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Navy's newest guided missile destroyer to be christened on Saturday

Navy's newest guided missile destroyer to be christened on Saturday
Sponsors of the guided missile destroyer USS Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee, which will be christened on Saturday, gather around the ship's keel during an inscription ceremony. Photo courtesy of Huntington Ingalls Industries

April 23 (UPI) -- The christening of the U.S. Navy's newest destroyer on Saturday will be Mississippi's Ingalls Shipbuilding's first full-scale christening in the COVID-19 era.

The USS Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee will be the Navy's 73rd Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, and was built by the Huntington Ingalls Industries subsidiary in Pascagoula, Miss., the site of the ceremony.

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A member of the DDG-51 class of ships, the new destroyer is capable of conducting anti-air, anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, carrying the MK-41 Vertical Launching System to fire missiles.

At 509.5 feet in length, the ship is configured as a Flight IIA destroyer, with high firepower, and increased electronic countermeasures, the Navy said.

San Diego will be its homeport.

The ship honors Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee, who became superintendent of the Navy Nurse Corps in 1911.

Recipient of the Navy Cross, awarded for distinguished service in combat, Higbee was among 20 women, known as the "Sacred Twenty," to join the newly-established Navy Nurse Corps and serve in World War I.

This will be the second ship to carry her name. The destroyer USS Higbee served in World War II and in the Korean War, and was the first combat warship named to honor a female Navy veteran.

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Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, acting assistant secretary of the Navy Jay Stefany and Rear Adm. Cynthia Kuehner are scheduled to speak at the event.

The ship's sponsors include Louisa Dixon, Virginia Munford and R. Pickett Wilson.

Ship christening ceremonies have typically been reduced in scope since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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