Navy christens first-in-class support vessel at Louisiana shipyard
Stars and Stripes September 1, 2023
The Navy recently christened the first of a new class of towing, salvage and rescue vessels designed to put two other ship types into retirement.
The USNS Navajo — the service’s first Navajo-class, multimission, common-hull platform — was christened Aug. 26 during a pierside ceremony at Bollinger Shipyards in Houma, La. The ceremony was attended by senior Navy officials and Bollinger representatives, according to an Aug. 29 company news release.
“Every weld, every beam, every system on this ship was crafted with the thought of the warriors that inspired its name. It is an honor beyond words for Bollinger to partner with the Navy,” company president Ben Bordelon said in the release.
Gulf Island Shipyard designed and built the Navajo on a $63.5 million contract awarded in March 2018, according the Times of Houma and Thibodaux in November 2019.
On behalf of the Navajo Nation, ship sponsor Jocelyn Billy-Upshaw broke a bottle of sparkling wine across the bow. She practiced by breaking two bottles of sparkling wine the day before the ceremony, according to the Navajo Times on Thursday.
“I want to say thank you to the Department of Defense and the entirety of the United States government for recognizing the Navajo veterans, their families and their communities,” Billy-Upshaw, a Diné Development Corp. executive and former Miss Navajo, said during the ceremony.
The Navajo recognizes its namesake tribe and the Diné people’s contributions throughout American history, according to Bollinger’s release. The ship replaces the Powhatan-class T-ATF tugs and Safeguard-class T-ARS ships, which began reaching the end of their service period in 2020.
The Navajo will be operated by the Navy’s Military Sealift Command and perform other missions including humanitarian assistance, oil-spill response and wide-area search and surveillance operations using unmanned underwater vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles, according to a Department of Defense release Aug. 25.
The ship is expected to deploy early next year, the Navy said in an Aug. 18 news release that did not specify where it will be based.
Contracts have been awarded for nine more Navajo-class ships, according to the Navy.
“The trust bestowed upon us to construct a new class of vessel is both a responsibility and a privilege that we hold dear,” Bordelon said.