Navy plans new ships

Great Falls Tribune

The U.S. Navy announced the names of the next five ships, one of which is the USS Billings.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced that the next three joint high speed vessels (JHSV) will be named USNS Yuma, USNS Bismarck and USNS Burlington, and two littoral combat ships (LCS) will be named USS Billings and USS Tulsa.

Littoral combat ships are named to recognize cities that are one of the five mostpopulated communities in a state. USS Billings (LCS 15) is named in honor of Montana’s largest city and will be the first ship to bear the name, according to the Navy.

“Along with Billings and all of Montana, I’m pleased the Navy will be naming a ship after the Magic City,” Sen. Jon Tester said. “Montanans proudly serve in every branch of the military, including the Navy, and today’s announcement recognizes their sacrifices and those of their families.”

“Montanans volunteer for service at one of the highest rates in the country,” Sen. Max Baucus said. “Duty and patriotism are part of who we are, and I am proud to see our Montana service members honored in such a special way. Congratulations to Billings!”

USS Billings is a Freedom- variant littoral combat ship and will be constructed by Lockheed Martin with Marinette Marine in Marinette, Wis. This ship will be 378 feet long, have a beam length of 57.4 feet and travel at speeds in excess of 40 knots.

The Navy expects to begin production of the ship in August 2014 and deliver it by July 2017.

LCS are a fast, agile surface combatant, provide war fighting capabilities and are able to conduct missions close to shore such as mine warfare, anti-submarine warfare and surface warfare.

Tester said he will continue pushing the Navy to name a naval vessel after Montana. The Big Sky state is the only state in the country never to have a naval vessel named after it, though it came close twice.

In 1906, a ship was christened as the USS Montana only to be renamed later. During World War II, a keel was laid for a new USS Montana, but the war’s end meant the ship was never built.