The US Navy christened today the ninth San Antonio class amphibious transport dock USS Somerset (LPD25) at the Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) shipyard in Avondale, Louisiana. LPD 25 is named to honor the courage of the passengers and crew members of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed on Sept. 11, 2001, near Shanksville in Somerset County, Pa. San Antonio class is the new class of Landing Platform Dock (LPD) fielded by the navy. The dockyard is currently building LPD26 (John P Murtha) and as of last Friday (July 27, 2012) HII was awarded a follow-on contract worth US$1.5 billion for the design and construction of the 11th and final San Antonio class vessel – LPD 27, yet unnamed, to be delivered in five years time.
The 11 ships of the LPD 17 class are a key element of the Navy’s ability to project power ashore. Collectively, they functionally replace more than 41 ships (the LPD 4, LSD 36, LKA 113 and LST 1179 classes of amphibious ships), providing the Navy and Marine Corps with modern, sea-based platforms that are networked, survivable and built to operate with 21st century platforms, such as the MV-22 Osprey.
The LPD 17-class ships are 684 feet long and 105 feet wide and displace approximately 25,000 tons. Its overall beam is 105ft (32 m’) and navigational draft is 23ft (7 meters). The vessel is powered by four turbo-charged diesel engines to cruise at a speed of 22k. Their principal mission is to deploy the combat and support elements of Marine Expeditionary Units and Brigades. US Navy Commander Cole Hayes is the ship’s prospective commanding officer. He will lead a crew of 360 Navy officers and sailors as well as three Marines. The ships can carry up to 800 troops and have the capability of transporting and debarking air cushion (LCAC) or conventional landing crafts, augmented by helicopters or vertical take-off and landing aircraft such as the MV-22. The ships will support amphibious assault, special operations or expeditionary warfare missions through the first half of the 21st century.
The hanger deck of the frigate enables the launch and recovery of landing craft and amphibious vehicles to support missions. Additional features of the vessel include AN/SLQ-25A Nixie-towed decoy system and the mk53 Nulka decoy launching system, The principal area search sensor is the ITT AN/SPS-48E 3D air search and AN/APQ-9B surface surveillance and tracking radars. The ship’s flight deck is designed to carry two Sikorsky CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopters, six Bell AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters, four Boeing Vertol CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters or two Boeing Bell MV-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft.