The U.S. Navy will commission its newest Freedom-variant littoral combat ship (LCS), the future USS Billings (LCS 15), during a 10 a.m. ceremony Saturday, Aug. 3, in Key West, Florida.
U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, will deliver the commissioning ceremony’s principal address. Tester’s wife, Sharla, is the ship’s sponsor. The ceremony will be highlighted by a time-honored Navy tradition when Mrs. Tester gives the first order to “man our ship and bring her to life!”
“The future USS Billings and her crew will play an important role in the defense of our nation and maritime freedom,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “She stands as proof of what teamwork – from civilian to contractor to military – can accomplish. This fast, agile platform will deliver her motto, ‘Big Sky Over Troubled Waters,’ worldwide thanks to their efforts.”
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.
Montana has a rich history and proud heritage of naval service, with thirty ships named over the years in honor of places and people, including the currently serving Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Helena (SSN 725) and the under construction Virginia-class fast attack submarine USS Montana (SSN 794). Montana also has one of the highest per capita veteran populations, according to the Veterans Administration.
The future USS Billings is a fast, agile, focused-mission platform designed for operation in near-shore environments yet capable of open-ocean operation. It is designed to defeat asymmetric “anti-access” threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft. The ship will be homeported in Mayport, Florida.
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).