The new USS Little Rock and its 70 sailors chugged this morning into Buffalo, where the Navy will commission the $440 million ship.
A crowd of several hundred people waved flags and cheered as the Little Rock, blaring rock band AC/DC's 1980 hit "Back in Black" over its loudspeakers, began docking at Canalside in 26 feet of water at 9:54 a.m.
"It was intended to give the crowd a show," Little Rock Capt. Todd Peters said of the music. "We want the crowd to remember the day the USS Little Rock arrived."
The new littoral combat ship dropped anchor about 50 feet from the original USS Little Rock, a decommissioned World War II-era guided missile cruiser. Docents on board the missile cruiser saluted the sailors on the new Navy vessel, and about a dozen sailors on deck returned the salute.
The ship hit some bad weather near Detroit, so its arrival was about 54 minutes later than scheduled.
Buffalo News reporters and photographers covered the arrival live, as the high-speed ship was steered from Lake Erie into the Buffalo Harbor.
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Reporter Lou Michel and photographer Derek Gee were on board the new Little Rock, interviewing sailors; photographer Sharon Cantillon was on the Buffalo Police Underwater Recovery Team boat shooting photos of the Little Rock; photographer Mark Mulville was shooting photos from the Buffalo Harbor lighthouse, and reporter Aaron Besecker was in the crowd that greeted the ship.
This will be the first time in the Navy's 242-year history that a new ship is commissioned alongside her namesake.
The new 389-foot-long Little Rock, which can hit speeds of about 45 knots and sail in shallow waters, is to be commissioned Dec. 16. It is much smaller than the old Little Rock. That 610-foot-long missile cruiser, which carried a crew of more than 1,000 sailors, has been on exhibit in the Buffalo naval park since 1977.
Len Berowski of Cheektowaga, an Air Force veteran, was one of about a few hundred people waiting at 9:30 a.m. on Erie Street, near the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park, and at the Canalside dock. Small American flags were being handed out to the crowd to wave as the ship arrived.
"We think this is a pretty big deal to have an event like this take place here," said Berowski, whose father and uncles served in several military branches during WWII.