PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - A keel laying ceremony was held at Huntington Ingalls in Pascagoula Friday celebrating the very beginning of the amphibious assault ship Tripoli (LHA 7). The ship will one day be more than 40,000 tons and carry thousands of our nation's sailors and Marines out to sea.
"The Tripoli is going to spend decades patrolling the waters of the world in defense of America," Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said.
Mabus stressed that the Navy and Marine Corps cannot do their job without ships like this one. In the five years Mabus has served as head of the Navy, he has put 70 ships under contract. He said there will be more than 300 Navy ships by the end of the decade.
"What we give the country uniquely is presence. We are there all the time, not just in the right time, right place, but all the time," Mabus said. "And quantity has a quality all it's own. That's why we have got to have a larger fleet."
"He said he loves to build ships, as we do," Governor Phil Bryant said, "So I think we are looking good for the future. He wants more ships to add to the fleet and this is the best place in the world to build them."
More than 70 percent of the Navy's fleet has been built at Huntington Ingalls in Pascagoula
"Let us always remember what you do here today will save lives and defend liberty," Bryant said.
The Tripoli will be the second Navy ship in the new America class of assault ships.
"LHA are the most complex, survivable, conventionally powered warships that are built in the world," Ingalls Shipbuilding President Brian Caccias. "It is truly a floating city that moves, defends and protects our nation. It can bring home sailors and Marines safely."
Lynne Mabus, the first lady of the US Navy, was chosen by her husband as the Tripoli's sponsor.
"To the future sailors and Marines of the Tripoli and their families, thank you," Lynne Mabus said.
Her signature was welded into a keel plate Friday. She will be responsible for looking after the ship and its crew for as long as the Tripoli is in the Navy's Fleet.
"We have a lot of great sponsors," Ray Mabus said with a smile, "but I'm particularly fond of this one."
The Tripoli is expected to be commissioned in 2017. The ship is one of nine Navy ships under construction at Huntington Ingalls right now.