Nearly 1,800 guests attended the christening of Huntington Ingalls Industries’ ninth amphibious transport dock, Somerset (LPD 25), at the company’s Avondale shipyard. LPD 25 is named to honor the courage of the passengers and crew members of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed on Sept. 11, 2001, near Shanksville in Somerset County, Pa.
“We thank our nation for honoring and remembering those 40 aboard Flight 93 with this extraordinary tribute, the Somerset,” said Patrick White, president of Families of Flight 93 and principal speaker at the event. White’s cousin, Louis J. Nacke II, died on board the flight. “These passengers prevented additional tragedy on Sept. 11 through their selfless actions. The Somerset and her steadfast crew — now and in the future — are both a living tribute and vigilant reminder of sacrifice made to protect the lives of unknown others.”
Additional family members of the Flight 93 heroes were in attendance, as well as several residents of Somerset County.
Mrs. Mary Jo Myers, wife of Gen. Richard Myers, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, smashed a ceremonial bottle across LPD 25′s bow at the culmination of the ceremony, officially christening LPD 25 as Somerset.
“Built for survivability and flexibility, LPD 25 is being crafted by the hearts, heads and hands of some of the best shipbuilders in the world and will be manned by our nation’s finest,” said HII President and CEO Mike Petters. “Like America, like the members of the Somerset families here today and like the shipbuilders of Avondale, these sailors and Marines will persevere in times of uncertainty and change. We take great pride in them and have the utmost respect for their dedication and service to America, the greatest country in the world.”
Ingalls is building the entire San Antonio (LPD 17) class of ships, the newest addition to the Navy’s 21st century amphibious assault force. LPD 25 is the company’s ninth ship. Ingalls received a $1.5 billion contract to build an 11th ship in the class on Friday.
“As shipbuilders, we know the significance of this ship,” said Ingalls Shipbuilding President Irwin F. Edenzon. “For decades, our shipbuilders have been building ships to defend our great nation. LPD 25 will continue this legacy and be a testimony of their professionalism, dedication and tenacity for 40 years or more. They are building Somerset, strong and proud. Not only for the sailors and Marines who will sail in her, but as a tribute to the heroes of Flight 93 who protected our nation — with strength, pride and with our deepest gratitude and respect.”
The LPD 17-class ships are 684 feet long and 105 feet wide and displace approximately 25,000 tons. Their principal mission is to deploy the combat and support elements of Marine Expeditionary Units and Brigades. The ships can carry up to 800 troops and have the capability of transporting and debarking air cushion (LCAC) or conventional landing crafts, augmented by helicopters or vertical take-off and landing aircraft such as the MV-22. The ships will support amphibious assault, special operations or expeditionary warfare missions through the first half of the 21st century.
Cmdr. Cole Hayes is the ship’s prospective commanding officer. He will lead a crew of 360 Navy officers and sailors as well as three Marines.
“This ship is named to honor that indomitable fighting spirit — the timeless American who will fight for the most basic human rights,” said Rear Adm. David H. Lewis, the Navy’s program executive officer for ships. “This ship will sail until the year 2050 and beyond. Tens of thousands of sailors will serve aboard her, and thousands more will sail in company with her. Millions of people throughout the world will see her, visit her and read about her exploits. They will wonder why the name Somerset was given to such a great and fine warship. They will read, they will see, they will learn, and they will be amazed.”
The 11 ships of the LPD 17 class are a key element of the Navy’s ability to project power ashore. Collectively, they functionally replace more than 41 ships (the LPD 4, LSD 36, LKA 113 and LST 1179 classes of amphibious ships), providing the Navy and Marine Corps with modern, sea-based platforms that are networked, survivable and built to operate with 21st century platforms, such as the MV-22 Osprey.
The Families of Flight 93 are dedicated to the building and funding of the Flight 93 National Memorial in Somerset County, PA.
Naval Today Staff, July 31, 2012; Image: US Navy