USNS Amelia Earhart, the newest ship in the U.S. Navy's Lewis and Clark-class of dry cargo/ammunition ships owned and operated by Military Sealift Command (MSC), was launched April 6 during a nighttime ceremony at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego.
The 689-ft. ship, designated T-AKE 6, slid into the water for the first time with red, white and blue streamers flowing from its bow and fireworks lighting the sky overhead. Among the nearly 1,000 people present at the event were U.S. Rep. Susan Davis of , MSC Commander Rear Adm. Robert Reilly Jr. and Logistics Group Western Pacific Commander Rear Adm. Nora Tyson.
"Being able to refuel at sea is essential to our Navy's ability to be forward deployed and remain strong in our global endeavors," said . "Today we bring this ship to life, and I look forward to the day we welcome her to the fleet."
USNS Earhart is the sixth ship in the Navy's new T-AKE class. These ships deliver ammunition, provisions, spare parts, potable water and petroleum products to the Navy's carrier strike groups at sea and other naval forces worldwide, allowing them to stay at sea, on station and combat ready for extended periods of time.
USNS Earhart is named in honor of aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, who was the first woman to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. She received the award after completing a solo flight across the . Earhart disappeared in 1937 over the central during an attempt to circumnavigate the globe.
Earhart's niece, Amy Kleppner, served as the ship's sponsor, breaking a bottle of champagne across the bow to formally christen the ship "Amelia Earhart."
"This ship was built specifically to support the fleet, and we are ready to show what it can do," said Capt. John Pope, USNS Earhart's civil service master. "It's an honor to be the first master of a ship like Amelia Earhart."
USNS Earhart will be crewed by 124 civil service mariners working for Military Sealift Command. The ship will also have a military detachment of 11 U.S. Navy Sailors to provide supply coordination.
Construction began on USNS Earhart in December 2006, and the ship is scheduled to deliver to the Navy later this year. The Navy expects to build 14-TAKEs, the first eleven of which will serve as combat logistics ships. The remaining three are expected to be part of the Maritime Prepositioning Force (Future). All 14 of the ships will be owned and operated by the Navy's Military Sealift Command.