A Guide to the Christening and Launch Ceremony of LCS 15

The Lockheed Martin-led Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) team will reach another milestone on July 1 as LCS 15, the future USS BILLINGS, is scheduled to launch in Marinette, Wisconsin. The christening and launch ceremony is steeped in tradition; below is a complete guide to the ceremonies that surround the event.

 

What is a ship sponsor?

A ship sponsor is most often a woman, and is extended an invitation to sponsor a vessel by the Secretary of the Navy. Usually, this person has dedicated her life to public service, and serves as a central figure during the ship’s christening, launching, and commissioning. The future USS BILLINGS’ sponsor is Mrs. Sharla D. Tester, a lifelong Montanan and wife of Sen. John Tester.

What is a christening?

The tradition of christening a ship goes back centuries, and is believed to bring good luck and safe travel to the vessel. 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. Champagne, often viewed as the most elegant of wines, was brought into use during the late 19th century. However, during the prohibition era, ships were christened with water and in the case of one submarine, cider. 

How does the launch work?

The actual physical process of launching a ship into the water can be an engineering challenge. The future USS BILLINGS will be launched on her side from the Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin. This method is often used when the body of water does not allow the ship to be launched lengthwise. It will take approximately seven seconds for the ship to launch.Other methods include stern-first launching, in which the ship is released into the water lengthwise and backwards. Air-bag launching uses a series of inflatable tubes underneath the hull, or body of the ship. 

What happens after the launch?

The christening and the launch give a ship her identity. After the launch, BILLINGS will continue to undergo outfitting and testing at Fincantieri Marinette Marine before delivery to the U.S. Navy.

What happens when the ship is commissioned?

After BILLINGS completes her testing phase known as sea trials, she will be delivered to the U.S. Navy and undergo commissioning preparations. Commissioning officially places the ship in active service, where she will be integrated into the fleet and the industry-Navy team will conduct additional testing and crew training. 

What are the other LCSs doing now?

  • The first LCS, USS FREEDOM, 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. FORT WORTH’s deployment was 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), BILLINGS (LCS 15), 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 team’s Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard.

USS BILLINGS (LCS 15) Design Specifications

Hull: Advanced steel monohull

Length Overall:  118.6 meters (389 feet)

Beam Overall: 17.5 meters (57 feet)

Draft: 4.1 meters (13.5 feet)

Beam Overall: 4.1 meters (13.5 feet)

Full Load Displacement: Approximately 3,400 metric tons

Top Speed: Greater than 40+ knots

Watercraft Launch & Recovery:  Up to Sea State 4

Aircraft Launch and Recovery: Up to Sea State 5

Propulsion: Combined diesel and gas (CODAG) turbine with steerable water jet propulsion

Hangar Space: Two H-60 Helos (either MH-60S or MH-60R) and up to three VTUAVs (MQ-8B or MQ-8C Firescout).

Core Crew:  50; Accommodations for 98 sailors

Integrated Bridge System: Fully digital nautical charts are interfaced to ship sensors to support safe ship operation

Core Self-Defense Suite:  Includes 3D air search radar (4D in hulls after LCS 17), Rolling Airframe Missile (SeaRAM after LCS 17), medium caliber 57-mm Mk 110 deck gun, EO/IR gunfire control system and decoy launching system.

 

Learn More about the Littoral Combat Ship