General Dynamics NASSCO, a wholly owned subsidiary of General Dynamics (NYSE:GD) , yesterday launched the U.S. Navy’s newest supply ship, USNS Wally Schirra (T-AKE 8), during a christening ceremony at the shipyard. The ship is named in honor of the fifth American launched into space, Navy Captain Walter M. “Wally” Schirra, Jr.

The senior Navy astronaut on active duty, Captain Lee Morin, M.D., Ph.D., was the ceremony’s principal speaker. Mrs. Josephine Schirra, the widow of Wally Schirra and the ship’s sponsor, christened the ship by breaking the traditional bottle of champagne against the bow before the 689-foot-long ship slid into San Diego Bay. General Dynamics Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Nicholas D. Chabraja also spoke at the ceremony. Approximately 1,500 people attended the ceremony, including former astronauts Bill Anders, Scott Carpenter, Jim Lovell and Tom Stafford.

Schirra (1923-2007) graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in June 1945. After World War II ended, he trained as a Navy pilot and later became the second naval aviator to log 1,000 hours in jet aircraft. Chosen as one of the original seven American astronauts, he was the only person to fly in America’s first three space programs: Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. He retired from the Navy and resigned from NASA in July 1969, and he later lived in retirement in San Diego.

USNS Wally Schirra is the eighth ship of the T-AKE class of dry cargo-ammunition ships for the Navy. NASSCO began constructing the ship in October 2007 and is scheduled to deliver it to the Navy’s Military Sealift Command in the third quarter of 2009. When the Wally Schirra joins the fleet, its primary mission will be to deliver more than 10,000 tons of food, ammunition, fuel and other provisions to combat ships at sea.

General Dynamics NASSCO employs more than 4,700 people and is the only major ship construction yard on the West Coast of the United States. NASSCO has delivered seven T-AKE ships to the Navy and is under contract to build five additional T-AKE ships, including the Wally Schirra. The Navy has also provided long-lead material funding to NASSCO for two more ships for a total class of 14 T-AKE vessels. The shipyard is also building a series of product carriers for U.S. Shipping Partners L.P. Additional information on NASSCO can be found at

General Dynamics, headquartered in Falls Church, Va., employs approximately 92,300 people worldwide. The company is a market leader in business aviation; land and expeditionary combat systems, armaments and munitions; shipbuilding and marine systems; and information systems and technologies. More information about General Dynamics is available online at