The Navy will christen and launch the dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS William McLean, Saturday, April 16, 2011, during an 8 p.m. PDT ceremony at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego. The ship is named to honor Navy research scientist William McLean whose accomplishments include developing the iconic Navy’s AIM-9 sidewinder, a short-range air-to-air missile.
Vice Adm. David Venlet, program executive officer - F-35 Lightning II Program, will deliver the ceremony’s principal address. Serving as the ship’s sponsor is Margaret Taylor, niece of the ship’s namesake. The ceremony will include the time-honored Navy tradition of the sponsor breaking a bottle of champagne across the bow to formally christen the ship.
Continuing the Lewis and Clark class (T-AKE) tradition of honoring legendary pioneers and explorers, the Navy’s newest underway replenishment ship recognizes William Burdette McLean (1914-1976), who conceived and developed the heat-seeking Sidewinder air-to-air missile while serving as a physicist for the Navy. During World War II, McLean worked on ordnance equipment and testing at the National Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C. Following the war he moved to the Naval Ordnance Test Station in China Lake, Calif., where he led the project team developing the sidewinder missile.
Designated T-AKE 12, William McLean is the 12th of an expected class of 14 dry cargo/ammunition ships, all of which will be operated by the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC). Eleven of the T-AKEs are slated to serve as Combat Logistics Force (CLF) ships, and three are slated to be part of the Maritime Prepositioning Force. CLF ships help the Navy maintain a worldwide forward presence by delivering ammunition, food, fuel, and other supplies to U.S. and allied ships at sea. All 10 T-AKEs operating today are conducting CLF missions.
Maritime Prepositioning Force ships are continuously deployed to strategic locations worldwide carrying U.S. Marine Corps cargo, which is ready for rapid delivery to Marines ashore if needed.
T-AKE 12 is the first Navy ship named after McLean. As part of MSC, T-AKE 12 is designated as a United States Naval Ship (USNS) and will be crewed by civil service mariners. For CLF missions, the T-AKEs’ crews include a small department of Sailors. Like the other dry cargo/ammunition ships, T-AKE 12 is designed to operate independently for extended periods at sea and can carry two helicopters and their crews. The ship is 689 feet in length, has an overall beam of 106 feet, has a navigational draft of 30 feet, displaces approximately 42,000 tons and is capable of reaching a speed of 20 knots using a single-shaft, diesel-electric propulsion system.
Additional information about the T-AKE class of ship is available on line at http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=4400&tid=500&ct=4 .