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Smooth Sailing

Blake Vann leads GBS steering control system project aboard Navy’s newest amphibious transport dock ship

When the U.S. Navy’s newest amphibious transport dock ship was christened in Mississippi on August 21st, you may have heard a big cheer coming out the GBS offices in Virginia Beach and Philadelphia.

That’s because GBS Group Engineering Technician Blake Vann served as on-site lead for the design, testing, installation and commissioning of the steering control systems for Landing Platform Dock (LPD) 28 — now officially known as the USS Fort Lauderdale.

It’s the latest in a number of successful GBS projects for the Philadelphia-based Vann, and in his eyes, the most significant. The ability to work with great people on big projects that serve our nation’s military is a big reason he loves his job. Another is all the support he and his clients get from the home office. 

“The people at GBS have always supported me and supported our customers,” he said.   “GBS has always been flexible with my personal life, and helped me develop a proper work/life balance as much as needed.”

The Fort Lauderdale is the 12th San Antonio (LPD 17) Class of amphibious transport dock built by Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding, and the first LPD-class steering control system built at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division (NSWCPD). That’s altogether fitting for a guy like Vann, whose favorite quote to live by says: “If you’re not first, you’re last.”

The primary mission of the Fort Lauderdale will be to embark, transport and land U.S. Marine Corps landing forces in a variety of expeditionary and special operations missions, while providing command and control, communications connectivity and medical services. The ship will support its embarked Marines and Sailors with amphibious assault vehicles (AAVs), landing craft air cushion (LCAC) vessels, MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters.

Vann said once the new steering control system GBS developed for the ship is commissioned and the Navy is satisfied with its performance, he hopes to lead the installation, testing, and commissioning of the same steering control design with Huntington-Ingalls Shipbuilding for all following LPDs at NSWCPD, and possibly, the Arleigh Burke class of guided missile destroyers (DDGs).

A native of Galveston, TX, Vann started his career when he joined the Navy’s Nuclear Power Training Command in Charleston, SC. He later became a propulsion plant reactor operator and electronics technician on-board the USS Harry S Truman CVN-75 Reactor Controls Division. 

When he’s not busy engineering, Vann likes to spend his time fishing, boating, traveling, camping and surfing.

Thanks for the amazing work, Blake! We can’t wait to see what you accomplish next.