By Pat Dolan
DULUTH — On June 15, 2019, the future USS Minneapolis Saint Paul (LCS-21) was christened by ship sponsor Jodi J. Greene, deputy under secretary of the U.S. Navy for policy, in an exciting side launch into the Menominee River at the Fincantieri Marinette Marine Shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin.
The USS Minneapolis Saint Paul (LCS 21) will be one of the fastest combat ships in the U.S. Navy. The ship is designed for shallow water missions and near-shore combat and to defeat asymmetric “anti-access” threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft. The ship will be homeported in Mayport, Florida.
In July 2019, Duluth was identified as the port where the ship will be commissioned. The commissioning is expected to take place in the spring of 2021.
So why does it take so long to go from ship christening to commissioning?
There are many milestones the ship and the crew must pass before the official commissioning ceremony. While the outer part of the ship’s hull is done, there is still a lot of work to be done to complete the inside of the ship. The shipbuilder at the Fincantieri Marinette Marine Shipyard is completing construction and fitting out of the ship. Fitting out includes installation of the ships power plant, engine, other machinery, installation of electrical, plumbing, and HVAC, finishing interior spaces and installation of all furnishings.
This is much like the construction of a large hotel or office building where you see the outside is done, but before the building is open, a lot of interior work must be completed. Once the interior and exterior of the ship is complete and prior to commissioning, the ship undergoes builders and sea trials in Lake Michigan. This gives the shipbuilder and the crew the opportunity to test the design, equipment, and other ship specific systems to ensure that they work properly and to identify any deficiencies that need to be corrected.
So what does the ship’s crew do during the time between christening and commissioning?
USS Minneapolis Saint Paul will be manned by 140 sailors. 107 of those sailors are currently in Mayport, Florida and have been training vigorously in order to be able to operate the ship. Minneapolis Saint Paul sailors will be the first anti-submarine warfare (ASW) LCS in the naval fleet.
ASW is the branch of underwater warfare that uses surface warships, aircraft, or other submarines to find, track, and deter, damage, or destroy enemy submarines. Sonar technicians from the ship attended the first LCS sonar class to be taught for the fleet in San Diego to qualify on the ASW mission package. Other ship sailors have attended training at the LCS Training Facility in Mayport.
Also, sailors from the ship have gone underway with several LCS’s to support certifying events for those ships but to also receive training onboard and qualifying in their watch stations to return and train other Minneapolis Saint Paul sailors.
Crew members have also engaged in community outreach events to build relationships with their future homeport in Mayport, but also with the state of Minnesota. Sailors from the ship have supported local Jacksonville volunteer events such as building homes for in need families, beautification of four local elementary and middle schools, park clean ups, and volunteering at the USO at Jacksonville International airport.
Last year, crew members traveled to Duluth, Minnesota where they cleaned up several outdoor paths. They also attended the Minnesota Navy League Navy Ball in Minneapolis, a local high school football game, were featured on several news sites unveiling the ships crest, and attended the Minnesota Gopher and Viking football games.
In the next few months, Minneapolis Saint Paul sailors will begin Crew familiarization training which will lead to Builders trials, Dock Trials, and Acceptance trials finally to commissioning in Duluth next spring.
The Minnesota Navy League has been designated as the lead for the commissioning of USS Minneapolis Saint Paul. The Commissioning Committee depends on sponsorships from corporations and individuals to help fulfill this obligation to the US Navy and the ship’s crew. Various levels of sponsorship opportunities are available.
To donate and for more information on the Minnesota Navy League Council visit our webpage at: https://navyleaguemn.org/.
Pat Dolan is vice president of communications for the Minnesota Navy League.