WASHINGTON – The U.S. Coast Guard christened its second National Security Cutter, Waesche (WMSL 751), Saturday, during a ceremony at the Northrop Grumman Ship Building yard in Pascagoula, Miss.
The Waesche’s keel was laid Sept. 11, 2006, about six months after first-in-class Bertholf’s keel was laid. The Bertholf is scheduled to be commissioned Aug. 4, 2008, in its homeport of Alameda, Calif.
“This is an exciting time for both the Waesche, and the National Security Cutter program,” said Rear Adm. Gary T. Blore, the Coast Guard’s assistant commandant for acquisition. “With the Waesche in the water and christened, it has not only passed a major construction milestone, but it has also demonstrated the Coast Guard’s ability to simultaneously oversee multiple National Security Cutter construction contracts. We look forward to the next steps, including Waesche’s initial at-sea trials and commissioning next year.”
The christening of a vessel is a traditional part of shipbuilding when a ship generally enters the water for the first time and is named. More recently, in the interest of the safety and comfort of ceremony participants and observers, ships are launched into the water several days before the christening. The Waesche was successfully launched July 12, during an overnight float-off. Waesche will remain under construction at pierside through 2008 and is slated to start sea trials in 2009.
“Today’s christening represents a significant milestone for the Coast Guard as we begin to see the certainty of a changing of the guard in our aging cutter fleet,” said Waesche’s prospective commanding officer, Capt. Lance Bardo. “The crew looks forward to commissioning and sailing this all-new ship once construction is complete. The new capabilities brought by Bertholf, Waesche, and each future National Security Cutter will change how maritime missions are accomplished for the next generation.”
Waesche is named for Adm. Russell R. Waesche who led the Coast Guard from 1936 through World War II until 1946. Waesche assumed the duties of commandant as a rear admiral and was the first Coast Guard commandant to achieve the ranks of vice admiral and admiral. His granddaughter, Marilla Waesche Pivonka, is the cutter’s sponsor. Her father, Adm. Russell R. Waesche, Jr. and her maternal grandfather, Capt. B.C. Thorn, were both career Coast Guard officers as well.
Waesche is the second of eight planned National Security Cutters (NSC). The NSCs, part of the Coast Guard’s Deepwater major-acquisition program, will be the flagships of the Coast Guard fleet and will replace the 378-foot, Hamilton-class High Endurance Cutters, which entered service during the 1960s.
More information on the National Security Cutter can be found at http://www.uscg.mil/acquisition.