FFG(X) Frigate Series to be Named After USS Constellation

USS Constellation, left, engages French frigate L'Insurgente, 1799 (Rear Admiral John William Schmidt / Naval History and Heritage Command)

Published Oct 9, 2020 8:38 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Wednesday, Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J. Braithwaite announced that the new Fincantieri-built "future frigate" series will be named the Constellation-class, honoring one of the first vessels built for the American fleet. 

USS Constellation (FFG 62) will carry the name of one of the first U.S. Navy ships authorized by Congress. The first Constellation was one of six heavy frigates ordered in 1794, alongside the United States, Constitution, Chesapeake, Congress, and President. These ships set the pace for the newly-formed Continental Navy as it entered the 19th century. 

“As the first in her class, [FFG(X)] will now be known as the Constellation-class frigates, linking them directly to the original six frigates of our Navy, carrying on the traditions of our great service,” said Braithwaite. “While providing an unmatched capability and survivability for the 21st century, Constellation-class frigates will honor our Navy’s historic beginnings . . . in today’s era of great power competition.”

The name has a long history in the service: it was submitted to President Washington in 1795 to represent the ‘new constellation of stars’ on the U.S. flag. The first USS Constellation was a 38-gun frigate with a crew of 340 personnel, built in Baltimore in 1797 and in service for the next 56 years.

The second Constellation was a sloop-of-war launched in 1854, the year after the first Constellation's decommissioning. She was the last sail-only warship designed and built by the U.S. Navy, and her final commission ended in 1955, 101 years after her construction. She still exists today as a museum ship in Baltimore, and Braithwaite delivered Wednesday's announcement on her weatherdeck.

The keel for a third warship named Constellation was laid down during WWI, but she was never completed due to the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, which limited defense shipbuilding.

The fourth and best-known USS Constellation was the Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carrier CV-64, which was commissioned in 1961. She served in the Vietnam War, the first Persian Gulf War, and Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom before decommissioning in 2003.

The FFG(X) design displaces the two Littoral Combat Ship series in future production. It incorporates a high-end air defense radar, Mark 41 VLS tubes for the SM missile series and Baseline 10 (BL 10) Aegis Combat System capability. The class will be built at Fincantieri's Marinette Marine division in Marinette, Wisconsin, with the first ship scheduled for delivery in 2026.