Fincantieri and U.S. Navy Lay Keel of First Constellation Frigate

Fincantieri Marine Group

Published Apr 16, 2024 1:08 PM by The Maritime Executive

[By: Fincantieri Marine Group]

Fincantieri Marinette Marine played host to Navy and government officials as they celebrated the keel laying of future USS Constellation (FFG 62) Friday April 12, 2024.
Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti participated in the ceremony at the busy shipyard, along with Wisconsin governor Tony Evers and Fincantieri Marine Group CEO Marco Galbiati.

“It is important to have our Fincantieri team together here with our Navy partners and leadership to mark this significant milestone for the beginning of an important class of ships,” said Marco Galbiati.

Hundreds of FMM shipbuilders gathered with guests inside the shipyard’s massive new climate-controlled Building 34, where large portions of a ship are connected and the vessel is erected.  The building is part of Fincantieri’s recently completed facility $350 million in improvements and new construction.  Since 2009, Fincantieri has invested more than half a billion dollars into creating one of America’s most modern shipyards. 
“This yard is teeming with activity,” said Sec. Del Toro. “Americans…from all walks of life coming together to build warships is a demonstration of our industrial might, showcasing the talents of the skilled workforce that our nation must expand during this critical period in our world's history.”  Del Toro added that “it takes a nation to build a navy, and the collaboration between industry and our Department [of the Navy] that is on display at the shipyard symbolizes the teamwork required to do so.”
The tradition behind the keel laying ceremony is a centuries-old ritual that signifies the beginning of a new ship and an affirmation of its strength. The ceremony highlights the authentication of the keel, a process of tracing by weld the initials of a significant individual onto a small steel plate affixed to the ship’s keel.  For the future USS Constellation, Melissa Braithwaite was named the ship’s sponsor.  She is the wife of former Navy secretary, Kenneth Braithwaite. Fincantieri Marinette Marine welder Jean Wagner completed the authentication process by tracing Mrs. Braithwaite’s initials onto the plate.  Wagner is the first female FMM welder to earn this important responsibility.
“This is truly a great Navy day,” said the top Navy officer, Adm. Lisa Franchetti.  “Today, we are laying the keel for the Navy's next generation small surface combatant, the future workforce of our fleet.  It's an agile multi-mission warship with increased lethality and survivability, capable of the operations of both blue water and littoral combat environments. This ship will be critical to putting more players on the field, players that the Navy needs to promote our nation's prosperity and security, to deter aggression and to provide options to our nation's leaders every single day.”
Historically, keel-laying ceremonies involved the act of physically laying down of the central or main timber forming the backbone of the vessel. The shipbuilders would then engrave their initials onto the keel to show their belief in the strength of the boat they were about to build. Today it serves as the formal recognition of the modular construction process for modern vessels and customarily marks the start of full production of a ship.
Fincantieri Marinette Marine received a contract for $795 million in April 2020 for the lead ship and nine additional vessels. If the Navy exercises all of the options, the contract is valued at more than $5.5 billion.  To date, the Navy has five frigates on order with Fincantieri Marinette Marine, with five additional options remaining on the original contract.  

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