Trade center steel rises again in new Navy ship
With a bow fashioned in part with 7.5 tons of steel reclaimed from the wreckage of the World Trade Center, the Navy’s newest and perhaps most symbolic warship will move a step closer to completion Saturday, in a christening at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding’s Avondale, La., shipyard.
The San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship, which has ties to Hampton Roads and will be based in Norfolk, is named the New York, a tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that left the 110-story Twin Towers in a pile of twisted steel and rubble.
As crews cleaned up the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan, large pieces of salvageable steel were loaded on flatbeds and delivered to a Gulf Coast foundry in Amite, La. There, it was melted and formed into a part of the ship’s bow stem, the foremost section of the hull on the water line.
The piece was attached to the main hull in August 2005 and put in place on the ship in March 2006.
“Use of this steel symbolizes the spirit and resiliency of the people of New York,” the Navy said in a news release.
And in another nod to the event that galvanized the nation, the ship’s motto is “Never Forget.”
The New York is the fifth amphibious transport dock ship in the San Antonio class. It will support amphibious, special operations and expeditionary warfare missions.
It’s used to transport Marines, equipment, supplies and vehicles, including landing craft and helicopters.
At its Saturday christening, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England will deliver the keynote address. His wife, Dotty, is the ship’s sponsor.
The ship’s commanding officer, Cmdr. F. Curtis Jones of Binghamton, N.Y. will lead 360 officers and crew.
The ship also is capable of carrying up to 800 Marines.
The 684-foot-long ship will be commissioned in New York in 2009 and based in Norfolk as part of the Atlantic Fleet.
It’s the fifth of the San Antonio-class ships built by Northrop Grumman.
Parts of other San Antonio-class ships were built in Newport News as part of a pilot program approved by the Navy.
It was set up to determine how well work-sharing agreements could work between Northrop Grumman’s Newport News and Ship Systems’ Gulf Coast-based shipyards, which were consolidated into Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding in January.
That program paved the way for parts of the LHA-6 amphibious assault ship to be built here. The LHA-6 is essentially a smaller, non-nuclear-powered version of an aircraft carrier.
The 844-foot-long LHA-6 vessels can hold up to 34 aircraft and more than 3,000 sailors and Marines.
Northrop Grumman’s original Navy contract called for the ships to be built on the Gulf Coast, but after the successful San Antonio-class pilot program, the Navy agreed to allow at least four units of the LHA-6 to be built in Newport News.
The Navy and Northrop Grumman say these work-sharing deals — which they expect to be more common in coming years — will help keep workloads steady at the Newport News and Gulf Coast yards to deal with normal oscillations in shipbuilding.
Continued collaboration on shipbuilding also could help control costs on the San Antonio-class program, which has been fraught with cost overruns and quality problems.
The first ship of the class, the USS San Antonio, was delivered to the Navy in 2005 — three years late and $846 million over budget, according to a report released this month by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.
Some of the problems are typical of those in the first ship in a new class, but some of the San Antonio’s issues spilled over into the second and third ships, the New Orleans and Mesa Verde, the report said.
General characteristics of the San Antonio class:
• Builder: Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, with Raytheon Systems Corp. and Intergraph Corp.
• Length: 684 feet
• Speed: In excess of 22 knots (25 mph)
• Crew: 360
• The New York’s motto: “Never Forget”
Sources: Navy, http://www.navy.mil/