US Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has announced that the navy's new John Lewis-class fleet replenishment oiler, T-AO 208, will be named Robert F. Kennedy.

The ship is being named in honour of US civil and human rights hero and US Navy veteran Robert Kennedy, who also served as the US attorney general from 1961 to 1964 and as a US senator from New York from 1965 to 1968.

Mabus said: "This class of ships would be incomplete absent the name Robert F. Kennedy.

"Construction of the replenishment oiler is slated to commence in 2021."

"He was a Navy man, a US attorney general, a senator, and a leader who committed, and ultimately sacrificed, his life to pursuing justice, equality and freedom."

While serving as an attorney general, Kennedy crusaded against organised crime and stood for civil rights for African Americans. He had also supported the poor and racial minorities while serving as a senator.

The class' first replenishment oiler (T-AO 205) was named the USNS John Lewis.

The Military Sealift Command will operate the future USNS Robert F. Kennedy, which will be deployed to replenish fuel and stores for US Navy ships at sea, and jet fuel for aircraft assigned to carriers.

Construction of the replenishment oiler is slated to commence in 2021 at General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Corporation (NASSCO) in San Diego.