Navy's new warship will travel to San Francisco for Fleet Week

One of the Navy's new warships will officially join the fleet during a ceremony at SF's Fleet Week. It's a story you'll see only on ABC7.
March 12, 2014 5:17:51 PM PDT
When Fleet Week returns to San Francisco this fall, a very rare honor will come with it. One of the Navy's newest warships, the USS America, will officially join the fleet in a waterfront ceremony.

In Mississippi, shipbuilders are putting the final touches on a new ship named after the country that symbolizes freedom.

"USS America," said Rear Admiral Thomas Brown III, retired U.S. Navy. "What could be better than that?"

This retired and decorated naval aviator is leading the effort to bring the commissioning of the USS America to San Francisco this fall.

America is the first of a new class of landing ship, helicopter assault. While it may look like an aircraft carrier, it's actually a smaller cousin.

I caught up with the America's skipper, Captain Robert Hall, by phone.

"What we're designed to carry is the latest in Marine Corps. aviation," he said. "Which is the F-35B, the new joint strike fighter, as well as the MV-22 Osprey, they're big tilt rotor aircraft."

"I look at it as a Marine Corps aircraft carrier because we have birthing for 1,600 Marines on the USS America."

At 844 feet long, America will be 250 feet shorter than a supercarrier and won't carry nearly as many aircraft.

But its job is different -- get marines ashore at some hotspot and then provide aerial protection and support.

Admiral Brown says the competition to host a commissioning is fierce, and this is quite a feather in the city's cap.

"San Francisco is a very patriotic city and has been patriotic since back before World War II," he said. "And that is sort of a closely guarded secret."

Captain Hall adds, "San Francisco is such a great city with a rich naval history that it's just the perfect choice."

Admiral Brown says it's not yet official, but everything points to the commissioning of the America on the Saturday of Fleet Week.

For him, this is more than just nostalgia. Yes, Brown commanded carriers and carrier task forces -- the big ones -- and flew more than 300 missions in Vietnam. Those are reasons why he's worked so hard. Here's another.

"There probably will not be another aircraft carrier commissioned here," he said.

When in service, America will be based in San Diego.

For details on the commissioning ceremony, click here.

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