MARINETTE - Marinette Marine's fifth littoral combat ship is starting to take shape.
It was the laying of the keel ceremony for the future USS Little Rock. The event highlighted a bit of history for the shipbuilder as well.
With a sizzling signature, the keel on the future USS Little Rock was officially authenticated.
"For shipbuilders, it's a big event. The keel really signifies the start of construction of a ship," said Chuck Goddard, Marinette Marine Corporation President and CEO.
The Little Rock is the fifth littoral combat ship to be built in Marinette, and the third in the most recent ten-ship contract with the Navy.
Construction on other ships, the Milwaukee, the Detroit and Sioux City, is moving along.
Marinette Marine President and CEO Chuck Goddard says it's the first time in the history of the company, four ships in the same class are being built at the same time.
"This really is a huge landmark. Prior to that, we weren't in serial production like this. We were one ship at a time," said Goddard.
Earlier, a new testing facility was dedicated in downtown Marinette. Contractor Lockheed Martin hopes to expand the workforce here from 21 to 50 workers by the end of next year.
"It will allow folks to become much better at that they're doing because work moves to them. They stay in the location and they just continue to get a full assembly line, full rate production is what we refer to it as," said Joe North, Lockheed Martin Vice President of LCS.
But will this mean more jobs at Marinette Marine?
"Over the last two or three years, we've hired about 500 people. We're fairly stable now, at roughly 1400 MMC employees. If you count how many people actually come through the gate every day, it's almost 2,000 people that come here to work," said Goddard.
Marinette Marine hopes to be able to finish about two ships each year. The LCS Milwaukee is about 50 percent complete. Officials hope to launch that ship this fall.
Eventually, the Navy will dock the Little Rock in San Diego.
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