Government shutdown or not, the US Navy’s shipbuilding programs are moving forward, with several noteworthy events recently taking place or coming up.
At the General Dynamics Electric Boat shipyard in Groton, Conn., the NORTH DAKOTA (SSN 784), latest of the Virginia class of nuclear-powered attack submarines, was floated off Sept. 15 in a process that began about 4 a.m. While shipyard workers and Kate Fowler, the ship’s sponsor, were in attendance, the event passed with little ceremony; the much more elaborate christening ceremony will take place on Nov. 2.
On the same day in San Diego, the new mobile landing platform JOHN GLENN (MLP 2) was floated off at GD’s National Steel and Shipbuilding Company. Again, the event marked little more than the transfer of the ship from the floating drydock in which it was built to the water; its christening is scheduled for February. Construction of the third ship in the class, LEWIS B. PULLER (MLP 3/AFSB 1), began on Sept. 19 at NASSCO. Meanwhile, in Everett, Wash., the first MLP, MONTFORD POINT, successfully completed final contract trials on Sept. 13, marking the final in-depth examination of the ship while still under warranty to the shipbuilder.
In Newport News, Va., the Newport News Shipbuilding Company of Huntington Ingalls Industries is making preparations to launch the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier GERALD R. FORD (CVN 78) on Oct. 11. Built in an enormous graving dock, the FORD will be floated off after the dock is flooded. Its christening ceremony will be held Nov. 9, marking one of the major events surrounding this year’s Veterans Day observances.
At HII’s other shipyards on the Gulf of Mexico, Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., is readying for the Oct. 26 christening of the new US Coast Guard cutter HAMILTON (WMSL 753). The ship, fourth of the Legend-class of National Security Cutters, was floated off on Aug. 10. Ingalls is also preparing for builder’s trials of the new amphibious assault ship AMERICA (LHA 6) in November. In New Orleans, the assault transport dock SOMERSET (LPD 25) ran successful acceptance trials in mid-September. The ship is the last vessel to be built at HII’s Avondale shipyard, which will convert to non-shipbuilding businesses after the SOMERSET leaves.
Elsewhere on the Gulf Coast, Austal USA in Mobile, Ala., delivered the new littoral combat ship CORONADO (LCS 4) on Sept. 27. Second ship of the Independence class, the CORONADO will be commissioned in April at her namesake city near San Diego.
At Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Marinette, Wisc., the MILWAUKEE (LCS 5), 3rd ship of the Freedom class, is aiming for a christening and launch in late November or early December. Unlike the ships already described, the MILWAUKEE will be christened and launched at the same time with a sideways launch.
And in Bath, Maine, at GD’s Bath Iron Works, shipbuilders are making ready for an Oct. 19 christening ceremony for the ZUMWALT (DDG 1000), first of a three-ship class that will are the largest destroyers ever built. The ZUMWALT will be floated off shortly after the christening date.
You might have noticed we didn’t use the prefix “USS” – United States Ship – in any of these ship names. That honorific only comes into being after a ship is formally commissioned into service. Until then, the ship doesn’t have a prefix, although the crew is known as a PCU, or Pre-Commissioning Unit.
The HAMILTON will become USCGC HAMILTON upon commissioning, for US Coast Guard Cutter, while the JOHN GLENN, to be manned by civilian mariners working for the Military Sealift Command, will become USNS JOHN GLENN (T-MLP 2), for US Naval Ship, applied to ships owned by the Navy but operated by non-military crews. The “T” prefix in the hull number harkens back to the Military Sea Transportation Service, a MSC predecessor.
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