Keel laying ceremony marks USS Sioux City milestone

MARINETTE – Construction is moving along for another littoral combat ship at Marinette Marine.

Another Keel laying ceremony was held Wednesday.

Following Navy tradition, Menominee, Wisconsin native Mary Winnefeld is the woman sponsor for the nation’s eleventh LCS ship.

“It’s a great honor for me to be a part of this,” said Winnefeld.

With the welding of Winnefeld’s initials, the Sioux City’s keel laying marks the start of the ship’s construction.

“It’s the first of the 71 modules that comprise the ship and this is the fourth keel now that we have under the ten ship contract,” said Chuck Goddard, the president and CEO of Marinette Marine.

It’s unknown how many ships will be built beyond that multi-billion dollar contract. The Pentagon is recommending the Navy buy 32 ships, instead of its planned amount of 52.

“Our plan is just to keep building these ships,” said Joe North of Lockheed Martin. “They’re the most affordable ships the Navy has. We’ll put them out on time. We’ll give the fleet the numbers they need and we’ll wait and see what the Navy decides.”

The uncertainty has Marinette Marine officials concerned.

“Obviously we built up this workforce and we want to keep this workforce employed,” said Goddard. “There’s over 2,000 people that come in these gates everyday here when you include the sub-contractors.”

So far, the Navy is happy with the production.

“They’re doing exactly what we need them to do, which is to deliver ships on cost and on time,” said Commander Nathan Schneider of the U.S. Navy.

The Sioux City is expected to be complete in about 18 months. Its sponsor can’t wait.

“This is like a jet on the water, so it picks up and goes, so I’m excited to finally get on her when she’s ready to go,” said Winnefeld.

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