What is a Christening? All You Need to Know for the LCS 7 Launch

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The Lockheed Martin-led industry team’s LCS program is set to hit another milestone on Oct. 18 as the future USS Detroit 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. Detroit’s sponsor is Barbara Levin, wife of Senator Carl Levin.

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.

How does the launch work?

The actual physical process of launching a ship into the water can be an engineering challenge. Detroit will be launched on her side from the Marinette Marine Corporation 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 Milwaukee (LCS 5) side launch from 2013 can be viewed here.

You can also the video of Detroit (LCS 7) being moved from the manufacturing building to the river where she currently sits, here.

What happens after the launch?

The christening and the launch give a ship her identity. After the launch, Detroit will continue to undergo outfitting and testing at Marinette Marine before delivery to the Navy in 2015.

What happens when the ship is commissioned?

After Detroit completes her testing 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. 

What are the other LCS doing now?

The first LCS, the USS Freedom, completed a deployment to Southeast Asia, where she participated in global naval exercises, sea patrols and humanitarian aid efforts. The successful deployment proved the value of a small surface combatant in the Navy’s Asia-Pacific strategy.

USS Fort Worth is undergoing preparations for her deployment to Southeast Asia later this year.

Milwaukee (LCS 5) will be delivered to the Navy in 2015.

Detroit (LCS 7) will be christened and launched on Oct. 18, 2014.

Little Rock (LCS 9), Sioux City (LCS 11) and Wichita (LCS 13) are in various stages of construction at Marinette Marine, while Billings (LCS 15) will begin construction on later this year.

In March 2014, the Navy funded Indianapolis (LCS 17) and LCS 19, which is yet to be named

October 13, 2014

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