The Navy yesterday said the future USS Somerset (LPD 25) launched April 14 from Huntington Ingalls Industries‘ (HII) Avondale Shipyard, marking a key milestone in the ship’s construction process.   

"As the ninth ship of the San Antonio class, LPD-25’s launch represents an important success for the entire program," Jay Stefany, LPD-17 program manager for the Navy’s Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships, said in a statement.

"The Navy and the shipbuilder have incorporated many lessons learned and driven efficiencies into the production, resulting in the most complete ship at launch to date for the LPD-17 class. I look forward to HII delivering this critical capability to the Navy," he said.

LPD-25 is the ninth ship of the San Antonio class. It is named in honor of the courage of the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed near Shanksville in Somerset County, Pa., on Sept. 11, 2001.

Over the weeks following the Flight 93 crash, recovery personnel retrieved more than 95 percent of the airplane’s wreckage from the crash site.

An American flag was hoisted on the top of a power shovel or "dragline" on a hill dominating the area. The dragline had been used in coal stripping at one time, and the equipment with the flag became a symbol of the effort.

In the summer of 2008, steel from the dragline’s bucket was melted down and cast into LPD-25’s bow stem. Somerset is the final of three ships named to honor heroes of the September 11th attacks, joining the USS New York (LPD-21) and USS Arlington (LPD-24), respectively. LPD-25 is the fifth U.S. Navy ship named Somerset.

These ships incorporate both a flight deck to accommodate CH-46 helicopters and MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, and a well deck that can launch and recover landing craft and amphibious vehicles.

The San Antonio class’ increased vehicle space and substantial cargo carrying capacity make it a key element of 21st century Amphibious Ready Groups, Expeditionary Strike Groups, and Joint Task Forces.

In addition to performing their primary mission, Somerset‘s sister ships have supported anti-piracy operations and provided humanitarian assistance and foreign disaster relief operations in Haiti after the earthquake.

Six ships from the San Antonio class have been delivered to the Navy, including USS San Antonio (LPD-17), USS New Orleans (LPD-18), USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19), USS Green Bay (LPD-20), USS New York (LPD-21) and USS San Diego (LPD-22). LPD-22 recently transited from the shipyard to the homeport in San Diego.

The commissioning ceremony for Somerset is scheduled for May 19 in San Diego. Early construction activities are underway for LPD-26 in Pascagoula, Miss., and material for LPD-27 is on order.