The bottle wielded by ship sponsor Barbara Levin smashed against the bow as she uttered the words ““In the name of the United States I christen thee the USS Detroit.” The mechanism holding the mighty ship on land clicked, gave way and the USS Detroit slide into the Menominee River with a massive splash. It listed to the side for just a second and then proudly stood upright.
I’d never been to the christening of a ship before so when it invitation came I jumped it at … a new adventure … always a good thing.
The day didn’t disappoint, even with the cold in the shipyard of the Marinette Marine Corporation in Marinette, Wisconsin, sister city to Menominee in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. About 1,000 people crowded into a special section at the shipyard for the christening of our nation’s seventh Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and the sixth ship to carry the name Detroit.
The ship will continue to undergo outfitting and testing before delivery to the Navy in 2015 and will be commissioned in Detroit in 2016 at the Port of Detroit. The banner displayed on the podium did a great job of linking the city and the ship.
Littoral Combat Ships are fast and agile and are designed for operation in near-shore environments as well as open-ocean operation. Their job is to defeat asymmetric “anti-access” threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft.
The 389-foot USS Detroit will do more than 40 knots, carry 50 sailors and has hanger space for two H-60 helos or one H-60 helos and three vertical unmanned aerial vehicles. Its flight deck is more than 1.5 times the size of traditional surface combatants. The self-defense suite includes 3D air search radar, rolling airframe missile, medium caliber gun, an electro-optical infrared gunfire control system and decoy launching system.
“These ships will help the Navy achieve its goal to increase forward presence, and can be upgraded or modified quickly to meet future missions,” said Dale P. Bennett, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems and Training business. Lockheed Martin leads the team constructing the USS Detroit.
That quote is perfect for the USS Detroit. It is the same goal we have for the city … increase its forward presence and be sure everything that is done as it moves forward allows Detroit to be upgraded and modified quickly for its future missions.
There were other apropos quotes at the ceremony that match our city. One from Rear Admiral Brian Antonio, USN program executive officer, Littoral Combat Ships, stood out. He said he tells his team to “never say the word challenge without using the word opportunity. They are the same side of the coin.” The same is true for the city of Detroit.
As I said, this is the sixth ship bearing the Detroit name. All of them have served the US with distinction and courage. Here’s a little history of some of the ships.
The USS Detroit (CL-8) sailed from 1923-1946 and was launched in Detroit. It spent most of its time in the Pacific and was moored at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese launched the surprise attack on December 7, 1941. It got underway during this raid and spent the next few days searching for the enemy attack force. It was also in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945, moored not far from the battleship Missouri during the ceremonies marking Japan’s surrender.
The cruiser Detroit (C-10) was launched October 28, 1891 and fought in the Spanish American War. Another Detroit served in the War of 1812.
“It is a privilege to serve as the sponsor of the future USS Detroit and to participate in the major milestones along the way to her assuming her place as part of the great U.S. Navy fleet,” said Barbara Levin. “I also look forward to an ongoing relationship with her courageous crews and their families throughout the ship’s lifetime.”
Mrs. Levin and her husband, Senator Carl Levin are long-time Detroiters. As Senator Levin said during his remarks, “We in Detroit are not fancy. We are about deeds not words. We don’t start a fight but we have the grit to see it through.”
That’s how a USS Detroit has served the nation for more than 200 years and how the city of Detroit will continue to transform itself.