A Lockheed Martin-led industry team officially laid the keel for the U.S. Navy’s ninth Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), the future USS Little Rock, in a ceremony held at Marinette Marine Corporation June 27.
The industry team is building the Freedom-variant LCS for the U.S. Navy on budget, has delivered two ships with four others under construction and two in the early material procurement stages. With the nation’s first LCS, USS Freedom, currently on its maiden deployment to Southeast Asia, the Lockheed Martin-led team is addressing the Navy’s need for an affordable, highly-networked and modular ship unlike any other in the world, designed to conduct a variety of missions including anti-surface, mine and submarine warfare.
In keeping with a time-honored tradition, ship sponsor Janée Bonner authenticated the keel by having her initials welded into a sheet of the ship’s steel. She was assisted by Marinette Marine Corporation’s President and CEO Chuck Goddard.
“It is an honor to serve as the sponsor of the future USS Little Rock, the ninth ship in a class that’s so vital to our national defense strategy,” said Janée Bonner. “This marks the beginning of my commitment to support her, as well as the brave crews that will serve on the ship to defend our country.”
The Lockheed Martin-led LCS team includes ship builder Marinette Marine Corporation, a Fincantieri company, naval architect Gibbs & Cox, as well as nearly 900 suppliers in 43 states, including approximately 30 small businesses in Wisconsin and Michigan.
“This is a great milestone for the U.S. Navy’s future USS Little Rock and for the program as we continue to deliver ships,” said Joe North, vice president of Littoral Ship Systems at Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training. “As we transition into serial production, we’re applying lessons-learned to the construction process that our team has learned from supporting the U.S. Navy in maintaining the team’s first and second ships.”
Lay the keel is a shipbuilding term that marks the beginning of the module erection process, which is a significant undertaking that signifies the ship coming to life. Modern warships are now largely built in a series of pre-fabricated, complete hull sections rather than a single keel, so the actual start of the shipbuilding process is now considered to be when the first sheet of steel is cut and is often marked with a ceremonial event.