USNS William McLean, the newest ship in the U.S. Navy's Lewis and Clark-class of dry cargo/ammunition ships, slid into the water for the first time April 16 during a nighttime launch and christening ceremony at the General Dynamics (GD) NASSCO shipyard in San Diego.
With a blast from the ship’s horn, McLean’s sponsor, Margaret Taylor, niece of the ship’s namesake, broke the traditional bottle of champagne against the bow as a colorful fireworks display lit up the night sky.
“I am honored to represent then 9,000 men and women of MSC tonight as we christen the 12th dry cargo/ammunition ship to join MSC’s fleet,” said Rear Adm. Mark H. Buzby, commander, MSC. “USNS William McLean
and her MSC mariners will be indispensible.”
More than 1,000 people braved the evening chill to attend the event. Attendees included distinguished guests from the U.S. military, maritime industry, NASSCO employees who built the ship and Marines from the Wounded Warrior Unit West at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
The 689-ft McLean, designated T-AKE 12, continues the Lewis and Clark-class tradition of honoring legendary pioneers and explorers, and is named in honor of William Burdette McLean, who developed the heat-seeking Sidewinder air-to-air missile while serving as a physicist for the Navy.
“William McLean’s legacy is set on land, but his heart was in the sea,” said the event’s guest speaker, Vice Adm. David J. Venlet, program executive officer – F-35 Lightning II Program. “The crew of this ship shares that spirit and will carry it with them on their missions.”
“I’ve been looking forward to this day for a very long time,” said Capt. Robert Baus, McLean’s civil service master. “I’m honored to be here today for this launch, to be this ship’s first master and to serve with this highly qualified crew.”
McLean is the 12th of a projected 14 dry cargo/ammunition ships, all of which will be operated by MSC and crewed either primarily or solely by MSC civil service mariners, depending on the ship’s mission. Eleven of the dry cargo/ammunition ships are slated to serve as part of MSC’s Naval Fleet Auxiliary Force and three are slated to be part of MSC’s Maritime Prepositioning Force.
Naval Fleet Auxiliary Force, or NFAF, ships deliver ammunition, food, fuel and other supplies to U.S. and allied ships at sea, enabling our Navy to maintain a worldwide forward presence. Maritime Prepositioning Force ships are continuously deployed to strategic locations worldwide carrying U.S. Marine Corps cargo ready for rapid delivery to Marines ashore.
Construction of McLean began with its keel laying March 26, 2010. The ship is scheduled to be delivered to MSC in the fall.
MSC operates approximately 110 noncombatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.