PASCAGOULA, Miss. -- The U.S. Navy held a keel-laying ceremony for the future USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114) at the Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) shipyard Sept. 23.
The keel was authenticated by ship sponsor and military wife Georgeanne McRaven, and 41-year veteran shipbuilder, Robert Boegner, Jr. The two traced their initials into the ship's keel plate after which they said, "We hereby declare that the keel of the future USS Ralph Johnson has been truly and fairly laid."
"I'm extremely honored to have Mrs. McRaven and Mr. Boegner here today to take part in this momentous event. Their participation demonstrates and celebrates the role that each individual involved in this vital shipbuilding program plays to help bring these warships to life," said Capt. Mark Vandroff, DDG 51 class program manager, Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships. "I'm very proud of and grateful to the men and women of Ingalls shipbuilding. Their hard work has allowed us to celebrate this major ship milestone today."
Ingalls shipbuilding has a long history in destroyer shipbuilding, beginning with the keel-laying of the USS Spruance (DD 963) in the same shipyard over 40 years ago, in 1972. Ralph Johnson is the 64th Arleigh-Burke class destroyer, and the 30th DDG 51 class destroyer built by the shipyard. HII is under contract to build an additional six of the 14 DDG 51 class ships currently under contract. General Dynamics Bath Iron Works is also under contract to build seven destroyers as part of the DDG 51 program restart.
DDG 51 class ships are integral players in global maritime security, engaging in air, undersea, surface, strike and ballistic missile defense. Ralph Johnson, a Flight IIA destroyer, will be equipped with Aegis Baseline 9 which incorporates Integrated Air and Missile Defense and enhanced Ballistic Missile Defense capabilities.
The ship is named for Marine Pfc. Ralph Henry Johnson, who posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during the Vietnam War. Johnson used his body to shield two fellow Marines from a grenade, absorbing the blast and dying instantly in March 1968.
As one of the Defense Department's largest acquisition organizations, PEO Ships is responsible for executing the development and procurement of all destroyers, amphibious ships, special mission and support ships and special warfare craft. Delivering high-quality war fighting assets - while balancing affordability and capability - is key to supporting the nation's maritime strategy.