The keel laying and authentication ceremony for the future USS Bougainville (LHA 8) was held at the Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Ingalls Shipbuilding division (HII), March 14.
The ship’s sponsor, Ellyn Dunford, spouse of Gen. Joe Dunford, 19th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, authenticated the keel by welding her initials into the keel plate.
Traditionally, keel laying marks the first step in ship construction. However, with today’s advanced modular shipbuilding, the keel laying ceremony now recognizes the joining together of a ship’s components and is a major milestone in the ship’s construction. Fabrication of Bougainville began in October 2018.
“We are honored to have Ellyn Dunford with us today to commemorate this milestone,” said Tom Rivers, Amphibious Warfare Program Manager, at the Navy’s PEO Ships. “The production team has made steady progress and we look forward to bringing the next generation of amphibious capabilities to the Navy and Marine Corps warfighters.”
The future USS Bougainville is the third ship of the America (LHA 6) class of amphibious assault ships. LHA 8 is the first Flight I ship of the America class with a reincorporated well deck to increase operational flexibility while maximizing the aviation capability inherent on the Flight 0 ships, USS America and the future USS Tripoli.
The well deck will give the U.S. Marine Corps the ability to house and launch two landing craft air cushion (LCAC) hovercraft or one landing craft utility (LCU) as needed during maritime missions. Other additions to Bougainville include a larger flight deck configured for Joint Strike Fighter and Osprey V-22 aircraft, which can be used for surface and aviation assaults. The additional area on the flight deck comes in part from a smaller deck house and an additional sponson.
LHA 8 will be the second Navy vessel to bear the name Bougainville. The name commemorates the Bougainville Campaign that took place during World War II. During the campaign, which lasted from 1943 to 1944, Allied forces secured a strategic airfield from Japan in the northern Solomon Islands, helping the allies break the Japanese stronghold in the South Pacific.