Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Huntington Ingalls Industries marked a production milestone for the developing USS Frank E. Petersen during a keel authentication ceremony.
During the event, Ingalls Shipbuilding welder Jeremy Lally welded the initials of D'Arcy Neller, the ship's sponsor, onto the keel plate of the vessel. The initials will remain on the plate for the remainder of the ship's lifetime.
D'Arcy Neller is the wife of Gen. Robert Neller, who said new ships like Frank E. Petersen are necessary to ensure the United States maintains its naval supremacy.
"We're being contested everywhere in the world right now, especially on the sea," he said. "We need ships like this one, and we need them to go fast and in harm's way, every day. So I know Ingalls will put great care, talent and skill into building this ship, and I appreciate your effort."
USS Frank E. Petersen is a planned Arleigh Burke-class Flight IIA guided missile destroyer being built for the U.S. Navy. Huntington Ingalls Industries was contracted by the branch in March 2016 to produce the vessel.
The ship is named after Frank Emmanuel Petersen Jr., who served as the U.S. Marine Corps' first African-American pilot and general officer. Dr. Alicia Petersen, Frank Petersen's widow, praised the ship's namesake during the keel authentication ceremony.
"He wasn't a man who wanted a lot of praise or recognition; however, if he could see this great ship being built for other young men and young women to see and look up to, he would be very proud," she said.