NavWeek: Waiting For Somerset

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Being originally from Philly, there was no way I could turn down a recent tour of the nation’s newest amphibious transport dock ship LPD-25 USS Somerset in advance of the ship’s March 1 commissioning pierside at the city’s Penn’s Landing section on a day that only an Eskimo could love.

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It was an added bonus to see a V-22 Osprey tiltrotor tackle the wicked winds ruffling the Delaware River and execute a perfect landing on the Somerset.

Inside the much warmer cocoon of the ship, Capt. Thomas Dearborn noted appropriateness of commissioning this ship in Philly, the birthplace of the Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps – indeed the Marines came into being at a pub just a bit down the road even before the United States was a nation.

Dearborn talked about Somerset’s attributes. It could deliver a punch of Marines or materiel for humanitarian needs – as well as more lethal missions. “It has a lot of command and control capability,” he says. “It has a capability over legacy (ships).”

Somerset is the ninth LPD-17 San Antonio-class ship and earlier programmatic problems are well-documented. But Navy and Marine officials say those issues exist no more.

As far as the Somerset goes, Dearborn agrees. “This is the best LPD to date,” he says. “Huntington Ingalls (Industries) delivered a great ship.”

The Somerset will likely start operating in the fleet in 2016, he says.

The Navy and Marine Corps can’t wait.

“Sailors and Marines love this ship,” says Marine Gen. Robert Walsh, director of Navy expeditionary warfare.

It’ll be a shame to see it leave Philly though. Somerset looks quite at home there.

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