Aerospace & Defense

Information Technology


Emerging Capabilities

What is a Christening?

All You Need to Know for the LCS-5 Launch

The Lockheed Martin-led industry team’s LCS program is set to hit another milestone on Dec. 18 as the future USS Milwaukee 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 Milwaukee’s sponsor is Sylvia M. Panetta, wife of Secretary Leon Panetta.

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 the traditional 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.

Milwaukee (LCS 5) LCS 5 Milwaukee completes her launch sequence and slides into the Menominee River in Marinette, Wisconsin.

How does the launch work?

The actual physical process of launching a ship into the water can be an engineering challenge. The Milwaukee will be launched on its side from the 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. 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. A video of the USS Ft. Worth (LCS-3) side launch can be viewed here.

What happens after the launch?

The christening and the launch give a ship her identity. After the launch, the Milwaukee will continue to undergo outfitting and testing at Marinette Marine before delivery to the Navy in 2014.

What happens when the ship is commissioned?

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

USS Freedom (LCS 1)
USS Freedom (LCS 1)

What are the other LCS doing now?

The first LCS, the USS Freedom, is serving with distinction on her tour to Southeast Asia and participating in global naval exercises, proving she is a critical asset in the Navy’s Asia-Pacific strategy. The USS Freedom also took on Operation Damayan, providing aid in the Phillipines after Typhoon Haiyan.

In November, the LCS Surface Warfare Mission Package successfully completed the second phase of testing aboard the second Freedom-variant LCS – USS Fort Worth. The live-fire test events proved the ship’s ability to detect, track, and simulate an engagement of air and surface threats through the affordable mission package solution.

Detroit (LCS 7), Little Rock (LCS 9) and Sioux City (LCS 11) are in various stages of construction at Marinette Marine, while Wichita (LCS 13) and Billings (LCS 15) are in the early stages of material procurement.

Milwaukee Side Launch

The Lockheed Martin-led industry team launched the nation's fifth Littoral Combat Ship into the Menominee River on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013. The future LCS Milwaukee was formally christened prior to her launch by Mrs. Sylvia M. Panetta.

Milwaukee is the third Freedom-variant LCS, following the U.S. Navy's first LCS, USS Freedom, and USS Fort Worth (LCS 3).

Moving Milwaukee

As the Milwaukee (LCS 5) prepares for christening, she was moved to her launch site. Mounted on special equipment, the ship left the building facility and completed a 180 degree turn on land before resting at the waterfront of the Menominee River in Marinette, Wisconsin. The 389 ft. ship will be formally christened and launched in December.