US Navy lays keel of next Arleigh Burke destroyer

A welder at Ingalls Shipbuilding welds the initials of ship sponsor D’Arcy Neller (left) onto the keel plate of the destroyer Frank E. Petersen Jr. (DDG 121). Photo: Lance Davis/HII

The U.S. Navy held a keel-laying ceremony for its future guided-missile destroyer USS Frank E. Petersen, Jr. (DDG 121) at the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard on February 21.

The ship is named in honor of the U.S. Marine Corps’ first African-American general and will be the 33rd Arleigh Burke-class (DDG 51) destroyer Ingalls has built for the U.S. Navy.

Although official construction of DDG 121 began in April 2016, the keel laying symbolically recognizes the ceremonial beginning of the ship.

“The keel laying is the symbolic first step in shaping our nation’s newest destroyer,” said Capt. Casey Moton, DDG 51 class program manager, Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships. “The ship will be a lasting tribute to Frank E. Petersen Jr., who made incredible contributions to naval and Marine Corps aviation, and DDG 121 will be an extremely capable destroyer for our Sailors.”

Frank E. Petersen, Jr. was the first African-American aviator and the first African-American Marine Corps general. When he retired in 1988 after 38 years of service, he was, by date of designation, the senior-ranking aviator in the Marine Corps and the United States Navy.

DDG 121 will be built in the Flight IIA configuration with the Aegis Baseline 9 combat system which includes integrated air and missile defense capability.

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