MARINETTE — Lockeed Martin and Fincantieri Marinette Marine hosted the keel laying for a Navy warship named after a small Wisconsin city Wednesday.

This ceremony marked the beginning of construction of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) 29, USS Beloit. The keel laying of this ship was held over a phone conference call to accommodate COVID-19 social distancing requirements.

“As part of a ship-building tradition dating back centuries, a shipyard worker welded into the ship’s keel plate the initials of Maj. Gen. Marcia M. Anderson (U.S. Army, Retired), USS Beloit ship sponsor and a Beloit, Wisconsin, native,” a press release from Lockeed Martin states. “This plate will be affixed to the ship and travel with Beloit throughout its commissioned life.”

The USS Beloit will be the 15th Freedom-variant LCS. It is one of six LCS ships currently in construction at Marinette Marine. It’s the first Navy ship to be named after Beloit, Wisconsin.

The LCS-29 can be a “focus mission ship” meaning that it will be used for core defense, humanitarian missions and anti-submarine warfare, and is adaptable to support more types of missions in the future, said Joe DePietro, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager of Small Combatants and Ship Systems.

“LCS’ speed, maneuverability and flexibility allows the ship to serve a multitude of missions by quickly integrating equipment and deploying manned and unmanned aerial, surface or sub-surface vehicles,” he said in a press release.

“I was extremely honored and excited when Senator (Tammy) Baldwin (D-Wis.) contacted me about this ship and asked me if I would be interested in sponsoring it,” Anderson said. Afterward the initial conversation she was also contacted about former-Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer about the sponsorship.

“I’m extremely proud to be representing my my birth city here in Wisconsin” she said. “It’s significant in many ways because this is a small town — a small city — it’s unusual because we normally name ships after former military people, congress people and mayors of larger cities. That’s why it’s important.”

She said small cities such as Beloit are “the life blood” of the United States and the acknowledgment from the US Navy is exciting.

During her long career with the military, Anderson became the first African American woman to obtain the rank of major general in the U.S. Army and U.S. Army Reserve. 

Jan Allman, CEO of Fincantieri Marinette Marine, said the shipyard was proud to celebrate the future USS Beloit. “The Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard is honored to build this capable warship, named for another city from the wonderful state of Wisconsin. I think this is a true testament to the hard work and patriotism of Midwesterners, and we look forward to working with the City of Beloit as we continue building LCS 29 for our U.S. Navy partner.”