Start of ship construciton
A sign at NASSCO heralds the start of construction of the future USNS Robert F. Kennedy. Courtesy NASSCO

General Dynamics NASSCO announced Monday it has begun construction of the future USNS Robert F. Kennedy, the fourth of six vessels for the Navy’s John Lewis-class fleet oiler program.

Francisco Medina, a longtime NASSCO employee, initiated the first cut of steel that will be used to construct the vessel at the shipyard in Barrio Logan.

“Today, we celebrate a time-honored tradition that marks the beginning of production for the ship and to celebrate the life and service of the ship’s namesake Robert F. Kennedy,” said Dave Carver, president of NASSCO. “This ship represents the thousands of men and women who have worked hard to make this ship class a success.”

Designed to transfer fuel to ships in a Navy carrier strike group while at sea, the 742-feet vessels have a displacement of 49,850 tons, with the capacity to carry 157,000 barrels of oil plus dry cargo.

All of the ships in the class are named for American civil rights leaders.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, representatives from NASSCO and the Navy gathered for a hybrid virtual and in-person ceremony.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.