First-In-Class Oiler Honors Human Rights Activist

John Lewis
John Lewis

By MarEx 2016-01-06 19:02:11

U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has announced that the first ship of the next generation of fleet replenishment oilers (T-AO 205) will be named USNS John Lewis after the civil rights movement hero and current U.S. representative of Georgia's 5th Congressional District.

"As the first of its class, the future USNS John Lewis will play a vital role in the mission of our Navy and Marine Corps while also forging a new path in fleet replenishment," said Mabus. "Naming this ship after John Lewis is a fitting tribute to a man who has, from his youth, been at the forefront of progressive social and human rights movements in the U.S., directly shaping both the past and future of our nation."

Born in 1940, Lewis' dedication to the civil rights movement began in earnest while he was still a young man, when he organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee.

In 1961, he participated in the "Freedom Rides," challenging segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South and, in 1963, Lewis was named chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee where he was responsible for organizing student activism challenging segregation.

Lewis was also a keynote speaker at the historic March on Washington in 1963 and led more than 600 peaceful protestors across the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama, in 1965.

Elected to Congress in 1986, Lewis has dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing civil liberties, and building what he calls "The Beloved Community" in America.

"T-AO 205 will, for decades to come, serve as a visible symbol of the freedoms Representative Lewis holds dear, and his example will live on in the steel of that ship and in all those who will serve aboard her," said Mabus.

The future USNS John Lewis will be operated by Military Sealift Command and provide underway replenishment of fuel and stores to U.S. Navy ships at sea and jet fuel for aircraft assigned to aircraft carriers.

A contract will be awarded for the ship in summer 2016 and construction is expected to begin in 2018. The contract is expected to be awarded to either Ingalls Shipbuilding or National Steel and Shipbuilding Company of General Dynamics.

The TAO(X) oiler shipbuilding program is a program to build a new class of 17 fleet oilers for the Navy. Although the design of the TAO(X) has not yet been determined in detail, the Navy anticipates that the ship will have capabilities similar to those of the earlier Kaiser-class ships, and that the TAO(X) will rely on existing technologies rather than new technologies. To guard against oil spills, TAO(X)s are to be double-hulled, like modern commercial oil tankers. 

Mabus made the announcement during a ship-naming ceremony held at the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C.