MARINETTE, Wisconsin | Perched atop the launching cradle next to the Menominee River, the USS Sioux City stood ready for its big day.
In large letters, the name Sioux City stood out from the gray exterior as Sioux City officials, crew members, the media and contractors climbed the 62 steps of the yellow scaffolding Friday to get an up-close look at the ship that will carry the city's name around the world for decades to come.
"It's time we put the Sioux City in the water and start trials," said Cmdr. Ken Lieberman, who will be the ship's executive officer, the second in command. "We hope to make your city and the country proud of what we bring to the Sioux City name."
On Saturday, the ship will be christened and launched, an important step in the ship's journey from construction, which began in June 2013, to commissioning, likely to take place in the spring or early summer of 2017.
On Friday, activity buzzed on board and around the ship.
On the river, tugboats busted up the ice covering the river, a necessity when launching ships in northern Wisconsin in the middle of January.
Workers onboard secured the ship, making sure nothing is damaged during the launch.
Amid the hustle and bustle, Lieberman showed off what will be one of the Navy's more unique ships, able to operate with fewer crew members and change missions by swapping out one ship section for another.
"We can plug and play just about anything the U.S. Navy imagines," Lieberman said on the flight deck, where helicopters and drones will land.
The Sioux City, part of a new littoral class of ships designed to sail nearer the coast -- in the littoral zone -- and into shallower waters, is designed for mine detection and clearing, anti-submarine warfare and surface warfare. Each mission requires a different set of assets housed in modules, similar to building blocks, which can be loaded and unloaded through a huge door off the landing deck.
"It can be totally reconfigured for those different mission modules," Lieberman said.
The USS Sioux City is about 80 percent finished. There are no furnishings yet. Wiring will be bundled and insulated. Much painting remains. Weapons systems -- rolling airframe missiles and a 57mm cannon -- and many more sensitive components and systems will be installed once the ship is launched. It's all part of the process Lieberman called "fit and finish."
Inside the pilot house, Lieberman said only three crew members will be needed to navigate and operate the ship, part of a base crew of 50. Up to 90 sailors will serve on board the ship, depending on its mission.
Though the windows were covered for launch, it was easy to envision the 180-degree view those operating the ship will have. From a console in the middle of the room, Lieberman said, a crew member will be able to command 95 percent of the ship's operations from a touch screen.
"That's what makes this unique among all other ships," he said.
Docked nearby were the USS Detroit and USS Little Rock, sister ships nearer commissioning. Both provided a good idea of what the USS Sioux City, when fully armed and completed, will look like.
Even without its full trappings, the Sioux City struck an imposing sight.
At rest in the launching cradle, she appeared ready, eager, to join her sisters in the water where she belongs, ready to serve her country and make those living in her namesake city proud.