The Lockheed Martin-led industry team has successfully laid the keel for the US Navy's fifteenth littoral combat ship (LCS), the future USS Billings.
The keel of the latest Freedom-variant LCSs were authenticated by ship sponsor Sharla D Tester, in a ceremony held at Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Marinette, Wisconsin.
Tester said: "It is an honour to serve as sponsor of the future USS Billings. My prayers are with the industry's shipbuilding team and the future crew.
"This will be a magnificent warship, and I know the people of Billings, and all Montanans, will proudly support her when she enters the Navy fleet to protect our nation."
The LCS is a fast, highly manoeuvrable, networked surface combat ship, which is a specialised variant of the family of US future surface combat ships, known as DD(X).
It is designed to defeat growing littoral threats, and provides access and dominance in coastal waters.
The vessel will feature a modular design that incorporates mission packages, which can be changed as per requirements in different regions.
These packages will be supported by detachments that deploy both manned and unmanned vehicles, as well as sensors in support of mine, undersea, and surface warfare missions.
The Lockheed Martin-led LCS team, which comprises ship builder Fincantieri Marinette Marine and naval architect Gibbs & Cox, has already delivered three ships, while seven others are in various stages of construction and testing.
Another variant of LCS, Independence-class vessels, are being constructed by an industry team led by General Dynamics (GD).
Image: A welder authenticates the keel by welding the initials of LCS 15 sponsor Sharla Tester onto the keel plate. Photo: courtesy of Joseph Mancini/Lockheed Martin.