BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Western New Yorkers are watching history in the making. The new USS Little Rock is now docked at Canalside, next to the original USS Little Rock for which it is named.
A press conference will be held 3:30 p.m. Monday on the ship’s arrival.
“This is the first time in the Navy’s 242 year history that a new Navy war ship is being commissioned alongside its namesake, the USS Little Rock,” said Dan Mecca, Vice Chair of the USS Little Rock LCS9 Commissioning Committee.
The new Little Rock, which will be commissioned as the newest ship in the Navy’s fleet on December 16, is a Freedom variant littoral combat ship, one of nine in that series made by Lockheed Martin in Wisconsin.
“This is a state of the war ship. It’s brand new. There’s a lot of technology as you can imagine on this ship,” Mecca said.
Monday morning, the new USS Rock LCS9 finished the trip from Wisconsin to Buffalo, where it came up the Buffalo River to Canalside, escorted by the fire boat Cotter.
“It’s a piece of history that will be remembered forever,” said Brian Roche, Executive Director of the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park where people gathered to watch the new ship approach.
Docents from the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park lined up on the bow of the old Little Rock to salute the incoming crew, while other Western New Yorkers lined up along the waterfront to see the new ship for themselves
“I wanted to see one of our new additions to the fleet come in and it was a wonderful thing,” said Michael Francoforte, a Buffalo resident who came out to see the Little Rock LCS 9 arrive.
Side by side with the original Little Rock, the differences are striking. The old Little Rock is a couple hundred feet longer and significantly taller. The new Little Rock is sleeker, more streamlined, and is able to operate with a crew the fraction of the size of that which served on the original Little Rock, before it was de-commissioned in 1976.
Now, the original Little Rock is the only guided missile cruiser on display anywhere in the United States, and a lot of people have a lot of memories of their time serving on board. “A lot of former sailors from our Little Rock will be in town for the whole week of the commissioning,” Roche said.
“As a matter of fact, we have some of the family members of one of the crew that brought the ship here to Buffalo,” added Wayne Sorrentino, co-chair of the USS Little Rock LCS9 Commissioning Committee.
The new Little Rock will be commissioned on December 16, but tickets for that ceremony are already sold out.
Still, Western New Yorkers have several other opportunities to get a look at the new ship before it departs, including a full schedule of Commissioning Week events.
The Naval and Military Park is also open every day until the new Little Rock leaves, giving visitors the chance to stand on the deck of the original Little Rock as the see the new Little Rock docked a few hundred feet away. The Naval and Military Park will open at 8 a.m. on the day of the commissioning.