The Navy’s newest — and last — Freedom-class littoral combat ship has come a step closer to fleet service, a bittersweet milestone for a collection of vessels once hailed for their potential.
The future USS Cleveland, the fourth Navy ship to bear the name of the iconic Ohio city, was christened Saturday in Marinette, Wis., according to a post on the official Facebook page of the USS Cleveland Legacy Foundation.
The ship entered the Menominee River broadside, a launch method that also had its swan song Saturday at Fincantieri Marinette Marine, the Navy said in a statement a day before the ceremony.
Future launches there will use a system that lifts and lowers a ship vertically, according to the statement.
Cleveland, the 16th Freedom-class vessel, is set to be delivered to the Navy in 2024 and commissioned later that year, according to information on the foundation’s website.
Littoral combat ships are fast, nimble vessels prized for their abilities in coastal areas and the open ocean, but the Freedom variant quickly was beset by propulsion problems and other costly issues.
As a result, the Navy last year proposed mothballing nine Freedom-class ships well ahead of their end-of-service dates. Ultimately, five of the ships were saved.
Another variety of littoral combat ship, the Independence class, also has experienced problems including cracks in the hulls of at least six vessels.
There are about 13 Independence-class ships in service and four others in various preparatory stages, according to the Navy’s website.
The latest Independence-class littoral combat ship, USS Santa Barbara, was commissioned earlier this month. Another, USS Canberra, is slated for commissioning this summer.
But the service now is prioritizing production of the Constellation-class frigate, which it says delivers a more powerful punch.
Previous ships bearing the name Cleveland were a World War I cruiser, a World War II light cruiser and a Vietnam War-era amphibious transport dock that was decommissioned in 2011, according to the Navy.
The ship’s sponsor is Robyn Modly, wife of former acting secretary of the Navy and Cleveland native Thomas Modly, the Navy said.