Navy to commission USS Billings Saturday in Key West

Aug. 2 (UPI) — The U.S. Navy’s 17th littoral combat ship, the Freedom-class USS Billings, will be commissioned Saturday at Naval Air Station Key West.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester is due to deliver the principle address, and his wife, Sharla, is sponsor of the ship for the commissioning, scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday in Key West. The vessel is set to be homeported in Mayport, Fla., more than 500 miles north of Key West, near Jacksonville.

The commissioning will be streamed live at the Navy Live blog.

Work on the Billings will continue after its commissioning as Lockheed Martin on Thursday was awarded an $18.8 million contract for engineering and management services on the vessel’s post shakedown availability.

“The future USS Billings and her crew will play an important role in the defense of our nation and maritime freedom,” Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer said in a press release. “She stands as proof of what teamwork — from civilian to contractor to military — can accomplish. This fast, agile platform will deliver her motto, ‘Big Sky Over Troubled Waters’ worldwide thanks to their efforts.”

The vessel is named for Billings, Mont., the largest city in Montana, to honor the people and military veterans of the state. While 30 ships have been named to honor places and people from Montana, the new LCS will be the first U.S. Navy vessel to carry the name Billings.

The Billings, like all Freedom-class littoral combat ships, was built in Wisconsin by Lockheed Martin’s Fincantieri Marinette Marine. The vessel is 378 feet long and has a 57-foot beam, with a maximum speed of 45 knots.

The ship can carry a crew of 45, that can potentially include an aviation detachment, maritime security mission package and a Coast Guard law enforcement detachment.

The Navy christened the Billings last July in Marinette, Wisc., and delivered her to the Navy in February. In June, as it was getting on its way to Florida, the vessel hit a moored merchant ship in Montreal, sustaining minor damage above the waterline.

After the commissioning, the vessel will enter its post shakedown availability, which allows for correction of deficiencies found between the Navy’s acceptance of delivery and commissioning, as well as other issues known or discovered in the coming months.

Work for the Billings’ PSA will mostly be conducted in Moorestown, N.J., and Mayport, Fla., with other work occurring in Virginia and Washington, D.C., and is expected to be completed by January 2021.

Lockheed also received a $9.3 million contract for PSA work on the Billings at the beginning of June to cover advance planning, accomplishment and emergent availabilities for the ship.

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