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