General Dynamics NASSCO laid the keel for USNS Medgar Evers, the thirteenth ship of the Lewis and Clark class of dry cargo-ammunition ships (T-AKE). The ship is named in honor of Medgar Evers, the African American civil rights activist whose 1963 murder prompted President John F. Kennedy to ask Congress for a comprehensive civil rights bill.
Mrs. Gina Buzby, wife of Rear Admiral Mark H. Buzby, commander, Military Sealift Command, was the honoree for the keel-laying ceremony. Mrs. Buzby authenticated the keel of T-AKE 13 by welding her initials onto a metal plate which will be permanently affixed to the ship.
Construction of the Medgar Evers began in April 2010. When T-AKE 13 joins the fleet in the first quarter of 2012, the 689-foot-long ship will be used primarily to stage U.S. Marine Corps equipment abroad and to deliver as much as 10,000 tons of food, ammunition, fuel and other provisions at one time to combat ships at sea. T-AKE vessels are also well-equipped for use in humanitarian aid missions, as seen recently with the deployment of USNS Lewis and Clark (T-AKE 1) as a supply bridge for U.S. and humanitarian relief coalition ships providing disaster relief in Pakistan following the worst flooding in that nation’s history.
In another recent milestone, General Dynamics NASSCO began construction of the fourteenth T-AKE ship on October 21. The yet unnamed T-AKE 14 is scheduled to be delivered to the U.S. Navy in the fourth quarter of 2012. General Dynamics NASSCO has already delivered the first 10 T-AKE ships to the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command.
“These ships must first and foremost have robust performance across a range of challenging operating conditions,” said Fred Harris, president of General Dynamics NASSCO. “They must also be affordable for the Navy and the citizens they are intended to serve. During the construction of the four remaining T-AKE ships, our team will continue to pursue cost reduction and efficiency improvements at every opportunity through our Lessons Learned, Lean Six Sigma and Process Improvement Initiative programs. We shipbuilders are responsible for the efficiency of our shipyards and must sustain a culture of process improvement in order to remain competitive.”
NASSCO has implemented a number of improvements since launching the Lewis and Clark to help drive down costs and improve quality, as part of its continuing commitment to the efficient production of worldclass ships for the U.S. Navy. These improvements include facility investments, workforce training and capturing and applying lessons learned.
For example, design enhancements feature an electronic sensor-triggered fire extinguishing system that eliminates a mechanical arrangement. This results in fewer parts, higher reliability and lower costs.
These auxiliary ships also incorporate international marine technologies and commercial shipdesign features, including an integrated electric-drive propulsion system, to minimize operating costs over their projected 40-year service lives so they are affordable for the U.S. Navy.