The US Navy’s second John Lewis-class fleet oiler, the future USNS Harvey Milk (T-AO 206), has been successfully christened and launched.

The milestone was conducted by the General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO).

The ship has been named in honour of Harvey Milk, a gay rights activist who served in the military.

General Dynamics NASSCO president David Carver said: “Today, we are honouring Stuart’s lifetime of selfless service, his hope for equality, and a world without hate.”

The John Lewis-class fleet ships are being designed to replace the existing T-AO 187-class fleet replacement oilers. The vessels will be used transfer fuel to US Navy carrier strike group (CSG) ships operating at sea.

The 742ft-long vessels will have a full load displacement of 49,850t and a capacity to carry up to 157,000 barrels of oil.

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The oilers feature a significant dry cargo-carrying ability, aviation capability, and can travel at speeds of up to 20k.

Ship sponsor Paula Neira said: “Harvey Milk’s words and actions brought hope and inspiration to many for whom our nation’s lofty rhetoric of equality and inclusion were not yet reality.

“Today, while we must continue to carry on his work, and much work still needs to be done, by christening and launching this ship we honour his legacy, celebrate the progress that has been made in advancing diversity and inclusion for so many, and we know that wherever the USNS Harvey Milk will sail, she will bring that message of hope and inspiration to present and future generations.”

The contract for the detailed design and construction of the John Lewis-class (T-AO 205) fleet oilers was awarded to General Dynamics NASSCO in 2016.

GD NASSCO will build a total of six John Lewis-class vessels.

Construction of the two ships in the John Lewis-class fleet oiler programme, the future USNS Earl Warren (T-AO 207) and the future USNS Robert F Kennedy (T-AO 208), is currently underway.

The lead ship of the programme, the future USNS John Lewis (T-AO 205), was launched in January this year, with its keel laid in May 2019.

This May, GD NASSCO started building the future USNS Robert F Kennedy (T-AO 208) ship. Robert F Kennedy is the fourth of six vessels.