SAN DIEGO, July 28 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- General Dynamics NASSCO, a wholly-owned subsidiary of General Dynamics (NYSE: GD), today 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. Debbie Hamilton, 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. A keel-laying ceremony is a shipbuilding tradition that signifies an important milestone as full-scale production begins. 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. "On behalf of the Secretary of the Navy, it gives me great pleasure to announce that this great ship will be named USNS Richard E. Byrd, in commemoration of U.S. Navy Adm. and Medal of Honor recipient Richard Evelyn Byrd, who also led the first aerial expedition over the North Pole," said Rear Adm. Hamilton. "Her sister ship, the fifth of the T-AKE class, will bear the name USNS Robert E. Peary, in honor of Rear Adm. Robert Edwin Peary, credited as the first person to reach the geographic North Pole. Like the other ships in the Lewis and Clark-class, these ships will bear the names of prominent American explorers and will carry with them the undaunted courage, strength and fortitude shown by their namesakes." 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. "NASSCO is pleased to build this ship class named for great explorers," said Frederick J. Harris, president of General Dynamics NASSCO. "These ships will sail around the world carrying the names of distinguished Americans who pushed the boundaries of man's exploration." The T-AKE ships are 210 meters (689 feet) in length and 32.2 meters (105.6 feet) in beam, with a design draft of 9.12 meters (29.9 feet) 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. NASSCO employs more than 4,000 people and is the only major ship construction yard on the West Coast of the United States. In addition to the T-AKE ships, NASSCO is also completing the construction of its fourth double- hulled oil tanker for BP Company of Alaska. Additional information on NASSCO can be found at http://www.nassco.com. General Dynamics, headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia, employs approximately 81,900 people worldwide and had 2005 revenue of $21.2 billion. The company is a market leader in mission-critical information systems and technologies; land and expeditionary combat systems, armaments and munitions; shipbuilding and marine systems; and business aviation. More information can be found online at http://www.generaldynamics.com.
SOURCE General Dynamics NASSCO