Share story

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) — The USS Manchester, the newest in a class of speedy warships, was commissioned into service Saturday with crew members marching down a gangway and bringing the ship to life.

More than 5,000 people watched the ceremony at the New Hampshire State Pier in Portsmouth.

New Hampshire’s Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the ship’s sponsor whose initials are welded into the ship’s hull, said serving as the ship’s sponsor was “the thrill of a lifetime.”

“I pledge today, as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to watch over the USS Manchester and to advocate for its continued service and well-being,” Shaheen said.

Joining her at the event were the ship’s skipper, Cmdr. Emily Bassett, the first female commander of a littoral combat ship, Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig and other dignitaries.

“I am standing up here with chills about to burst with pride,” said Bassett. “I hope you feel it, too.”

The ceremony marked the point where the 418-foot ship officially joined the Navy fleet. It will be based in San Diego.

Speed and maneuverability distinguish littoral combat ships from larger warships like destroyers and cruisers. The warships can reach speeds of about 50 mph and utilize steerable waterjets instead of propellers and rudders to operate in shallow water.

The Navy has two different designs.

The Manchester is the seventh in a line of tri-hulled, aluminum ships built the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Alabama. They are designed to be equipped with swappable mission modules for surface warfare, anti-submarine duty or mine removal.

It’s the second warship to honor New Hampshire’s biggest city. A Navy light cruiser that bore the name USS Manchester saw action in the Korean War before being decommissioned in 1956.

New Hampshire is also represented as the namesake of a Virginia-class attack submarine, the USS New Hampshire, which was commissioned in 2008 at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. It is the fourth ship to be named for the state of New Hampshire.