Last Avondale-built LPD completes builder's trials

LPD SomersetAUGUST 20, 2013 — The amphibious transport dock Somerset (LPD 25), the ninth San Antonio-class ship built at Huntington Ingalls Industries' (NYSE:HII) Ingalls Shipbuilding division, returned Friday from successful builder's sea trials in the Gulf of Mexico.

Unless Huntington Ingalls finds a suitable partner with which to get into the Jones Act tanker market (see earlier story), Somerset will be the last ship to be built at the historic Avondale shipyard.

The shipbuilder's test and trials team spent three days operating the ship and going through its normal at-sea checklist, which includes more than 200 test events.

"We put Somerset through rigorous testing last week," said Mike Duthu, director of Ingalls' LPD Program. "We are extremely pleased with the fit and finish on the ship and how well she performed. LPD 25 proved her seaworthiness with strong performance in several different tests, including the ship's propulsion, steering, navigation, communications and weapons. The team did a great job getting LPD 25 to this point. We have already started preparations for Navy acceptance trials, and we have confidence that we'll be ready."

Testing during builder's trials also includes anchor handling, flight operations, ballasting and de-ballasting the well deck, and compartment air balancing.

"The logistics it takes to conduct that many test events in a three-day period requires excellent planning by the test and trials team," said Richard Schenk, Ingalls' vice president of test and trials. "The team and the ship performed well. While there is still much work to do in preparation for U.S. Navy acceptance trials, I'm confident the LPD 25 Ingalls/Navy team will have the ship ready. It is incumbent upon us to ensure the safety of every sailor and Marine who will operate this amphibious ship. We do not take that responsibility lightly, and these sea trials prove it."

The ship will now prepare for acceptance sea trials to demonstrate the same tests and operational success to the U.S. Navy's Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV). The ship is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy this year.

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.

Ingalls is building the entire LPD 17 San Antonio class of ships, the newest addition to the Navy's 21st century amphibious assault force. To date, eight ships have been delivered to the Navy. John P. Murtha (LPD 26) is 40 percent complete and will launch next year. A keel authentication was recently held on Portland (LPD 27), and the ship is 8 percent complete.

The 684-foot-long, 105-foot-wide ships are used to transport and land Marines, their equipment and supplies ashore via embarked air cushion or conventional landing craft and amphibious assault vehicles, augmented by helicopters or vertical takeoff and landing aircraft such as the Osprey. The ships will continue to support amphibious assault, special operations or expeditionary warfare and humanitarian missions throughout the first half of the century.

In addition to more than 10,000 Ingalls shipbuilders, there are 650 suppliers from 38 states that support the LPD 17 program. Ingalls spends approximately $175 million a year with this vital industrial base.

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