WASHINGTON - The Navy will christen the newest amphibious transport dock ship, Somerset, July 28, during a 10 a.m. CST ceremony at the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard in Avondale, La.
The ship is named in honor of the courageous passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93. Their actions prevented terrorist hijackers from reaching their destination only to have the airplane crash near Shanksville in Somerset County, Pa., Sept. 11, 2001.
Patrick White, president of the Families of Flight 93, will deliver the ceremony's principal address. Mary Jo Myers, the wife of Gen. Richard Myers, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is the ship's sponsor, and in accordance with Navy tradition, will break a bottle of champagne across the bow to formally christen the ship.
During 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 Somerset's bow stem. Somerset is the final of three ships named to honor heroes of the September 11 attacks, joining the USS New York and USS Arlington, respectively.
Designated LPD 25, Somerset is the ninth amphibious transport dock ship in the San Antonio class. 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 21st century Amphibious Ready Groups, Expeditionary Strike Groups, and Joint Task Forces.
Somerset will provide improved warfighting capabilities, including an advanced command-and-control suite, increased lift-capability in vehicle and cargo-carrying capacity and advanced ship-survivability features. The ship is capable of embarking a landing force of up to 800 Marines.
The future USS Somerset will be the fifth U.S. naval vessel to carry the name Somerset. The four previous ships of that name were a side-wheeled ferryboat (1862-1865), a motorboat (1918), a transport (1945), and a patrol escort (1944-1955).
The ship will be led by a crew of 360 officers, enlisted personnel and Marines. The 24,900-ton Somerset is being built at the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard in Avondale, La. The ship is 684 feet in length, has an overall beam of 105 feet, and a navigational draft of 23 feet. Four turbo-charged diesels power the ship to sustained speeds of 22 knots.