Photo courtesy of General Dynamics NASSCO

USNS Wally Schirra to Military Sealift Command

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Military Sealift Command accepted delivery of dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Wally Schirra in San Diego recently. The ship was built by General Dynamics NASSCO.

Schirra, named in honor of astronaut Walter "Wally" Schirra, is the eighth ship in the Lewis and Clark-class of underway replenishment ships. These ships - called T-AKEs - deliver ammunition, provisions, stores, spare parts, potable water and petroleum products to the Navy's underway carrier and expeditionary strike groups allowing them to stay at sea, on station and combat ready for extended periods of time.

In September, the 689-ft Schirra will go on a short "shakedown cruise" where the ship's crew will test a range of shipboard operations. Schirra is anticipated to begin conducting missions for MSC in May 2010.

Schirra is crewed by 124 civil service mariners working for MSC and 11 sailors who provide operational support and supply coordination. When needed, Schirra can also carry a helicopter detachment.

The Navy expects to build 14 T-AKEs, which are replacing some of MSC's aging, single-mission ships such as Kilauea-class ammunition ships and Mars- and Sirius-class combat stores ships that are nearing the end of their service lives.