The U.S. Navy commissioned its newest Freedom-variant littoral combat ship (LCS), USS Billings (LCS 15), during a ceremony on Aug. 3, in Key West, Florida.
U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, delivered the commissioning ceremony’s principal address. Tester’s wife, Sharla, is the ship’s sponsor. The ceremony was highlighted by a time-honored Navy tradition when Mrs. Tester gives the first order to “man our ship and bring her to life!”
The ship is named in honor of Billings, the largest city in Montana, as well as the people and military veterans of the state. The future USS Billings will be the first ship of its name in naval service.
The commissioning milestone places the ship, built by the Lockheed Martin-led team into active service. The vessel was delivered to the Navy by the team – which includes Fincantieri Marinette Marine (FMM) – in February this year.
“Billings was designed to operate and adapt to a rapidly changing environment,” said Joe DePietro, vice president of Small Combatants and Ship Systems at Lockheed Martin. “She is equipped and ready for today’s threats and easily modifiable to meet the threats we may not even be aware of yet. Our team is confident Billings will be what the Navy needs when the fleet needs it.”
“Having now commanded two freedom class LCS variants, I would like to report that these ships are truly impressive and will fit well in the niche they have been designed for,” said LCS 15’s Commanding Officer, Commander Nathan Rowan. “They are fast, maneuverable, and their weapon systems are some of the most accurate I’ve witnessed on any platform of which I’ve previously served.”
There are seven ships in various stages of production and test at Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Wisconsin, where the Freedom-variant LCS is built. The next Freedom-variant in the class is LCS 17, the future USS Indianapolis, which was delivered in late July.
“On behalf of the proud 2,000 men and women who transform flat steel into a fast, agile surface combatant,” said Jan Allman, CEO of Fincantieri Marinette Marine, “we are honored to support the U.S. Navy, and we congratulate the outstanding crew of the USS Billings.”
The LCS class consists of two variants, the Freedom variant and the Independence variant, designed and built by two industry teams. The Freedom-variant team is led by Lockheed Martin, Marinette, Wisconsin (for the odd-numbered hulls). The Independence variant team is led by Austal USA, Mobile, Ala., (for LCS 6 and the subsequent even-numbered hulls).