PENSACOLA, Fla., July 2, 2001 (PRIMEZONE) -- The USS IWO JIMA (LHD 7), the U.S. Navy's and Marine Corps' newest large-deck amphibious assault ship, left the Pensacola Naval Air Station today for her homeport in Norfolk, Va., following commissioning ceremonies here June 30. The new ship, produced in Pascagoula, Miss., by Ingalls Shipbuilding, a Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) company, will become the newest member of Amphibious Group Two.

"With a crew of about 1,000 sailors keeping order and helping our allies, this will be the best the United States of America has to offer," Gen. Michael J. Williams, USMC, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, said of the USS IWO JIMA. "The photograph of the Marines raising the flag at Suribachi has become the icon of the United States Marine Corps. This ship also represents the courage of those Marines, and there will be a time when the Marines aboard this ship will go into combat again. We don't know where, and we don't know when, we just know we need to be ready. The ability, flexibility and fast reaction to war, makes the Marines the perfect choice for this ship."

Secretary of the Navy Gordon England placed the USS IWO JIMA in commission for the U.S. Atlantic Fleet duty, saying, "Today, we pay homage to the courage, sacrifice and uncommon valor for those who fought for freedom in World War II and kept it on the sands of Iwo Jima. We also honor the men and women who will sail this great ship while continuing this fight for freedom. I would like to thank and congratulate the Ingalls supervisor of shipbuilding, Pascagoula team, for a job well done in building this fine vessel."

U.S. Rep. Joe Scarborough of Florida's First Congressional District noted, "In the mid 1980's, America talked about building a 600-ship Navy. We were committed to making our strong Navy even stronger," said Rep. Scarborough. "Today, some speak of reducing our Navy to a 300-ship fleet. If we want to continue sending our number one export across the world -- which is freedom -- we must reverse that trend. We need to build more ships and we need to export freedom across the globe. Today, the men and women of IWO JIMA will begin to do just that."

Rear Adm. Dennis G. Morral, USN, program executive officer, Expeditionary Warfare, said, "A lot will be said today about the heroes of Iwo Jima, but I'd like to commend some of the present day heroes, like the men and women who build these complex warships. I have been fortunate enough to witness Ingalls Shipbuilding producing these ships for over 15 years, and I'm amazed and thoroughly impressed at their work. Nobody does it better."

"Every person who worked on this ship dedicated themselves to building a quality product," said Jerry St. PĂŠ, chief operating officer Northrop Grumman Ship Systems (NGSS). "I can assure you that as this ship sails the world's oceans in our Navy fleet, they will be present and accounted for in every way." Six Ingalls-built LHD's preceded LHD 7 into the fleet. Ingalls is also under contract to the Navy to prepare for the construction of LHD 8.

Capt. John T. Nawrocki, USN, a native of Ambridge, Pa., and a 1975 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, assumed command of the new vessel, offering "special recognition to the Northrop Grumman Ingalls team that helps keep our Navy vibrant and modern ... they are master shipbuilders. The success of this government-industry team is manifested in the on-time delivery of this ship. IWO JIMA's entry into the fleet represents the very best cooperation of both the civilian and military components of our armed forces."

Other commissioning participants included Vice Adm. Alfred G. Harms Jr., USN, chief of Naval Education and Training; Rear Adm. John B. Foley III, USN, commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet; Major Gen. William A Whitlow, USMC, director, Expeditionary Warfare, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations; Rear Adm. James K. Moran, USN, commander, Amphibious Group Two; and Capt. Philip N. Johnson, USN, Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion & Repair, Pascagoula.

The 40,500-ton LHD 7, second in size only to the Navy's aircraft carriers, is designed to lay off a troubled area of the world, and insert its 2,000-member Marine Expeditionary Unit ashore by helicopters and 40 miles per hour hover craft.

Ingalls Shipbuilding is part of Northrop Grumman's Ship Systems, headquartered in Pascagoula, Miss. NGSS also includes the Ship Systems Full Service Center in Pascagoula, as well as Avondale Industries, located in New Orleans and Tallulah, La., and Gulfport, Miss. NGSS, which currently employs more than 17,000 shipbuilding professionals, primarily in Mississippi and Louisiana, is one of the nation's leading full service systems companies for the design, engineering, construction, and life cycle support of major surface ships for the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard and international navies, and for commercial vessels of all types. NGSS has a firm business backlog exceeding $5.6 billion, in a variety of naval and commercial shipbuilding programs.

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