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September 2006

Keel laid for T-AKE 4, T-AKE 5 named
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By MSC Public Affairs

The ship's matron of honor Debbie Hamilton welds her initials onto the hull of USNS Richard E. Byrd, the fourth of the Lewis & Clark dry cargo/ammunition class ships. NASSCO Public Affairs, photo

The keel was laid for the fourth MSC T-AKE ship at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego. The ship is named USNS Richard E. Byrd, in honor of the U.S. Navy admiral who explored the South Pole and Antarctica. It will be part of the Lewis and Clark-class of dry cargo/ammunition ships.

Debbie Hamilton, the wife of Rear Adm. Charles Hamilton II, the Navy's program executive officer for ships, was the honoree for the event and welded her initials into the keel. A keel-laying ceremony is a shipbuilding tradition that signifies an important milestone as full-scale production begins. The Richard E. Byrd is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy in 2007.

"On behalf of the secretary of the Navy, it gives me great pleasure to announce that this great ship will be named USNS Richard E. Byrd, in commemoration of U.S. Navy admiral and Medal of Honor recipient Richard Evelyn Byrd, who also led the first aerial expedition over the North Pole," said Navy Rear Adm. Hamilton. "Her sister ship, the fifth of the T-AKE class, will bear the name USNS Robert E. Peary, in honor of Rear Adm. Robert Edwin Peary, credited as the first person to reach the geographic North Pole. Like the other ships in the Lewis and Clark-class, these ships will bear the names of prominent American explorers and will carry with them the undaunted courage, strength and fortitude shown by their namesakes."

Nine T-AKE ship contracts have been awarded to NASSCO. Two additional ships are expected to be ordered by the Navy over the next two years for a total of 11 ships. The first ship of the class, USNS Lewis and Clark, was delivered to MSC June 20. Four follow-on ships are currently under construction at the shipyard: Sacagawea, Alan Shepard, Richard E. Byrd and Robert E. Peary.

The T-AKE ships are nearly 690 feet long, 106 feet wide and displace 45,000 tons. In addition, the ships incorporate international marine technologies and commercial ship design features, including an integrated electric-drive propulsion system, to minimize operating costs over their projected 40-year service life.

The T-AKE ships mark the dawn of a new era in at-sea replenishment. They will be part of MSC's Naval Fleet Auxilliary Force to bring fuel and supplies to deployed Navy ships.