Oct. 5 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy will christen 71st Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, the future USS Frank E. Petersen Jr. this Saturday in Mississippi.
The Petersen, named for the first African-American Marine Corps aviator, will be christened at 10 a.m. EST Saturday at the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard in Pascagoula by two sponsors -- D'Arcy Neller, wife of Gen. Robert Neller, the current commandant of the Marine Corps, and Dr. Alicia J. Petersen, widow of Frank E. Petersen Jr.
In addition to being the first African-American Marine Corps aviator, Petersen was the first African-American Marine Corps officer promoted to brigadier general. When he retired in 1988, he was the senior-ranking aviator in the Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy.
The Petersen is the fifth of 21 DDG-51 ships currently under construction and will be configured as a Flight IIA destroyer. This enables power projection, forward presence and escort operations, as well as low-intensity conflict in coastal and littoral offshore warfare and open ocean conflict.
Like all of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, the Petersen will be capable of simultaneously fighting air, surface and subsurface battles.
"The future USS Frank E. Petersen Jr. will serve for decades as a reminder of Lt. Gen. Petersen's service to our nation and Navy and Marine Corps team," Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer said in a press release.
The Navy plans to start manning the Petersen in January 2019. The ship will eventually have a crew of 304 sailors.