ARLINGTON, Va. -- Construction for two new research ships funded by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) officially got underway with a keel-laying and dedication ceremony Aug. 17 in Anacortes, Wash.
Contracts for both state-of-the-art Ocean-class Auxiliary General Purpose Oceanographic Research (AGOR) vessels were awarded in late 2011 and earlier this year.
During the traditional ceremony, the first pieces of steel comprising the keels for AGOR 27 and 28 were etched with the keel certifiers' initials.
"Gaining exact knowledge and understanding of the oceans is critical to fulfilling today's and tomorrow's Navy and Marine Corp missions," said Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, who spoke at the ceremony. "Research vessels like AGOR 27 and 28 provide us the best opportunity to gather scientific data that is important for understanding the complex ocean properties impacting the performance and capabilities of our Sailor and Marines."
The design and construction of both vessels will be managed by the Naval Sea Systems Command. Each is expected to be completed in the next 30 to 36 months, with delivery scheduled for late 2014 for AGOR 27 and early 2015 for AGOR 28.
Once completed, AGOR 27 will be operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and AGOR 28 will be managed by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography under charter party agreements with ONR. Both ships will be supporting scientists with ongoing research worldwide, including in the Atlantic, western Pacific and Indian Ocean regions in a wide variety of missions.
"These will be the first new ships ONR has built in 15 to 20 years by the time they launch-so they represent the latest in shipbuilding technology, as well as capabilities for oceanographic research that will take us well into the mid-21st century," said Dr. Frank Herr, director of ONR's Ocean Battlespace Sensing Department.
Both ships will have the ability to sail at a sustained speed of 12 knots and will have 20 berths allotted for crew members and 24 for scientists. Some of the high-tech features planned include: acoustic navigation and tracking systems that operate at various depths; a specially designed hull that diverts bubbles from the acoustic sensor area; a centralized freshwater cooling system to provide heating, ventilation and air conditioning; and dual-controllable propellers with variable speed motors for increased efficiency.
These two ships will join the four other research vessels (R/V) in ONR's fleet as of early 2015: R/V Atlantis, R/V Kilo Moana, R/V Roger Revelle and R/V Thomas G. Thompson.
The keel laying is a major milestone in a ship's construction, symbolizing the point at which it begins to transition from concept to reality.
"It's an opportunity for the ship's users, operators, builders and sponsors to come together and mark the beginning of the life of the ship-to see the work that has taken the last 10 years take shape by getting to this point of actual construction," Herr said.
ONR provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps' technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 30 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and more than 900 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,065 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C.