Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (HII) Ingalls Shipbuilding division has laid and authenticated the keel of the first Flight III of the Arleigh Burke-class fleet of ships.

The keel authentication of the future USS Jack H Lucas (DDG 125) was performed during a ceremony at the shipyard in Pascagoula.

The US Navy said it represents a historic milestone for the DDG 51 programme.

HII officially started fabrication of the ship in May last year.

Sponsored by Ruby Lucas and Catherine Reynolds, the future USS Jack H Lucas will have a new advanced missile defence radar (AMDR).

The AMDR in the Flight III destroyers will replace the existing SPY-1 system in the previous destroyers.

Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships DDG 51 class programme manager captain Seth Miller said: “This destroyer was named after an American hero, Medal of Honor recipient Jack Lucas, and I am humbled and honoured to be here today as we authenticate the keel on his namesake ship.

“The Flight III ships will bring increased lethality and warfighting capacity to our warfighters, and today’s milestone is the first of many to come as we work to deliver this highly capable ship to the fleet.”

The Flight III configuration will provide an improved capability to perform anti-air warfare and ballistic missile defence in support of the integrated air and missile defence mission.

It involves modifications to enable the SPY-6 active electronically scanned array air and missile defence 3D radar in association with the newest Aegis upgrade, Baseline 10.

The destroyers are used in support of air, undersea, surface, strike and ballistic missile defence.

They also provide the navy with command and control, anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare capabilities.