Navy to commission its newest littoral combat ship, the USS Wichita
The Navy is slated to commission its newest littoral combat ship, the future USS Wichita, during a ceremony Saturday in Naval Station Mayport, Fla.
Kate Lehrer, wife of Wichita native Jim Lehrer, former anchor of “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour” on the Public Broadcasting Service, is the ship’s sponsor. According to naval tradition, the sponsor gives the crew its first order: “Man our ship and bring her to life!”
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., is expected to deliver the principal address at the ceremony.
The Lockheed Martin-built Freedom-class LCS can travel up to 40 knots — or nearly 46 mph — and will have a Sikorsky MH-60R/S Seahawk helicopter and Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned autonomous helicopter, the Navy said in a statement Wednesday.
“This commissioning represents USS Wichita’s entry into the active fleet and is a testament to the increased capabilities made possible by a true partnership between the Department of the Navy and our industrial base,” Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer said in the statement.
Following the ceremony, the 387-foot-long ship can set sail and begin service to the Navy, said Jeffrey Penfield, a retired rear admiral and chairman of the USS Wichita Commissioning Committee, in a news article from the Wichita Eagle.
“Commissioning is really about bringing the ship to life,” he said. “It can go out to sea the moment after the commissioning.”
The future Wichita is a quick, navigable, focused-mission platform designed for near-shore missions as well as the open-ocean and will specialize in handling asymmetric “anti-access” threats such as fast surface crafts, quiet diesel submarines and mines, according to the Navy statement.
This will be the third naval vessel to wear the name of Kansas’ largest city. The first was a heavy cruiser that ran from 1939 to 1947, serving through World War II and earning 13 battle stars. The second USS Wichita was a first-in-class replenishment oiler fulfilling duties from 1969 to 1993. It earned four battle stars for service during the Vietnam War.