General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company’s shipyard in San Diego witnessed a momentous occasion as the keel for the future USNS Lucy Stone (T-AO 209), the Navy’s 5th John Lewis-class fleet replenishment oiler, was laid. 

The keel laying ceremony marked the official commencement of the ship’s construction, highlighted by the etching of the initials of ship sponsors Alicia Aadnesen and Debbie Simmons onto a ceremonial keel plate. Named after the suffragist Lucy Stone, the ship will play a pivotal role in fueling the Navy’s operations at sea.

This tradition marked the coming together of the ship’s modular components and the individuals who have united countless ships and sponsors over the past two decades.

John Lighthammer, the programme manager of the Auxiliary and Special Mission Shipbuilding Program Office, emphasised the significance of the keel laying, stating, “The future Lucy Stone’s keel laying is a significant milestone, and we are excited to mark the beginning of great achievements to come for this ship. The fifth John Lewis-class oiler will enhance the fleet’s ability to refuel ships at sea.”

According to GlobalData’s “The Global Naval Vessels and Surface Combatants Market 2023-2033” report, General Dynamics are the third leading supplier of naval vessels and surface combatants in North America; it is set to hold a 5.6% share of the North American market over 2023–33. 

The John Lewis-class oilers boast impressive features, including substantial oil volume capacity, significant dry cargo capability, and aviation readiness, with double hulls for oil spill protection and reinforced cargo and ballast tanks. Adding T-AOs (fleet replenishment oilers) to the Navy’s Combat Logistics Force signifies a step toward bolstering the fuel delivery system.

GD NASSCO is concurrently engaged in the production of other T-AOs, including USNS Earl Warren (T-AO 207)USNS Robert F. Kennedy (T-AO 208), and USNS Sojourner Truth (T-AO 210). The shipyard is also under contract for future projects, such as USNS Thurgood Marshall (T-AO 211), USNS Ruth Bader Ginsburg (T-AO 212), and T-AO 213.

The US Navy has delivered the USNS John Lewis (T-AO 205) oiler and the USNS Harvey Milk (T-AO 206).

As a player in the Defense Department’s acquisition landscape, PEO Ships is responsible for executing the development and procurement of an array of naval vessels, including destroyers, amphibious ships, special mission and support ships, boats, and craft.