The keel of future guided-missile destroyer USS Frank E. Petersen, Jr. (DDG 121) was ceremoniously laid Feb. 21 at Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard.

Although official construction of DDG 121 began April 2016, the keel laying symbolically recognizes the ceremonial beginning of the ship. The keel was said to be "fairly and truly laid" and was authenticated by D'Arcy Neller, the ship's sponsor, and Donald Brabston, a master Ingalls shipbuilder.

"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. This system delivers quick reaction time, high firepower, and increased electronic countermeasures capability for anti-air warfare.

These multi-mission surface combatants serve as integral assets in global maritime security, engaging in air, undersea, surface, strike and ballistic missile defense, as well as providing increased capabilities in anti-submarine warfare, command and control, and anti-surface warfare.

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