On Oct. 6, Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Ingalls Shipbuilding division christened the guided missile destroyer Frank E. Petersen Jr. (DDG 121) with approximately 900 guests in attendance.
The ship is the 71st in the Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) class of destroyers and the 33rd built by Ingalls.
The future USS Frank E. Petersen Jr. is the first ship named in honor of Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen Jr., the first African-American Marine Corps aviator and the first African-American Marine Corps officer promoted to brigadier 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 is co-sponsored by Alicia Petersen, widow of the ship’s namesake, and D’Arcy Neller, wife of Gen. Neller. Together, Petersen and Neller officially christened the ship by successfully breaking two bottles of sparkling wine across its bow. Petersen spoke on behalf of both sponsors at today’s ceremony.
“Our family has been in Pascagoula for about two days now, and the love and friendship that we have felt from everyone has been so contagious,” Petersen said. “We believe that you are our family now and feel so happy that Frank’s ship is here in your home being built under the wonderful leadership of Ingalls. Ingalls not only does great work, but they take great pride in its ownership.”
Over the course of 30 years, Ingalls has built and delivered 30 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. The shipyard currently has five DDGs under construction, including Jack H. Lucas (DDG 125), the first Flight III ship, which started fabrication in May. Ingalls was recently awarded a $5.1 billion multi-year procurement contract to build six more destroyers.
“All Ingalls ships are built for men and women like General Petersen with one goal in mind: to protect the brave Americans who defend our freedom, and Frank E. Petersen Jr., the ship, will be no exception,” said Ingalls Shipbuilding President Brian Cuccias. “Today, alongside our Navy partners and the leadership of the great State of Mississippi, we are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in modernizing our facilities. Combine that with a hot production line and our talented and experienced shipbuilders, and we are uniquely positioned to provide our country with the highest quality, most capable destroyers in the world. Simply stated, Ingalls builds the finest warships the world has ever known—right here in Pascagoula, Mississippi.”
Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are capable, multi-mission ships and can conduct a variety of operations, from peacetime presence and crisis management to sea control and power projection, all in support of the United States’ military strategy. The guided missile destroyers are capable of simultaneously fighting air, surface and subsurface battles. The ship contains myriad offensive and defensive weapons designed to support maritime defense needs well into the 21st century.