The keel for the US Navy’s San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, the future USS Richard M McCool Jr (LPD 29), has been laid during a ceremony at Huntington Ingalls Industries‘ shipbuilding division.

The ceremony was attended by Shana McCool and Kate Oja, the ship’s sponsors and granddaughters of the person the vessel will be named after.

Sponsors etched their initials into the keel plate, marking the beginning of the ship.

Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships LPD 17 class programme manager captain Brian Metcalf said: “The San Antonio-class has proven essential to expeditionary warfighters, and we are excited to bring the 13th and final ship of the Flight I configuration to the fleet.”

LPD 29 is named after US Navy veteran and Medal of Honor recipient captain Richard McCool Jr. It is the US Navy’s 13th San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock vessel.

Fabrication on the ship began in July last year. The vessel will be delivered in 2023.

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“San Antonio-class ships measure 684ft in length and 105ft in width and have a displacement of around 24,900 long tonnes.”

Ingalls division has so far delivered 11 San Antonio-class ships to the US Navy.

LPD 28 and 29 will serve as transition ships between the current design and future San Antonio-class Flight II vessels.

Last month, HII received a $1.47bn US Navy contract to perform the detail design and construction of LPD 30, the first ship of the Flight II type. Fabrication on this vessel will begin next year.

San Antonio-class ships measure 684ft in length and 105ft in width and have a displacement of around 24,900 long tonnes.

The US Navy will use these vessels to embark and land Marines, their equipment and supplies onshore via air cushion or conventional landing craft and amphibious assault vehicles.

Operations performed by the ships will be supported by helicopters or vertical take-off and landing aircraft such as the MV-22 Osprey.