MARINETTE (NBC 26) — An era of Naval warships came to an end Saturday, when the future USS Cleveland, the last ship of its class, slid sideways down a ramp into the waters of the Menominee river
According to officials, the ship's crew and roughly 3,000 guests and dignitaries gathered at Fincantieri Marinette Marine to watch as the Freedom Class Littoral Combat Ship 31 was christened "Cleveland" and launched.
Fincantieri Marinette CEO Mark Vandroff said the ship, listed at 387 feet long and 3,500 metric tons, took a massive effort by his company and partners Gibbs & Cox and Lockheed Martin to complete.
“It was a million hours of effort…to get Cleveland from just being pieces of steel, to what you see behind you," he said, gesturing to the ship as it floated in the river.
In addition to being the last ship of the Freedom class built, the future USS Cleveland is expected to be the last ship the Navy will ever launch in the familiar side-launch manner.
“It’s a little sad...a lot of emotions I think," Lockheed Martin Combatant Ships Integration and Test Program Director Chris Minster said.
He said that although he's sad to see the last of the Freedom class, and the millenia-old launch technique, he takes comfort in knowing his company will still be building other Navy ships with Fincantieri for years to come.
“I’m happy that this is not the last ship, I think if we just watched the last ship it would be a lot sadder, but we still have more ships to build.”
Although the future USS Cleveland is now floating in the Menominee River, officials said it is still not complete and may require a year's worth of further work before it's ready to be delivered to the Navy.