July 26 (UPI) -- A keel authentication ceremony, formally starting construction of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Calhoun, was conducted in Pasgagoula, Miss.
The new ship is a Legend-class, or national security-class vessel, the largest active patrol cutter class of the Coast Guard. Nine have entered service since the first, the USCG Bertholf, was commissioned in 2008.
The vessel is named to honor Charles L. Calhoun, the Coast Guard's first master chief petty officer, who served in the Navy in World War II and later enlisted in the Coast Guard before retiring in 1973.
His granddaughter, Christina Calhoun Zubowicz, served as the new ship's sponsor in ceremonies at Huntington Ingalls Industries' construction site on Friday for the authentication.
The ceremony had been postponed from 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Legend-class cutters are 418 feet long, with a range of 12,000 miles and a crew of 60. Typically used for at-sea rescues and drug interdictions, they carry a variety of machine guns, among other munitions, for defense.
The Legend-class cutter USCGC Hamilton and the Sentinel-class fast response cutters USCGC Charles Moulthrope and USCGC Robert Goldman are currently deployed to the Fifth and Sixth Fleets of the U.S. Navy, in the Mediterranean Sea and Middle East areas.
The deployments are indicative of a new Navy/Coast Guard joint strategy which emphasizes the law enforcement operations of the Coast Guard, officials have said.