The US Navy will name its newest towing, salvage, and rescue ship (T-ATS) Cherokee Nation in recognition of the service by tribal people.

The future USNS Cherokee Nation is the fifth US ship to be named in honour of the Cherokee people.

US Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said: “It is my privilege to announce that the many Cherokee Nation citizens who’ve served throughout the years will be remembered with the highest honour a secretary of the navy can bestow, the naming of a ship.

“The future USNS Cherokee Nation will expand our capabilities and form a critical backbone for the strength and readiness of our entire fleet.”

Cherokee Nation is the second ship in the new class of T-ATS. It is expected to replace the existing T-ATF 166 and T-ARS 50 class ships in service with the US Military Sealift Command.

The future USNS Cherokee Nation will be T-ATS 7. The design of the T-ATS 7 will be based on existing commercial towing offshore vessels.

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Vessels in the new class will be used for open ocean towing and in support of salvage operations and submarine rescue missions.

Cherokee Nation principal chief Bill John Baker said: “The Cherokee Nation is extremely honoured that the US Navy is recognising our tribal nation and the generations of Cherokee men and women who have bravely and humbly sacrificed for our freedom today.

“Our Cherokee people have contributed in every major battle and war ever fought in this country and continue to serve in the Armed Forces in some of the highest rates per ethnicity. Cherokees are a strong, resilient people and we are privileged to have a US ship at sea that reflects both our country and tribe’s history and values.”

Last year, the US Navy awarded a $64.8m contract option to Gulf Island Shipyards for the detail design and construction of the new towing, salvage and rescue ship.

Gulf Island Shipyards will build the vessel at its shipyard in Houma, Louisiana, with completion scheduled for July 2021.

The contract includes options for construction of six more vessels.

Each of these additional ships is planned to be named after prominent Native Americans or Native American tribes, the service added.

The company received a contract to build two additional towing, salvage and rescue ships after the navy exercised its second and third options in May.