Navy Names New Class of Frigates, Pays Tribute to Iconic Warship

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Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite announces the name of the new Constellation-class frigate
Navy Secretary Kenneth J. Braithwaite announces USS Constellation (FFG 62) as the name for the first ship in the new Guided Missile Frigate class of ships while aboard the museum ship Constellation in Baltimore Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland, on Oct. 7, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Levingston Lewis)

The Navy's next frigate will carry a lot of history in its name.

The future guided-missile frigate Constellation will be the fifth Navy ship to bear that name. The original Constellation was one of the first ships authorized by Congress in the 1790s, establishing the Navy "as an agile, lethal and ready force," a Navy release about the new name states.

Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite made the announcement Wednesday from the Baltimore Inner Harbor, where he stood aboard the museum ship Constellation.

"While providing an unmatched capability and survivability for the 21st century, Constellation-class frigates will honor our Navy's historic beginnings as we continue to operate around the world in today's era of great-power competition," Braithwaite said.

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The Navy announced in April a $795 million contract award to Fincantieri Marinette Marine to begin designing and building the first of its new guided-missile frigates, known as FFG(X) ships. When unveiling a big plan to boost the size of the fleet to more than 500 ships by 2045, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said this week the Navy will need between 60 and 70 more small-surface combatants.

The new class will carry a "historic name with a long naval history," according to the news release.

"The original name was submitted to President [George] Washington in 1795 to represent the 'new constellation of stars' on the United States flag," it states. "The first Constellation was a 38-gun frigate with a crew of 340 personnel. The ship was built in Baltimore in 1797 and remained in service until 1853."

This class of frigates will be multi-mission warships, James Geurts, the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, told reporters in April.

"They'll operate in all environments and will be more lethal, survivable and have increased self-defense and local-area defense capability and capacity over previous small-surface combatants," Geurts said.

The frigates will be equipped with an Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar, Mk 41 Vertical Launching System, and Baseline 10 Aegis Combat System.

Editor's Note: This story was updated to correct the description of George Washington's Navy.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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