US Navy's New Frigates Named the Constellation Class

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

October 8, 2020

Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J. Braithwaite aboard the museum ship Constellation in Baltimore to announce the name of the first ship in the new Guided Missile Frigate class of ships. (Photo: Levingston Lewis / U.S. Navy)

Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J. Braithwaite aboard the museum ship Constellation in Baltimore to announce the name of the first ship in the new Guided Missile Frigate class of ships. (Photo: Levingston Lewis / U.S. Navy)

The name of the first ship in the U.S. Navy's new guided missile frigate (FFG(X)) class will be USS Constellation (FFG 62), Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J. Braithwaite announced Wednesday while aboard the museum ship Constellation in Baltimore.

The warship will be the fifth U.S. Navy vessel to bear the name Constellation. Braithwaite said the name was selected in honor of the first U.S. Navy ships authorized by Congress in 1794: six heavy frigates named United States, Constellation, Constitution, Chesapeake, Congress and President. These ships established the Continental Navy as an agile, lethal and ready force for the 19th century. 

“As the first in her class, these ships will now be known as the Constellation Class frigates, linking them directly to the original six frigates of our Navy, carrying on the traditions of our great service which have been passed down from generation to generation of Sailors,” Braithwaite said. “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.”

The new Constellation Class frigates will be built by Fincantieri Marinette Marine, with the first ship scheduled for delivery in 2026. In April the Navy awarded a $795 million contract to the Marinette, Wis. shipbuilder for the design and production of one base ship plus nine option vessels, as well as post-delivery availability support, engineering and class services, crew familiarization, training equipment and provisioned item orders, which would be worth $5.5 billion if exercised.

As the next generation of small surface combatants Constellation Class frigates will contribute to meeting the Navy's goal of 355 battle force ships. With the ability to operate independently or as part of a strike group, it will deliver an Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar (EASR), Mk 41 Vertical Launching System, and Baseline 10 (BL 10) Aegis Combat System capabilities. The ships lethality, survivability and improved capability will provide fleet commanders multiple options while supporting the National Defense Strategy across the full range of military operations.

An artist rendering of the guided missile frigate FFG(X). The new small surface combatant will have multi-mission capability to conduct air warfare, anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare, electronic warfare and information operations. (Image: U.S. Navy)

Constellation is a historic name with a long Naval history. The original name was submitted to President Washington in 1795 to represent the ‘new constellation of stars’ on the United States flag. 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.

The second Constellation was a sloop-of-war launched in 1854 and was the last sail-only warship designed and built by the U.S. Navy. The ship currently stands as a museum in Baltimore.

The keel for a third ship named Constellation was laid, but the ship was never completed in the peace years following WWI.

The most prominent Constellation is the Kitty-Hawk class conventional aircraft carrier that commissioned in 1961. It had a storied history to include overcoming several catastrophic fires on board, supporting operations during the Vietnam War, the first Persian Gulf War, and Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom before decommissioning in 2003.


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