By Michael Mroziak • WBFO News • Nov 11, 2016
This Veterans Day holiday, the contractor that has built what will soon become the new USS Little Rock is hoping to build excitement for what will be the first-ever commissioning of a Naval vessel next to its decommissioned counterpart.
Lockheed Martin is creating the Freedom Class of Littoral Combat Ships, which includes the new Little Rock. Representatives of the aerospace, defense and security company are in Western New York for the Buffalo Renaissance Foundation’s Veterans Day lunch and are hoping local people with an interest in military matters will become increasingly excited in advance of the new USS Little Rock’s commissioning next year.
The LCS9, which next year will become the new USS Little Rock, is currently undergoing testing in Lake Michigan. The ship will be formally commissioned in Buffalo some time in mid 2017, next to the decommissioned USS Little Rock.
The new LCS9 has already been built and launched and is undergoing tests on Lake Michigan.
“The ship is actually out on trials now for the first set of tests,” said Lockheed Martin spokesman John Torrisi. “We do many sets of tests. We build these ships in Wisconsin, so we actually have the ship out, running its paces before we have the Navy do that.”
The ship features a helipad, ample space to reconfigure as the mission requires and, through a combination of gas, diesel and water propulsion systems, the ability to travel more than 40 knots in open water.
“It can turn on a dime and can also operate in very shallow water, hence the name Littoral,” Torrisi said. “This ship’s draft is about 14 feet, or a little bit less depending on how it’s loaded up.”
The vessel also features a steel hull with aluminum superstructure and could hold a crew of 50 to about 90 people. And, according to Torrisi, was relatively inexpensive to build.
“Cost has been an important part of this program from the very beginning,” he said. “Using a block buy approach, we’ve been able to achieve an average cost, across the ten ships in that block, of 360 million dollars, which sounds like a lot but in shipbuilding and military procurement is a good value for taxpayers. ”
The Navy has not yet set a for the commissioning ceremony at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park, but it’s anticipated to be some time in mid 2017.