The US Navy had announced on Friday that it would “christen and launch” the latest Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) known as the USS Cleveland (LCS 31).
An old method known as a “side launch” was used for the event at the Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard in Wisconsin at 10am on Saturday. The method involves the use of a small tugboat to pull the larger ship into the water with the help of gravity.
Dramatic footage purportedly from the launch showed the USS Cleveland perilously undulate on the water after sending a wave crashing on the smaller tugboat.
The footage does not clearly show if the USS Cleveland hit the tugboat during the launch or if the force of the pull into the water was such that it led the bigger vessel to dramatically tilt to the other side after sending the wave of water splashing over the tugboat.
The incident has reportedly raised some serious questions about the safety protocols and the effectiveness of the side launching method.
LCS 31 (USS Cleveland) launches on Saturday! 🎉— Lockheed Martin (@LockheedMartin) April 10, 2023
Check out this video from the LCS 27 launch to recap how these massive ships hit the water, ahead of the LCS 31 launch on April 15. pic.twitter.com/j3FTdKe3Vl
The USS Cleveland is the 16th and the final addition by the US Navy to its Freedom-class LCS vessels.
Mark Grove, a senior lecturer at the University of Lincoln’s Maritime Studies Center at the Britannia Royal Naval College Dartmouth, told Newsweek that although he could not visually confirm that the new vessel struck the tugboat, “it does look very close, and is probably a bit too close for comfort”.
Grove also said the side launch method is used when there is not sufficient water to launch the vessel.
Had the pleasure of representing the people of Cleveland and Mayor Bibb at this morning's christening of LCS-31 as the USS Cleveland.— Austin Davis (@ItIsAustinDavis) April 15, 2023
It's an honor to have the final ship in the Freedom-class line named after our fair city, and it was an honor to represent Cleveland. pic.twitter.com/z7CxserRrx
Ahead of Saturday’s launch, Carlos Del Toro, the secretary of the Navy, said the launch “will be another step closer to joining our fleet, sailing the open seas, continuing to defend our nation, and representing the strong connection our Navy has with the city of Cleveland”.
If it didn’t hit the tug, then where did the 2 big smudges of black paint on the USS Cleveland come from???