Nov. 12 (UPI) -- Construction of DDG 127, to be christened the USS Patrick Gallagher, has started at General Dynamics Bath Iron Works shipyard located in Maine.
U.S. Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, made the initial cut to the first steel plate for the ship during a ceremony Friday in the BIW fabrication shop, which included the presence of workers and Navy officials.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer will be named for Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Patrick Gallagher, who received the Navy Cross for heroism during the Vietnam War when he managed to jump on and throw a enemy grenade into a river, saving his fellow Marines. He was killed in action one year later.
"It is exciting to commence construction on what will be the 77th ship of the Arleigh Burke class," DDG 51 class program manager Capt. Casey Moton said in a Navy press release.
"Not only will this ship continue the legacy of enduring warfighting capability, it will carry with it the strength and courage demonstrated by its namesake," Moton said.
DDG 127 will be the final Flight IIA variant of the Arleigh Burke-class built by BIW, according to the Navy.
The ship will mount the AEGIS Baseline 9 Combat System for integrated air and missile defense weapons and systems. AEGIS is installed on U.S. Arleigh Burke-class and Ticonderoga-class surface combatants.
BIW has recently received a contract for the construction of four DDG 51 Flight III destroyers as part of the Navy's FY18-22 ship procurement program.
The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer is one of the primary surface combatants of the U.S. fleet. The AEGIS system mounted on it is one of the most advanced naval air-defense systems in the world.
The vessels have a Mk 41 vertical launch system that can carry Standard-class surface-to-air missiles, Tomahawk cruise missiles, and other weapons. It's Standard Block III interceptors are capable of engaging and destroying incoming ballistic missiles. It and the Ticonderoga-class form one of the most important parts of the the U.S. ballistic missile defense system.