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US Navy receives new destroyer as construction starts on next ESB ship

USS Frank E. Petersen
HII photo of future USS Frank E. Petersen Jr.

The US Navy has taken delivery of its 71st Arleigh Burke-class destroyer while starting construction on the fifth Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) ship a day later.

On November 30, Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Ingalls Shipbuilding division delivered the future USS Frank E. Petersen Jr. (DDG 121) after the ship previously completed a series of at-sea and pier-side trials to demonstrate its material and operational readiness.

DDG 121 is an Arleigh Burke-class Flight IIA guided missile destroyer equipped with the Aegis baseline 9C2 combat system, which includes integrated air and missile defense capability and enhanced ballistic missile defense capabilities.

“DDG 121 brings critical readiness to the fleet to ensure our sailors are postured for success today and in the future,” said Capt. Seth Miller, DDG 51 class program manager, Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships. “The ship will honor the legacy of its namesake and provide the needed capability and capacity to the fleet.”

The future USS Frank E. Petersen Jr. is named for the United States Marines Corps’ first African American aviator and general officer. Petersen entered the Naval Aviation Cadet Program in 1950 and went on to fly more than 350 combat missions during the Korean and Vietnam wars.

USS Robert E. Simanek (ESB 7) construction start

On December 1, the navy celebrated another shipbuilding milestone with the start of construction of its fifth Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB), the future USS Robert E. Simanek (ESB 7).

General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (GD-NASSCO) hosted a small ceremony to mark the milestone at its San Diego yard.

The ESB class of ships acts as a mobile sea base, supporting the deployment of forces and facilitating a range of missions.

“ESBs are optimized to support the core capabilities of aviation facilities, berthing, special operations, equipment staging support, and command and control operations,” said Tim Roberts, Strategic and Theater Sealift program manager, Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships. “The ESBs have demonstrated their ability to enhance the fleet’s flexibility and capability as they operate around the world. The addition of the future USS Robert E. Simanek will help continue to provide critical access in the maritime domain.”

The ship is named in honor of Marine Corps veteran Robert E. Simanek, who was awarded the Medal of Honor after he threw himself on an enemy grenade shielding his fellow Marines during the Korean War.

In 2019, the Navy made the decision to commission all Expeditionary Sea Base ships to allow them to conduct a broader and more lethal mission set, compared to original plans for them to operate with a USNS designation.

The ESB were initially envisioned as support ships, bearing the USNS designation and having a mixed civilian and US Navy crew. The navy changed its mind with the commissioning of USS Lewis B. Puller (formerly USNS Lewis B. Puller) in order to be able to conduct military operations directly from the ship in line with international laws of armed conflict.

GD-NASSCO has delivered three other ESBs and is currently constructing the future USS John L. Canley (ESB 6).