General Dynamics NASSCO held a keel-laying ceremony for the fourth ship in the U.S. Navy’s T-AKE program. The ship is named USNS Richard E. Byrd
in honor of the U.S. Navy admiral who explored the South Pole and Antarctica. It will be part of the Lewis and Clark-class of dry cargo-ammunition ships.
, the wife of Rear Adm. Charles Hamilton II, the Navy’s Program Executive Officer for Ships, was the honoree for the event and welded her initials into the keel. The Richard E. Byrd is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy in the fourth quarter of 2007. At the ceremony, Rear Adm. Hamilton announced Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter’s decision to name T-AKE 4 after the famed South Pole explorer and to name the fifth ship of the class the USNS Robert E. Peary. T-AKE 5 is named in honor of the former Navy rear admiral who was one of the first men to explore the Artic circle. The ships of the T-AKE class are expected to be named in honor of legendary explorers.
NASSCO has been awarded contracts to build nine T-AKE ships for the Navy. Two additional ships are expected to be ordered by the Navy over
the next two years for a total class of 11 ships. The first ship of the class, USNS Lewis and Clark, was delivered to the Navy on June 20. Four follow-on ships are currently under construction at the NASSCO shipyard here: the Sacagawea, Alan Shepard, Richard E. Byrd and Robert E. Peary. The T-AKE ships are 689 ft. in length and 105.6 ft. in beam, with a design draft of 29.9 ft. and a displacement of 41,000 metric tons. In addition, the ships incorporate international marine technologies and commercial ship-design features, including an integrated electric-drive propulsion system, to minimize operating costs over their projected 40-year service life.