LAUNCH LCS 15 - With the impressive sideways launch that is traditional at Fincantieri Marinette Marine Shipyard in Marinette, LCS 15, the future USS Billings, splashed into the Menominee River on Saturday, July 1. Bottom photo shows ship sponsor Sharla D. Tester of Montana smashing the traditional bottle of champagne over the ship's prow.
Hundreds Witness Launch Of Future USS Billings
Dignitaries from all over the nation and hundreds of Marinette-area residents gathered at the Fincantieri Marinette Marine Shipyard in Marinette on Saturday, July 1, to witness the launching of LCS15, the future USS Billings. She is the 15th Littoral Combat Ship built for the United States Navy, and the eighth of her class to be built at Marinette Marine.
Ship sponsor Sharla D. Tester, wife of Montana Senator John Tester, christened LCS 15, the future USS Billings, in Navy tradition by breaking a champagne bottle across the ship's bow just prior to the launch.
"As a lifelong Montanan, there is no greater honor than to serve as the sponsor of the future USS Billings and to help bring this magnificent warship one step closer to joining the fleet," Tester said. "I know the people of Billings - and all Montanans - look forward to supporting Billings and her future crews for decades to come."
Named in honor of the patriotic and hardworking citizens of Billings, LCS 15 will be the first U.S. Navy ship to bear the name of Montana's largest city. She will undergo additional outfitting and testing at Fincantieri Marinette Marine before her anticipated delivery next year.
"The Freedom-variant LCS plays a critical role in the U.S. Navy's fleet, and we are committed to getting Billings and her highly capable sister ships into combatant commanders' hands as quickly as possible," said Joe North, vice president of Littoral Ships and Systems. "These flexible ships will help the Navy achieve its goals of growing the fleet rapidly and affordably."
The Lockheed Martin-led industry team is currently in full-rate production of the Freedom-variant of the LCS, and has delivered four ships to the U.S. Navy to date. The future USS Billings is one of eight ships in various stages of construction at Fincantieri Marinette Marine, with one more in long-lead production. Among LCS in production in Marinette is the future USS Marinette, which will become the first-ever naval vessel named after the City of Marinette.
The Freedom-variant's steel monohull design is based on a proven, resilient design recognized for its stability and reliability. LCS are designed to operate in shallow coastal waters as well as at sea.
"We are proud to be building the USS Billings and her sister ships at the heartland's only naval shipyard," said Jan Allman, Fincantieri Marinette Marine president and CEO. "Today's launch and christening is a testament to the hard work of the more than 2,500 Michigan and Wisconsin workers who pass through the shipyard's gates, put on their hard hats and build American warships."
Dignitaries at the launch In addition to Tester and Allman, included United States Navy Rear Admiral James Loblein, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gloria Valdez; Billing, Montana Mayor Tom Hanel; U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman of Michigan; U.S. Rep Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin; U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin; Lockheed Martin Vice President Joe North; Francesco Valente, President and CEO of Fincantieri Marine Group, Stephanie Hill, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin's Ship & Aviation Systems, and numerous local elected officials.
The tradition of christening a ship goes back centuries, and is believed to bring good luck and safe travel to the vessel. The christening gives a ship its identity. At the christening ceremony, the sponsor is given the honor of breaking a bottle of champagne against the bow just before the ship enters the water for the first time.
The actual physical process of launching a ship into the water can be an engineering challenge. The future USS Billings was launched on her side, a method often used when the body of water does not allow the ship to be launched lengthwise. It took approximately seven seconds for the ship to launch after the restraints were released.
The first-ever LCS, USS Freedom, was built in Marinette. She and her crew are currently training off the coast of San Diego.
USS Fort Worth, (LCS 3), recently completed her 23 month deployment to Southeast Asia, the longest deployment of any U.S. Navy surface combatant since World War II. Like USS Freedom, she participated in numerous naval exercises, sea patrols and a humanitarian aid efforts during her deployment.
USS Milwaukee, (LCS 5), is currently in Mayport, Florida undergoing regular maintenance and will soon be preparing for deployment.
The future USS Detroit, (LCS 7), completed Combat Systems Qualification Testing and Full Contract Trials in April and May, respectively. She is undergoing planned maintenance prior to her first deployment next year.
Little Rock (LCS 9), Sioux City (LCS 11), Wichita (LCS 13), Indianapolis (LCS 17), St. Louis (LCS 19), Minneapolis-St. Paul (LCS 21), Cooperstown (LCS 23) and Marinette (LCS 25) are in various stages of construction and material procurement at the Marinette Marine shipyard.
The Lockheed Martin-led LCS team is comprised of shipbuilder Fincantieri Marinette Marine, naval architect Gibbs & Cox, and more than 800 suppliers in 42 states. Costing less than a third of a brand new Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the Littoral Combat Ship is the Navy's most affordable surface combatant shipbuilding program and the ideal platform to grow the U.S. Navy fleet quickly and affordably.
Founded in 1942, Fincantieri Marinette Marine (FMM) is located on the Menominee River flowage into Green Bay. The largest shipyard in the Midwest, FMM has delivered more than 1,300 vessels to the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, and commercial customers, including the technologically advanced Littoral Combat Ship Freedom variant for the U.S. Navy.
In 2008, FMM along with several sister shipyards also based in the Great Lakes region, became part of Fincantieri, one of the world's largest shipbuilding groups and number one by diversification and innovation, with almost 21,000 employees, of whom approximately 7,700 in Italy, 21 shipyards in 4 continents. Fincantieri operates in the United States through its subsidiary Fincantieri Marine Group, serving both civilian and government customers. Over the past five years, Fincantieri invested more than $100 million in both capital infrastructure and its resources to support FMM's transformation into what is now one of the best shipyards in the United States. Employing approximately 1,500 employees, today FMM is a state-of-the-art, full service new construction shipyard.
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