USS Makin Island
“Gung Ho”
 
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Story Number: lhd8050604-01 

By Journalist 1st Class Heather W. Hines, Naval Surface Forces Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO
- If you're a hard-charging Sailor in your 9-12 month negotiating window for orders and want the latest and greatest the Navy has to offer, you should consider one of the newest war fighting machines in the Navy's arsenal, Makin Island (LHD 8).
Makin Island will be the U.S. Navy's first amphibious assault ship built with a hybrid propulsion system of LM2500+ gas turbine engines, auxiliary propulsion motors and electric powered auxiliaries. Currently under construction at Northrop-Grumman Ship Systems in Pascagoula, Miss., the first crewmembers of Makin Island report to the Pre-Commissioning Detachment (PCD) in San Diego in January 2006.

In the early 1990s, a decision was made to phase out conventional powered steam ships due to high maintenance and manning costs. With the first seven ships in the Wasp-class ships running on two independent steam boilers and two 35,000 horsepower steam turbine engines, the design team needed to find a system that could replace the steam engines that dated back to the earlier, circa 1960s steam propulsion plants of the Tarawa (LHA 1) class. During the construction of LHDs 5, 6 and 7, a global search was conducted for an alternative power system capable of driving a 40,500 ton warship over 20 knots. A commercial development of the General Electric LM2500+ gas turbine (35,000 horsepower) made it conceivable to fit a single gas turbine engine into the LHD at power levels comparable to the steam turbine plant.

Captain Bob Kopas, prospective Commanding Officer noted that "with the LM2500+, you get more output than the basic LM2500 with essentially the same combustion air requirements." Since the exhaust stacks must be routed through the island, the design modifications made it possible to transform the propulsion plant on the LHD class and its successor, the LHA(R).

Since amphibious-class ships spend a significant portion of their on-station time at lower speeds, the design team added electric drives to LHD-8 for redundancy making an efficient, cost wise solution when compared to the higher fuel consumption of the gas turbine engine.

Capt. Kopas went on to say that "transformation is not only incorporating new equipment, but the way we use that equipment in terms of processes and procedures to change an area of warfare."

In keeping with the same overall Wasp (LHD 1)-class design, Makin Island's major technological advancements include electric auxiliaries, auxiliary propulsion motors, a water mist fire suppressant agent and a machinery control system.

Getting orders to Makin Island is a little different than getting them to a ship already in commission. Interested Sailors should first contact their respective rating detailer to ensure there is a job requirement/ billet for their rating. Qualifying Sailors can then be nominated to Sea Special Programs (PERS 402D), where they are directed to submit a screening form endorsed by their current chain of command. With this, the detailing process begins and orders are written with special school requirements arranged for en route.

If a Sailor finds that they aren't in the window of opportunity to report with the first crewmembers, then they will need to continue monitoring the Job Advertising & Selection System (JASS) website for all other potential sea billets.

New construction ships are detailed at different intervals. "The first groups of Sailors to report onboard are typically in senior leadership positions. This ensures the prospective crew will have enough time to receive the proper training and schools needed to operate the new equipment as well as integrating team trainers," explains Lt. Cmdr. Tracy DeWitt, Head of Sea Special Programs. He also said there are many rewarding challenges in bringing a new ship to life including training opportunities, leadership responsibilities and becoming a "plankowner."

"As a plankowner, you have the distinction of being part of the first crew for a ship that will serve the United States Navy longer than any of us will," said Dewitt who is a plankowner on USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). "A Navy tradition is that every plankowner is 'bonged' off the ship, with the same respect generally given to a high-ranking officer. Although it has been a few year since I was bonged off, I still keep track of her (Stennis) and wish her well…she will always be special to me," said DeWitt.

Makin Island is named in honor of the daring raid carried out by Marines and in honor of USS Makin Island (CVE 93), a Casablanca-class escort carrier during World War II. U.S. Marine Corps Raider Companies A and B, 2nd Raider Battalion (Carlson's Raiders), executed this raid on the Japanese held atoll August 17-18, 1942, after being transported deep into hostile waters and subsequently launched from the submarines USS Nautilus and USS Argonaut. The raid's leader, Lt. Col. Evans Carlson was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions, while Sgt. Clyde Thompson was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism, the first enlisted Marine to be so honored during World War II.

Like the previous seven Wasp-class ships, Makin Island is built to transport and land Marine Expeditionary Units (MEU) ashore by helicopter, landing craft and amphibious assault vehicle. It will also have the secondary missions of sea control and power projection by helicopter and fixed-wing vertical short take-off and landing (VSTOL) aircraft; command and control, and mission support; the ship also has a hospital with six operating rooms.

For more information on Makin Island, its prospective crew or the shipbuilding process, the ship's web site can be found at http://www.public.navy.mil/surfor/lhd8/
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