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ANNAPOLIS, Maryland (KTIV) – In 2012, the U.S. Navy announced a new kind of ship would bear the name “Sioux City.”

After more than six years of work to build it, and test it, the USS Sioux City is set to sail into service after it’s commissioned on Saturday, at the U.S. Naval Academy, in Maryland.

Through this hatch is the ship’s massive hangar. Though it’s empty, now, it can hold helicopters, drones, and dozens of different components.

“This part of ship is called the Airborne Mission Zone,” said CDR Randy Malone, USS Sioux City Commander. “And, it can house two helicopters.”

That’s in addition to remote-piloted drones. Below deck? Crew quarters, officers quarters, and the ship’s mess. Thanks to a generous donation from Wells Enterprises, the Sioux City’s crew will enjoy Blue Bunny ice cream on board for the lifetime of the ship.

“Blue Bunny Ice Cream has been a great sponsor of the commissioning committee, and a great sponsor of the ship,” said Malone. “They do have a plan to put a bunker down on the mess deck, and put ice cream for the crew down there.”

The advantage the Sioux City, and other littoral combat ships have, is the ability to reconfigure them to fit their mission… from mine sweeping to surface warfare. The Sioux City will be fitted for surface combat.

“That will give us two 30-millimeter guns in addition to the armament we have on board right now,” said Malone. “And, we’ll have an 11-meter RHIB that will go out the stern gate.”

Those missions are monitored on the other end of the ship… not quite a football field away… on the bridge. With a nod to efficiency, this is what’s called a minimally-manned bridge.

“We typically have three people on the bridge: the officer of the deck, the junior officer of the deck, and what is traditionally known as the officer of the watch.”

That’s a key difference in this new breed of naval vessel. Another difference?

“I don’t have a rudder sticking out of me, like a frigate, that’s 23-feet tall,” said Malone. “So, I have water jets that are built into the hull of the ship.”

Think of the littoral combat ship like a jet ski. And, on the bridge, these ‘combinators’ navigate the ship by turning its four water jet engines.

And, just behind the bridge, mementos from the community, whose name the ship shares. An oil painting, of a Sioux warrior, done by Sioux City artist Darren Maurer, will soon be added to remind the crew of its roots as it serves at sea all around the world.

For the next three or four months, the Sioux City will test its weapons systems, which boasts the RAM, or Rolling Airframe Missile system, and its big 57-millimeter gun on the main deck.

Matt Breen

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