NavyÆs newest cargo ship launched
Amid rockets' red glare and streamers bustling in the air, the U.S. Navy's newest cargo vessel slipped into San Diego Bay during a Tuesday night launch ceremony.
Nearly 1,500 people were on hand to watch the USNS Richard E. Byrd, the newest Lewis-and-Clark-class of dry cargo/ammunition ships, slip from the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard into San Diego Bay.
Owned and operated by Military Sealift Command, the ship is named in honor of the U.S. Navy admiral who explored the South Pole and Antarctica. Byrd, a Medal of Honor recipient, led the first aerial expedition over the North Pole.
Bolling Byrd Clark, Byrd's oldest daughter, christened her father's namesake by breaking the traditional bottle of champagne against the ship's bow, while the flag that her father hoisted in Antarctica nearly 80 years ago flew above on the foremast. Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter, MSC Commander Rear Adm. Robert Reilly, Jr. and Program Executive Officer for Ships Rear Adm. Charles Goddard were also on hand for the ceremony.
USNS Byrd is the fourth ship in the Navy's new 11-ship T-AKE class. The new vessels are designed to deliver ammunition, provisions, stores, spare parts, potable water and petroleum products to the Navy’s carrier and expeditionary strike groups and other naval forces underway. T-AKEs have the largest cargo-carrying capacity and the largest flight deck of any combat logistic force ship afloat.
The 689-foot USNS Byrd will be crewed by 124 civil service mariners and 11 military personnel. These Lewis-and-Clark class ships are replacing aging, single-mission ammunition ships and combat stores ships that are nearing the end of their service lives.
General Dynamics NASSCO has been awarded contracts to build nine T-AKE ships for the Navy. Two additional ships are expected to be ordered by the Navy over the next two years for a total class of 11 ships.
Military Sealift Command operates about 110 noncombatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, chart ocean bottoms, conduct undersea surveillance, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military equipment and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces.