The Lewis and Clark-class of dry cargo/ammunition ships - the Navy’s newest class of logistics ships, also called T-AKEs - continued to grow last week with the launch of the eighth ship in the class and the delivery of the seventh to the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command.
USNS Wally Schirra was christened and launched during an early morning ceremony March 8 at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego. Ship’s sponsor Josephine F. Schirra, wife of the ship’s namesake, broke the traditional bottle of champagne across the bow.
Earlier in the week, Military Sealift Command, which owns and operates the ships, accepted delivery of USNS Carl Brashear March 4. Brashear was launched and christened at NASSCO’s shipyard Sept. 18, 2008, and underwent a series of tests and trials prior to delivery.
“These ships will continue to build Military Sealift Command’s ability to deliver combat logistics support worldwide to keep our Navy’s strike groups at sea, fully supplied and ready for all contingencies,” said Tim McCully, deputy commander of MSC’s office in San Diego, Sealift Logistics Command Pacific. “Our fleet customers are already singing the praises of the enhanced capability, capacity and flexibility of these new dry cargo/ammunition ships.”
Brashear is expected to begin conducting missions for MSC in the fall of 2009 and will operate mainly in the Pacific. Schirra is scheduled for delivery to the MSC fleet later this year.
USNS Wally Schirra honors Walter “Wally” Schirra, a pioneer of the U.S. space program and the only astronaut to fly missions in each of NASA’s first three space programs; Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. During his career, Schirra logged more than 4,000 hours of flight time including 295 hours in space. He was the recipient of NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal for his command of the Apollo 7 mission.
“When Wally’s time came to be tested, he didn’t falter, and he faced the challenge head on.” said Rear Adm. Robert O. Wray, deputy commander, Military Sealift Command in his remarks to the audience. “In that spirit, I know the crew of this ship will bear that example and face the future with that same strain of courage.”
T-AKEs deliver ammunition, provisions, stores, spare parts, potable water and petroleum products to the Navy’s underway carrier and expeditionary strike groups, allowing them to stay at sea, on station and combat ready for extended periods of time. The ships are crewed by approximately 124 civil service mariners and 11 U.S. Navy sailors, who provide supply coordination.
The Navy expects to build 14 T-AKEs, the first 11 of which will serve as combat logistics ships. The remaining three are expected to be part of the Maritime Prepositioning Force (Future). All 14 of the ships will be owned and operated by MSC.
MSC operates approximately 110 noncombatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.