The future USS Milwaukee is christened Dec. 18 during a ceremony at Marinette Marine Corporation in Marinette, Wis. (H. Marc Larson / AP)
MARINETTE, WIS. — The USS Milwaukee was christened and launched Wednesday in northeast Wisconsin, the latest addition to the U.S. Navy’s arsenal of high-tech warships.
Gov. Scott Walker, who was on hand in Marinette for the launch, proclaimed the day in honor of the new ship — the fifth naval vessel to bear the name of Wisconsin’s largest city.
“This beautiful ship, honoring our largest city, showcases the exemplary workmanship of Marinette Marine and symbolizes a commitment to national security,” Walker said. “This striking vessel is also an example of the value of the skilled workers who helped build it.”
The ship was propped up on rails for the christening. After a champagne bottle was broken across its hull, the ship slid sideways into the Menominee River, Press-Gazette Media reported. It landed in the water with a large splash and tilted heavily from one side to the other before settling upright within a few seconds.
The USS Milwaukee is a littoral combat ship, which is part of a new class of naval warship. The speedy vessels are designed to conduct water combat off an enemy’s shore and they can be managed with smaller crews. U.S. Navy officials have touted them as the future of naval warfare.
Five naval ships in U.S. history have borne the name USS Milwaukee, starting with an ironclad vessel built for Civil War service. This most recent one is the first built in Wisconsin.
The latest USS Milwaukee won’t enter the Navy’s fleet right away. It still has to undergo testing and other reviews, but Wednesday’s launch marks a satisfying milestone, said Chuck Goddard, the president and CEO of Marinette Marine.
“Now we can get on with the testing of the ship, the trials, and the delivery, which is about 12 months away for us,” he said.
Among those who watched the christening was a group of former sailors who were aboard an oiler previously named Milwaukee.
Ed Rothacker, a Columbus, Ohio, resident, served on the earlier ship from 1971 to 1974. He said it was nice to see the name reborn.
“Our reunion a couple years ago was in Milwaukee and I put up a slideshow of the scrapyard where our ship was just torn apart and gone. It was sad,” he said. At the next reunion “we found out there is a new Milwaukee under construction and it kind of brought us all back to life.”
The USS Milwaukee took about 2½ years to finish. Walker said the construction created 500 jobs in Wisconsin.