The newest San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, USS Portland (LPD-27), commissioned on Saturday in a ceremony in the ship’s namesake city of Portland, Ore.
Portland will be put to work quickly after being officially commissioned into the fleet: the Navy announced earlier this year Portland would serve as the flagship of this summer’s RIMPAC 2018 international biennial maritime exercise in Hawaii, and then be outfitted with a next-generation Laser Weapon System (LaWS) developed by the Office of Naval Research. After its RIMPAC participation Portland will go into post-shakedown availability, where it will receive the LaWS, and should be ready to begin using the new solid-state laser gun by next summer.
“USS Portland enters service in a period of dynamic security challenges, and I am confident this ship and crew will conquer these and future challenges because of the strength and talent of the sailors and Marines who will serve aboard this ship,” Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer said in a new release.
“I am certain that USS Portland will proudly represent both the United States and the people of Portland in maritime operations around the world for decades to come.”
Portland is the 11th San Antonio-class ship and is designed to transport and support a force of more than 800 Marines, according to the Navy. Portland was built with both a well deck for launching and recovering landing craft and amphibious vehicles, and a flight deck to handle both helicopters and MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.
Initially, the Navy had planned for Portland to be the final San Antonio-class ship to built, but lawmakers added funding for the Navy to purchase two more of the class. Now, the Navy plans to extend the class by purchasing an additional 13 LPDs built with a modified Flight II design, which will serve as the replacement for the aging Whidbey Island-class dock landing ships (LSD-41/49).
Two weeks ago, Portland’s crew hosted family and members of the commissioning committee on a cruise up the Columbia River to Portland, Ore., where the ceremony is being held, from Astoria, Ore., near the Columbia’s mouth on the Pacific coast.
“It was an honor and a privilege to be able to show off the ship and her crew,” Capt. J. R. Hill, Portland’s commanding officer, said in the news release.
“A friends and family day cruise also presented an incredible opportunity for the crew to be able to show loved ones their capabilities as military members in the United States Navy and Marine Corps.”