Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) shipyard has laid the keel of the US Navy’s future Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, USS Delbert D Black (DDG 119), marking the start of construction on the vessel.

The vessel’s keel was authenticated by Ima Black, wife of late Delbert D Black, the first master chief petty officer of the navy (MCPON) after whom the vessel was christened.

USS Delbert D Black (DDG 119) is the second of the five DDG51 destroyers, which are being built by HII after securing a $602m contract modification from the US Navy in March 2014.

"Just under a year ago, Ms Black was here with us as we began fabrication on the ship."

Program Executive Office Ships DDG 51 class programme manager captain Mark Vandroff said: "Just under a year ago, Ms Black was here with us as we began fabrication on the ship.

"We have had steady production and we’re honoured to have her here with us today as this ship starts to come to life."

As a Flight IIA configured destroyer, USS Delbert D Black will be able to engage in a range of operations such as power projection, forward presence, and escort operations at sea in support of low intensity conflict / coastal and littoral offshore warfare, as well as open ocean conflict.

The destroyer will be fitted with the navy’s integrated naval weapon Aegis combat system and will feature the cooperative engagement capability (CEC).

This capability when combined with the Aegis Combat System, will allow groups of ships and aircraft to connect radars to offer a comprehensive picture of the battle space.

USS John Finn (DDG 113), USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114), and USS Paul Ignatius (DDG 117), are currently under construction at HII’s Pascagoula shipyard.

Image: Ima Black during the keel authentication of future USS Delbert D Black. Photo: courtesy of US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Martin L Carey/Released.