LCSs of both types hit the water

And for the first time, a littoral combat ship shipyard has two ships afloat together. 

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The middle of December marked a new peak for the US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship program, as one of each class of LCS was launched from both shipyards which build the ships.

Austal USA launched the Jackson (LCS 6) into Alabama’s Mobile Bay on Dec. 14. The Independence-class ship had been rolled out of its building shed onto a barge, then transferred into a floating dry dock which was towed into the bay and sunk in deeper water to allow the LCS to be floated off. After launch, the Jackson was towed back to Austal’s shipyard on the Mobile River and berthed just astern of her sistership Coronado (LCS 4), scheduled to leave Mobile in a few weeks for her homeport of San Diego. The Coronado will be formally christened in a ceremony to take place in 2014. 

In far more dramatic fashion, the Lockheed Martin team christened and launched the Milwaukee (LCS 5) into the Menominee River in Marinette, Wisc., on Dec. 18. The Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard that builds the Freedom-class LCSs is situated on the river, which is too narrow for a more traditional “slider” launch.

Marinette launches are still done in the time-honored christen-and-launch sequence, whereby the ship’s sponsor shouts the words, “I christen thee (fill in your ship’s name)” and smashes a bottle of suitable beverage across the ship’s bow, as the vessel is slid and tipped into the water.

Sylvia Panetta, wife of former defense secretary Leon Panetta, is ship’s sponsor of the Milwaukee. She performed her duties on a frigid but clear day in Marinette.

“It is a true privilege to serve as the sponsor for this ship as it begins its journey of service and commitment to our powerful fleet,” said Mrs. Panetta.  “I am proud to support the ship’s crew members over the course of her service to ensure it leads with strength and protects our freedom.  My congratulations to the city of Milwaukee as this ship assumes its name.”

The Jackson and Milwaukee each represents the first vessel ordered under block buy contracts awarded in 2010, and the Jackson is the first LCS 2-class ship produced with Austal USA as the prime contractor. General Dynamics performed that role for the first two ships of the class, produced in partnership with Austal.

“With serial production lines now in full swing at both LCS building yards, we are looking forward to each new ship joining the fleet on a regular and consistent timeline,” said Rear Adm. Brian Antonio, the Navy’s program executive officer for LCS. “This is a significant step for the program and the Navy.”

Marinette shipbuilders ready the Milwaukee Dec. 17 for the next day's launch. Temporary fittings are welded along the hull of the LCS to attach the ship to launch cradles. (Marinette Marine Corporation photo)

Marinette shipbuilders ready the Milwaukee Dec. 17 for the next day’s launch. Temporary fittings are welded along the hull of the LCS to attach the ship to launch cradles. (Marinette Marine Corporation photo)

The Menominee River is frozen over Dec. 17 as preparations continue. Already in the water is the Alaska research vessel Sikuliaq, launched in October 2012. For more in that ship, and to see a video of her sideways launch, click here. (Marinette Marine Corporation photo)

The Menominee River is frozen over Dec. 17 as preparations continue. Already in the water is the Alaska research vessel Sikuliaq, launched in October 2012. For more about that ship, and to see a video of her sideways launch, click here. (Marinette Marine Corporation photo)

Snow falls on Dec. 17 as the Milwaukee awaits her launch. (Lockheed Martin photo)

Snow falls Dec. 17 as the Milwaukee awaits her launch. (Lockheed Martin photo)

It was a sunny but cold day as dignitaries and key program officials spoke at the christening ceremonies. Here, Joe North, Lockheed's vice president for LCS, talks about the ship. (Lockheed Martin photo)

It was a sunny but cold day as dignitaries and key program officials spoke at the christening ceremonies. Here, Joe North, Lockheed’s vice president for LCS, talks about the ship. (Lockheed Martin photo)

Ship's sponsor Sylvia Panetta listens to the speakers while her husband Leon looks through the program. The former defense secretary, a native Californian, eschews the ear muffs others wore in the frigid weather. (Lockheed Martin photo)

Ship’s sponsor Sylvia Panetta listens to the speakers while her husband Leon looks over the program. The former defense secretary, a native Californian, eschews the ear muffs others wore in the frigid weather. (Lockheed Martin photo)

Assisted by Marinette shipyard president Chuck Goddard, Mrs. Panetta smashes a bottle across the ship's prow. (Lockheed Martin  photo)

Assisted by Marinette shipyard president Chuck Goddard, Sylvia Panetta smashes a bottle across the ship’s prow. (Lockheed Martin photo)

A final tip tosses the Milwaukee into the river. (Lockheed Martin photo)

A final tip tosses the Milwaukee into the river. (Lockheed Martin photo)

The ship rolls back to port after hitting the water. (Lockheed Martin photo)

The ship rolls back to port after hitting the water. (Lockheed Martin photo)Afloat for the first time, the Milwaukee sits amid broken ice as a tug starts to move her to a berth. (Lockheed Martin photo)

Afloat for the first time, the Milwaukee sits amid broken ice as a tug starts to move her to a berth. (Lockheed Martin photo)
Further south, in not-that-much-warmer climes, the Independence-class littoral combat ship Jackson (LCS 6) sits alongside at the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Alabama on Dec. 16, two days after a far more sedate launch. (Christopher P. Cavas photo)

Further south, in not-that-much-warmer climes, the Independence-class littoral combat ship Jackson (LCS 6) sits alongside at the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Alabama on Dec. 16, two days after a far more sedate launch. (Christopher P. Cavas photo)

The Jackson lies astern of the Coronado (LCS 4) at Austal's shipyard on Dec. 16. Accepted by the Navy on Sept. 27, the Coronado is in the final stages of fitting out before leaving next year for her home port of San Diego. This scene represents the first time either of the LCS shipyards have had two ships of the type afloat at the same time. (Christopher P. Cavas photo)

The Jackson lies astern of the Coronado (LCS 4) at Austal’s shipyard on Dec. 16. Accepted by the Navy on Sept. 27, the Coronado is in the final stages of fitting out before leaving next year for her home port of San Diego. This scene represents the first time either of the LCS shipyards have had two ships of the type afloat at the same time. (Christopher P. Cavas photo)

The Jackson sits pierside on the evening of Dec. 16. The forward 57mm gun mount is wrapped in protective sheeting, as the ship still faces months of fitting out work. (Christopher P. Cavas photo)

The Jackson sits pierside on the evening of Dec. 16. The forward 57mm gun mount is wrapped in protective sheeting, as the ship still faces months of fitting out work. (Christopher P. Cavas photo)

Christopher P. Cavas
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Christopher P. Cavas

If it's on, over, under or around the water, I write about it. Ships and aircraft, units, tactics, leadership, strategies, acquisition, politics, industry. In the USA and around the world.
Christopher P. Cavas
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