The keel laying for the future USS Constellation was held April 12 at Fincantieri Marinette Marine, the first in a $795 million contract for the lead ship and nine additional vessels.

Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti participated in the ceremony at the Marinette, Wisc., shipyard along with Wisconsin Gov. 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 Galbiati.

FMM shipbuilders and guests gathered inside the shipyard’s massive new climate-controlled Building 34, part of Fincantieri’s recently completed facility, $350 million in improvements and new construction. Since 2009, Fincantieri officials say they have invested more than $500 million into creating one of America’s most modern shipyards.

The keel-laying ceremony highlights the authentication of the keel, a process of tracing by welding the initials of a significant individual onto a small steel plate affixed to the ship’s keel. For the future 496’x64.6’USS Constellation, Melissa Braithwaite, the wife of former Navy secretary Kenneth Braithwaite, was named the ship’s sponsor.

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 responsibility.

“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,” said Secretary Del Toro. “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.”

“This is truly a great Navy day,” said Admiral 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.”

In April 2020, Fincantieri Marinette Marine received a contract for $795 million 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. 

Small Featured Spot