The U.S. Navy’s largest shipbuilder, Huntington Ingalls, has announced that the keel of the America-class amphibious warship Bougainville (LHA 8) was authenticated during a ceremony on Thursday, March 14.
Ship’s sponsor Ellyn Dunford declared the keel “truly and fairly laid” after her initials were welded onto a plate.
Ellyn Dunford, spouse of Gen. Joe Dunford, 19th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is the sponsor of Bougainville. A graduate of Simmons College, Mrs. Dunford worked as a physical therapist for close to 30 years. General and Mrs. Dunford have three children.
The laying of the keel traditionally marked the first step in ship construction.
With today’s advanced modular shipbuilding, the keel laying ceremony now recognizes the joining together of a ship’s components and is a major milestone in the ship’s construction.
LHA-8 is the second ship to be named after Bougainville, an island in the northern Solomons, which was the location of a World War II campaign in 1943-1944 during which allies secured a strategic airfield from Japan.
Bougainville will retain the aviation capability of the America-class design while adding the surface assault capability of a well deck. The well deck will give the U.S. Marine Corps the ability to house and launch two landing craft air cushion (LCAC) hovercraft or one landing craft utility (LCU) as needed during their maritime missions.
Other additions to Bougainville include a larger flight deck configured for Joint Strike Fighter and Osprey V-22 aircraft, which can be used for surface and aviation assaults. The additional area on the flight deck comes in part from a smaller deck house and an additional sponson.