SAN DIEGO – General Dynamics NASSCO, a wholly owned subsidiary of General Dynamics (NYSE: GD), today launched the U.S. Navy’s newest supply ship, USNS William McLean (T-AKE 12), during an evening christening ceremony at the shipyard. The USNS William McLean is the 12th of a class of 14 dry cargo/ammunition ships slated to serve as Combat Logistics Force (CLF) ships or be part of the Maritime Prepositioning Force.
USNS William McLean is named after William Burdette McLean (1914–1976), the U.S. Navy physicist who conceived and developed the heat-seeking Sidewinder missile. The Sidewinder was the first effective heat-seeking, short-range, air-to-air missile carried by fighter aircraft. After five decades, variants and upgrades of the Sidewinder remain in active service with many air forces today.
More than 1,000 people attended the evening launch of the USNS William McLean at the NASSCO shipyard. McLean’s eldest niece, Mrs. Margaret Taylor, served as the ship’s sponsor. Mrs. Taylor christened the ship by breaking the traditional bottle of champagne against the bow before the 689-foot-long vessel slid into the waters of San Diego Bay.
During World War II, McLean worked on ordnance equipment and testing at the National Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C. Following the war, he moved to the Naval Ordnance Test Station in Inyokern, Calif. (now the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake), where he led the project team developing the Sidewinder missile from 1945 to 1954. In April 1954, he was appointed technical director, the senior civilian position at the station, a position which he held until 1967. He then served as technical director for the U.S. Navy's submarine-warfare research center in San Diego until 1974.
“We at NASSCO are proud of the role the USNS William McLean will play in support of the U.S. Navy,” said Fred Harris, president of NASSCO. “This ship joins a distinguished tradition of NASSCO-built or modified ships bound for service under the direction of the Navy’s Military Sealift Command.”
USNS William McLean is the twelfth ship of the 14-ship Lewis and Clark (T-AKE) Class of dry cargo ammunition ships General Dynamics NASSCO is building for the Navy’s Military Sealift Command. NASSCO began constructing USNS William McLean in September 2009. Following its at-sea testing phase, the ship will be delivered to the Navy in the third quarter of 2011. When delivered to the Military Sealift Command, the ship will carry necessary supplies and equipment required to support U.S. Marine Corps operations anywhere in the world.
There are currently 16 Military Sealift Command prepositioning ships that have been especially configured to transport supplies for the U.S. Marine Corps. Nearly half of the ships in this Maritime Prepositioning Force were built or modified at General Dynamics NASSCO since the mid-1980s and are now forward-deployed to the western Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.