AVONDALE, La. - The future USS Somerset (LPD 25) launched April 14 from Huntington Ingalls Industries' (HII) Avondale Shipyard, marking a key milestone in the ship's construction process.
LPD 25 is the ninth ship of the San Antonio class, and is named in honor of the courage of the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed near Shanksville in Somerset County, Pa., on 9/11.
Over the weeks following the Flight 93 crash, recovery personnel retrieved more than 95 percent of the airplane's wreckage from the crash site. An American flag was hoisted on the top of a power shovel or "dragline" on a hill dominating the area. The dragline had been used in coal stripping at one time, and the equipment with the flag became a symbol of the effort.
In the summer of 2008, steel from the dragline's bucket was melted down and cast into LPD 25's bow stem. Somerset is the final of three ships named to honor heroes of the September 11th attacks, joining the USS New York (LPD 21) and USS Arlington (LPD 24), respectively. LPD 25 is the fifth U.S. Navy ship named Somerset.
"As the ninth ship of the San Antonio class, LPD 25's launch represents an important success for the entire program," said Jay Stefany, LPD 17 program manager for the Navy's Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships. "The Navy and the shipbuilder have incorporated many lessons learned and driven efficiencies into the production, resulting in the most complete ship at launch to date for the LPD 17 class. I look forward to HII delivering this critical capability to the Navy."
These versatile ships incorporate both a flight deck to accommodate CH-46 helicopters and MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, and a well deck that can launch and recover landing craft and amphibious vehicles. The San Antonio class' increased vehicle space and substantial cargo carrying capacity make it a key element of twenty-first century Amphibious Ready Groups, Expeditionary Strike Groups, and Joint Task Forces.
In addition to performing their primary mission, Somerset's sister ships have supported anti-piracy operations and provided humanitarian assistance and foreign disaster relief operations in Haiti after the earthquake.
Six ships from the San Antonio class have been delivered to the Navy, including USS San Antonio (LPD 17), USS New Orleans (LPD 18), USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19), USS Green Bay (LPD 20), USS New York (LPD 21) and USS San Diego (LPD 22). LPD 22 recently transited from the shipyard to the homeport in San Diego. The commissioning ceremony for San Diego is scheduled for May 19, in San Diego. Early construction activities are underway for LPD 26 in Pascagoula, Miss., and material for LPD 27 is on order.
As one of the Defense Department's largest acquisition organizations, PEO Ships, a Naval Sea Systems Command affiliated PEO, is responsible for executing the development and procurement of all major surface combatants, amphibious ships, special mission ships, support ships, and special warfare craft. Currently, the majority of shipbuilding programs managed by PEO Ships are benefiting from serial production efficiencies, which are critical to delivering ships on cost and schedule.