July 3 (UPI) -- The Navy has christened its latest Freedom-class littoral combat ship the USS Billings at a ceremony Saturday in Marinette, Wis.
Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin gave the primary address and Sharla Tester, wife of ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Jon Tester, served as ships sponsor, breaking the ceremonial bottle of champagne across the ship's bow.
"The christening of the future USS Billings brings this great warship one step closer to joining the fleet, where it will, for decades to come, serve as a tribute to the great people of Billings and the state of Montana, as well as the highly skilled men and women who built our nation's newest littoral combat ship," acting Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley said.
The Freedom-class littoral combat ship built by Lockheed Martin is the smaller of the two variants of the LCS, the other being the Independence-class constructed by Austral USA. It has a top speed of over 40 miles per hour and carries a variety of light guns, short-ranged missiles and anti-submarine torpedoes
The LCS series of ships is designed to operate close to shore for patrol, interdiction, mine-countermeasures, undersea warfare operations and other missions. The ships modular design allows it to be outfitted based on mission requirements.
"The Freedom-variant LCS plays a critical role in the U.S. Navy's fleet, and we are committed to getting Billings and her highly capable sister ships into combatant commanders' hands as quickly as possible," Joe North, vice president of Littoral Ships and Systems at Lockheed Martin, said in a press release. "These flexible ships will help the Navy achieve its goals of growing the fleet rapidly and affordably."