marine Expeditionary Force; Rear Adm. Michael Wettlaufer, Commander, Military Sealift Command; Vice Adm., Ricky Williamson, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Fleet Readiness and Logistics; Bilyana Anderson, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Ship’s Programs; General Walter Boomer (USMC Retired), former Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps; Capt. Brian Mershon, the ship’s civil service master; Sailors from the ships pre-commissioning unit, and employees of NASSCO.

“This ceremony marks the office start of the relationship between the men and women who will crew and sail this great ship, and the family of its namesake, Miguel Keith,” said Anderson in her remarks.

The official christening moment happened when Keith’s mother, Mrs. Eliadora Delores Keith, who serves as the ship’s sponsor, broke a bottle over the ship’s bow with the words, “For the United States, I christen this ship the Miguel Keith. May God protect all who sail on her”

The ship honors U.S. Marine Corps Vietnam veteran and posthumous Medal of Honor recipient Lance Cpl. Miguel Keith, and is the first ship to bear the name. Keith served as a machine gunner with Combined Action Platoon 132, III Marine Amphibious Force in Quang Ngai Province, Republic of Vietnam. He was severely wounded on the morning of May 8, 1970, when his platoon came under a heavy-ground attack. Despite being injured in the attack and open to hostile fire, he continued to engage the enemy with heavy machine gun fire, resulting in him killing three attackers and dispersing two remaining two enemy soldiers.

“As Marines, we try to live up to the example of those who came before us. In the case of Miguel Keith, that is impossible,” explained Savage. “This ship will be a war ship, and it is fitting that it is name after a Marine such as Miguel Keith.”

Miguel Keith is the fifth ship in the expeditionary mobile base platform build for MSC, and the third expeditionary staging base model. When activated, Miguel Keith will primarily support aviation mine countermeasure and special operations force missions. In addition to the flight deck, the ship has a hangar with two aviation operating spots capable of handling MH-53E Sea Dragon-equivalent helicopters; accommodations, work spaces, and ordnance storage for embarked force; enhanced command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence to support embarked force mission planning and execution; and reconfigurable mission deck area to store embarked force equipment to include mine sleds and rigid hull inflatable boats.

“The ESB platform will provide leadership with options on air, sea and land,” said Wettlaufer. “Miguel Keith gives us a competitive advantage in a highly competitive world.

Miguel Keith will be delivered to the MSC fleet later this year, where it will support a variety of maritime-based missions, including Special Operations Forces and Airborne Mine Counter Measures support operations, humanitarian and traditional military missions.

Closing his remarks, Boomer, ceremony’s principal speaker addressed the ship’s crew. “When the work gets tough and the days are long, let this be your battle cry. For Miguel…For Miguel!”

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