Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig has announced his decision to name the Navy's new class of replenishment ships to honor legendary explorers.
The name of the new class and first ship of that class will be Lewis and Clark (T-AKE 1) to honor the two explorers who led a visionary project that was to become one of American history's greatest adventure stories.
The second ship will be Sacagawea (T-AKE 2) in honor of the Shoshone woman living with the Hidatsa in North Dakota who acted as guide and interpreter for Lewis and Clark on their expedition into the Northwest region of the United States.
"The recent tragedy of the USS Cole reminds us of the risks our sons and daughters take carrying America's flag and representing her interests away from home," said Danzig. "Lewis and Clark displayed extraordinary courage. Sacagawea's role emphasizes that successful exploration involves many brave and resourceful people from many backgrounds. This new class of ships and the men and women who serve on them will embody this spirit and ensure that our explorers have what they need to reach their destination."
Interested in knowing more about the country west of the Mississippi, President Thomas Jefferson appointed Capt. Meriwether Lewis to lead a small Army expedition to explore the Louisiana Purchase and the land beyond to find a land route to the Pacific Ocean and to strengthen U.S. claims to the Oregon territory. Lewis chose his former Army comrade Lt. William Clark to be his co-leader of the group he called Corps of Discovery.
The explorers were assigned to scout, survey, map lands, and make detailed reports on western geography, climate, plants and animals, and to study Indian customs and language. The explorers ascended the Missouri River to its source, crossed the Continental Divide, and followed the Clearwater, Snake and Columbia rivers to its mouth at the Pacific Ocean.
On their return Lewis and Clark separated to learn more about the country. Lewis struck off toward the northeast to explore a branch of the Missouri River he named the Marias River, while Clark headed for the Yellowstone River. Their well-documented expedition of two years and 6,000 miles opened vast new territories to the United States and allowed American settlers and traders to travel the routes Lewis and Clark had blazed.
Legendary for her perseverance and resourcefulness, Sacagawea (1788-1812) provided invaluable assistance to the explorers through her knowledge of topography and edible roots and plants previously unknown to European-Americans.
She single handedly saved the expedition's records after they had fallen into the Missouri River when their canoe capsized. If she had not rescued these journals, much of the record of the first year of the expedition would have been lost to history. This act demonstrated her dedication to the journey's success. Two harbor tugs, (YT 241) (1942) and (YT 326) (1942-1945) have been named Sacagawea.
Designed to operate independently for extended periods at sea while providing replenishment services to U.S. and NATO ships, the Lewis and Clark class ships will directly contribute to the ability of the Navy to maintain a forward presence. These ships will provide logistic lift from sources of supply either in port or at sea from specially equipped merchant ships. They will transfer this cargo (ammunition; food; limited quantities of fuel; repair parts; ship store items and expendable supplies and material) to station ships and other naval warfare forces at sea.
As a secondary mission, these ships may be required to operate in concert with a T-AO class ship as a substitute station ship to provide direct logistics support to the ships within a battle group. The T-AO class ship, which carries liquid cargo, and the T-AKE class ship, which carries dry cargo, when operating together in lieu of a station ship, will provide the battle group with products equivalent to an AOE 1/6 class (fast combat support ship).
These ships will replace the current capability of the T-AE 26 class (ammunition ship), T-AFS 1/8 class (combat stores ship) and, when operating in concert with a T-AO class ship (oiler), the AOE 1 class (fast combat support ship). To conduct vertical replenishment, the ship will support two military cargo logistics helicopters or two equivalent commercial variants and associated aviation personnel.
Additional information about this class of ship is available on line at http://www.chinfo.navy.mil/navpalib/factfile/ships/ship-take.html.