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Stop whatever you're doing and check out the USS Detroit

Tricked-out Navy ship packs a punch

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DETROIT – The newest, most tricked-out combat ship in the U.S. Navy docked in its namesake city, drawing people from across the region to tour and sneak a peek at the sleek USS Detroit LCS-7 in the Motor City.

The ship was set to be commissioned in Detroit on Saturday, before being moved to its home port in Mayport, Florida.

Ship designers told media outlets the USS Detroit is “(unlike) anything else out there.” It can be modified quickly to handle different missions. And the ship is powered by Rolls-Royce engines, which are the same as the engines inside a Boeing 777 aircraft. The $440 million vessel is 389 feet long, with a displacement of 3,400 metric tons.

In fact, Detroit’s namesake warship is so versatile, some people are even calling it a real-life Transformer, able to take the shape of four different modes by shifting around pieces of its structure overnight, the Navy website says. And for those keeping score, the latest “Transformers” movie was shot in Detroit this summer. Pretty cool, right?

Just like the other Freedom-class ships, the USS Detroit has a draft of 13.5 feet, meaning, that's the depth of the hull below water. The vessel also can explore shallow areas, such as rivers, which were once considered inaccessible. And the boat can turn around within its own length. Its top speed is 45 knots (about 52 miles per hour), and it’s expected to get in and out of spaces quickly and easily. It's smaller than other Navy ships -- roughly half the size of its 796-foot USS Detroit predecessor that was retired in 2005 — but it's very strong.

The USS Detroit offers a mix of old and new technology: Digital control on the bridge, but an old crank phone, just in case. The ram missile battery can intercept up to 20 incoming missiles. And the old-school 57mm gun can launch a shell 10 miles.

The ship will add 20 to 40 crew members, depending on the mission(s) the crew is carrying out. They have room for sub-hunting helicopters and drones, and they can change mission packages in a week — making it a very fast and flexible ship. It’s longer than a football field. All the features and cool abilities of the ship have led to the USS Detroit being called "the pride of the Navy."

So many people wanted to tour the Transformer-esque ship in Detroit -- despite the public tours only lasting about 15 minutes -- that visitors had to be turned away.

The vessel is the sixth U.S. Navy warship to bear Detroit’s name — however, fun fact: Of all the warships named after the Motor City, this will be the only one actually commissioned in Detroit, WDIV Local 4 reports.

The Freedom-class Navy ships are more versatile than their counterparts. They can hug shores and coastlines for intricate jobs. The ships can also handle bigger ocean operations, including anti-submarine warfare, mine warfare or surface warfare. Its versatility speaks to the "Transformer" reference.

USS Detroit’s schedule was packed this week with festivities and public tours -- including a black-tie dinner and a Veterans Day event -- starting Oct. 14, when the ship arrived along the Detroit River near the GM Renaissance Center, and running throughout the weekend.

In general, event space in Detroit filled up fast, and tickets were no longer available in the days leading up to Saturday’s 11 a.m. commissioning ceremony, which marks a ship’s official start to active duty.

After the Detroit ceremony, a reception and more tours are planned. A memorial service is scheduled for the following morning.

The ship itself seems to impress those who’ve toured it. In the galley, people serve themselves and bus their own dishes. And for a nice Detroit touch, the USS Detroit has a case ready to hold keepsakes, including a Red Wings towel that was spotted Tuesday. A touch of Hockeytown inside the USS Detroit seems only appropriate.

The ship’s seal includes a winged tire, two sharks -- which refer to Detroit's automotive manufacturing past -- and part of the city flag. After its stay in the Motor City, the USS Detroit will visit Windsor for four days, starting Monday.

The USS Detroit’s website said the vessel’s trip to Windsor will mark the first time a U.S. warship has visited another nation as its first international port of call. Windsor is directly across the river from Detroit, so the trip should be a quick and easy one. The small but powerful ship is expected to draw lots of interest from the Canadians, as well.

(And hey, for Detroit-area people who missed out on the chance to see the ship ... the Ambassador Bridge is just a few minutes away, and leads right to Windsor).

Before docking in Detroit, the USS Detroit made its way down from Wisconsin and around the Great Lakes. Hundreds of people lined the riverfront to watch the ship emerge from the area between Belle Isle and Windsor.

After passing all its tests, the USS Detroit was accepted into service Aug. 16. Before that, the ship was launched in October 2014, built by Maryland-based Lockheed Martin. The original estimates for the ship were projected around $220 million, but the actual cost was double that figure.

The first Navy ship bearing Detroit’s name set sail in August 1813. That one, too, had a smaller design, like the current USS Detroit, which made the ship ideal for carrying dispatches, and for scouting. The first USS Detroit started out belonging to the British Royal Navy. The 132-foot boat was shot to pieces in the Battle of Lake Erie, and barely used after that. The ship was sold 12 years later.

Oh, and the "LCS" in "USS Detroit LCS-7" stands for littoral combat ship, which refers to the ship’s ability to travel well in shallow water. (Now you know!)

People with the opportunity to come see the ship would be wise to do just that, if they're able -- visitors seem to indicate it's well worth the effort.

Watch USS Detroit video | Learn more about the ship on its website | USS Detroit blog


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