Construction officially is underway on a new class of fleet replenishment oilers.
General Dynamics NASSCO on Sept. 20 hosted a steel-cutting ceremony in San Diego for the USNS John Lewis, which will be crewed by members of the SIU Government Services Division. The Lewis is the lead vessel in a new class of six ships named after civil rights leaders.
Each ship will be 741 long and able to carry large volumes of dry cargo plus more than 157,000 barrels of fuel. Their mission is replenishing U.S. Navy ships while underway.
The Lewis is named for U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia).
“Today marks a great accomplishment by the Navy and NASSCO team on this important program,” said James F. Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition. “Their tremendous collaboration on this new double-hulled design is a great example setting a positive trajectory leading into production.”
The newer vessels (T-AO 205) will replace the current T-AO 187 fleet. According to the Navy, they “will become the backbone of the fuel delivery system.” The Lewis is scheduled for completion in November 2020, while the other new vessels are expected to be finished by 2023.
NASSCO President Kevin Graney told the Times of San Diego that the vessels are the first “clean sheet design” by the yard in 17 years. “We want to get to a footing where every six months we’re starting a new hull,” Graney told the publication.
“As the first ship of its class, the future USNS John Lewis will play a vital role in the mission of the Navy and Marine Corps, just like its namesake John Lewis’ vital role as a national leader in the movement for civil rights and human dignity,” said Mike Kosar, program manager for the Naval Sea Systems Command’s Program Executive Office Ships (PEO Ships). As one of the Defense Department’s largest acquisition organizations, PEO Ships is responsible for executing the development and procurement of all destroyers, amphibious ships, sealift ships, support ships and boats.
“This really is a significant and historic event for the Navy,” said John Lighthammer, the Navy’s principal assistant program manager for the oiler fleet. “I congratulate all of NASSCO and its employees.”
The John Lewis will be followed by the Harvey Milk, Earl Warren, Robert F. Kennedy, Lucy Stone and Sojourner Truth.