— U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) wants the new Navy ship honoring passengers of United Flight 93 — which crashed near Shanksville in Somerset County September 11, 2001 — to be commissioned in Philadelphia.
The USS Somerset is the ninth and newest amphibious transport dock ship in the San Antonio class. It joins the USS New York and the USS Arlington in remembering the heroes of September 11.
“The Somerset should be commissioned in Pennsylvania, and I have asked Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus to bring her to Philadelphia for the occasion,” said Senator Toomey. “The ship is named in honor of the courageous passengers whose action prevented the terrorists from killing many more Americans. Our state and our citizens would be privileged to have the ship begin its service to the country in the Port of Philadelphia. I hope Secretary Mabus agrees. ”
A ship is commissioned when it is put into active service The Somerset was christened in July 2012.
In the summer of 2008, steel from the dragline's bucket was melted down and cast into Somerset's bow stem. Somerset is the final of three ships named to honor heroes of the September 11 attacks, joining the USS New York and USS Arlington, respectively.
Designated LPD 25, Somerset is the ninth amphibious transport dock ship in the San Antonio class. These versatile ships incorporate both a flight deck to accommodate CH-46 helicopters and MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, and a well deck that can launch and recover landing craft and amphibious vehicles. The San Antonio class' increased vehicle space and substantial cargo-carrying capacity make it a key element of 21st century Amphibious Ready Groups, Expeditionary Strike Groups, and Joint Task Forces.
Somerset will provide improved war fighting capabilities, including an advanced command-and-control suite, increased lift-capability in vehicle and cargo-carrying capacity and advanced ship-survivability features. The ship is capable of embarking a landing force of up to 800 Marines.
The USS Somerset will be the fifth U.S. naval vessel to carry the name Somerset. The four previous ships of that name were a side-wheeled ferryboat (1862-1865), a motorboat (1918), a transport (1945), and a patrol escort (1944-1955).
The ship will be led by a crew of 360 officers, enlisted personnel and Marines. The 24,900-ton Somerset was built at the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard in Avondale, La. The ship is 684 feet in length, has an overall beam of 105 feet, and a navigational draft of 23 feet. Four turbo-charged diesels power the ship to sustained speeds of 22 knots.
The text of Senator Toomey’s letter to the Secretary of the Navy follows:
January 24, 2013
The Honorable Ray Mabus
Secretary of the Navy
1000 Navy Pentagon
Page 2 of 2 - Washington, D.C. 20350-1000
Dear Secretary Mabus:
Thank you for your action in response to this office’s request for the Navy’s assessment of the suitability of Philadelphia to be the site of the commissioning ceremony for the USS Somerset.
I have received information that the Navy has cleared Philadelphia as a potential site, and local officials fully support. I therefore respectfully request that the Navy hold the commissioning ceremony in Philadelphia.
As you know, the ship’s name honors the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 whose actions prevented terrorist hijackers from reaching their intended target, forcing the aircraft to crash in Somerset County, PA, on September 11, 2001. In the words of Secretary of the Navy Gordon England, "The courage and heroism of the people aboard the flight will never be forgotten and USS Somerset will leave a legacy that will never be forgotten by those wishing to do harm to this country." It seems only fitting that the vessel’s commissioning ceremony be held at the closest port to Somerset County.
Thank you for your service and attention to my request.
United States Senator