U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Carol M. Pottenger, Commander, Military Sealift Fleet Support Command, was the honoree for the keel-laying event, welding her initials into the keel of the T-AKE 3, the USNS Alan Shepard. With her are Dave Morton, Program Manager, Naval Fleet Auxiliary Force Program (L) and Art Diaz, MSC Ship Construction Senior Owners Representative.
General Dynamics NASSCO on February 14, 2006, held the keel-laying ceremony for USNS Alan Shepard, the third ship in the U.S. Navy’s T-AKE program. Designated the Lewis and Clark class, the new T-AKE ships fulfill combat logistics force requirements.
The keel-laying ceremony is a NASSCO tradition, signifying an important milestone as a new ship begins to take shape on the company’s building ways. The keel is the structural foundation of a ship, running lengthwise along the centerline from bow to stern, around which the hull of the ship is built.
U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Carol M. Pottenger, Commander, Military Sealift Fleet Support Command, was the honoree for the event, welding her initials into the keel to signify the beginning of full-scale production of the new ship. When the ship is completed, it will be operated by the Military Sealift Command
"We are very pleased that Rear Admiral Pottenger was able to participate in this ceremony," said Fred Harris, president of NASSCO. "It is an honor that a ship we will build under her command will bear her initials throughout its many decades of service."
This third ship is named the USNS Alan Shepard in honor of the first American in space, Rear Admiral Alan B. Shepard Jr. Shepard piloted the Freedom 7 spacecraft on May 5, 1961, the first manned launch of Project Mercury, the NASA program that determined man’s capabilities in a space environment.
Each of the ships in the T-AKE class will honor legendary explorers. The first ship in the class, the USNS Lewis and Clark, was launched from NASSCO on May 21, 2005. The second ship, USNS Sacagawea, will be launched in May 2006. The USNS Alan Shepard is scheduled to be launched in the fall of 2006.
The U.S. Navy has awarded NASSCO contracts for nine new dry cargo/ammunition ships with a total contract value to date of $2.8 billion.
The T-AKE is the first new combat logistics force ship designed for the Navy in almost 20 years. It is the first to combine lower-cost commercial ship design features with high-performance, proven international marine technologies, such as integrated electric-drive propulsion. NASSCO developed
the design for the ship by working closely with the Military Sealift Command, whose civilian mariners will operate the T-AKEs, and the Naval Sea Systems Command, the Navy’s program manager and technical authority.