Brand New U.S. Warship on Way Home After 3 Months Trapped in the Canadian Ice

The USS Little Rock, a U.S. Navy warship commissioned in December, has finally left Montreal after being trapped by the Canadian winter for three months on its maiden voyage.

The Freedom-class Little Rock finally left the Canadian port this weekend and is expected to reach its home port of Florida by the end of April, CBC reported.

The littoral-combat ship, designed for use close to the shore, was commissioned in Buffalo, New York, on December 16. It began the journey to its home port at Mayport Naval Station in Florida on December 20, three days behind schedule due to weather conditions on Lake Erie. The ship arrived in Montreal on a scheduled stop just before Christmas, after which it was set to continue to Halifax then south down the Atlantic coast.

However, unusually cold temperatures, icy conditions and a shortage of tugboats to help guide it out of Montreal meant the Little Rock was forced to winter in Canada. In January, the Navy said the ship would stay in Montreal "until wintry weather conditions improve and the ship is able to safely transit through the St. Lawrence Seaway."

USS Little Rock Commissioning
The USS Little Rock pictured during the ship's commissioning ceremony on December 16, 2017 in Buffalo, New York. The ship's maiden voyage to its home port in Florida was delayed after it was forced to spend three months in Montreal due to icy conditions. U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin

This weekend, Navy spokesperson Lieutenant Commander Courtney Hillson confirmed the warship was now free to continue its maiden voyage. "Keeping the ship in Montreal until weather conditions improved ensured the safety of the ship and crew," Lt. Cmdr. Hillson said.

During the ship's enforced visit to the Great White North, the Little Rock was fitted with temporary heaters and 16 de-icers to prevent the accumulation of ice on its hull. The crew, numbering around 170, was given cold-weather clothing to see them through the winter.

"We greatly appreciate the support and hospitality of the city of Montreal, the Montreal Port Authority and the Canadian Coast Guard," the Little Rock's commanding officer, Commander Todd Peters, said in a statement. "We are grateful for the opportunity to further enhance our strong partnerships."

Canadian shipspotters took photos of the vessel being escorted out of Montreal up the St. Lawrence Seaway.

It wasn't an entirely trouble-free stay for the Little Rock, with Canadians living nearby complaining of the constant noise from the ship's generators. In response, adjustments were made to the soundproofing around the generators and the Port of Montreal dimmed lights illuminating the ship. One resident described the generator noise as like "like the motor of a large truck that's driving at a high speed."

The 389-foot Little Rock is designed to conduct a variety of missions close to shore and on the open seas, mostly against small fast attack craft, mines and submarines. The modular design of the Freedom-class vessels is intended to provide mission flexibility and allow for easier upgrades. The Little Rock is scheduled for more training and combat-systems testing in 2018. Each Freedom-class ship costs roughly $568 million, according to the Congressional Research Service.

USS Little Rock
The USS Little Rock pictured during a high-speed run in Lake Michigan during acceptance trials. U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin