The Department of the Navy has announced the naming of the Navy's newest combat logistics force underway replenishment naval vessels, the USNS Richard E. Byrd T-AKE 4 and USNS Robert E. Peary T-AKE 5, to honor the two American explorers famous for their Arctic and Antarctic explorations.
The T-AKE class of ships are designed to operate independently for extended periods at sea while providing replenishment services to U.S. and NATO ships. Both vessels will directly contribute to the ability of the Navy to maintain a forward presence by providing logistic lift from sources of supply either in port or at sea. These ships transfer cargo to station ships and other naval warfare forces at sea, including ammunition, food, fuel, repair parts, ship store items and expendable supplies and material.
Due to its multiple capabilities, this class of 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 ships will support two military logistics helicopters each.
The USNS Richard E. Byrd and USNS Robert E. Peary are being built by General Dynamics' NASSCO, San Diego, Calif. They will be 689 feet long and 106 feet wide; and able to carry 41,187 metric tons of cargo, a maximum of 26,000 barrels of fuel and 1.38 million square feet of cargo. The diesel-electric-drive ships will have a range of 14,000 miles at a speed of 20 knots.
Like the legendary explorers, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, for whom the first ship of the class was named, Byrd and Peary bravely volunteered to explore the most remote and harshest places on earth. Due to their unquenchable thirst for exploration both men provided substantial contributions to the world's understanding of the Arctic and Antarctic circles.
Adm. Richard E. Byrd, (1888-1957) was an explorer famous for his Antarctic expeditions and for leading the first expedition to fly over the North Pole. Following his graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1912, he became a naval aviator and pioneered many techniques for navigating airplanes over the open ocean including drift indicators and bubble sextants. His expertise in this area resulted in his appointment to plan the flight path for the U.S. Navy's 1919 transatlantic crossing.
On May 9, 1926, Byrd and naval aviator Floyd Bennett attempted to fly over the North Pole. For this extraordinary heroic achievement he was awarded the Medal of Honor by special act of Congress.
On Aug. 28, 1928, Byrd departed the United States on his first Antarctic expedition. After World War II, he continued his exploration and led the largest Antarctic Expedition to date, Operation Highjump. This expedition involved 13 ships and 4,700 men that explored much of the little-known continent. In 1956, President Eisenhower appointed Byrd as officer-in-charge of U.S. Antarctic programs to command Operation Deep Freeze.
Navy Rear Adm. Robert Edwin Peary, (1856–1920) was an American explorer who on Apr. 6, 1909, is credited as the first person to reach the geographic North Pole. He was born in Cresson, Pa., and commissioned a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Oct. 26, 1881.
In his lifetime, Peary made several expeditions to the Arctic. Unlike many previous explorers, Peary studied Inuit survival techniques, relied heavily on the Inuit as hunters and dog-drivers, and pioneered the use of the “Peary system" of using support teams and supply caches for Arctic travel, which became standard practice for subsequent polar explorers.
Peary achieved the rank of rear admiral and was given the thanks of Congress by a special act of March 30, 1911. He also received honors from numerous scientific societies of Europe for his contributions.