The Navy’s new ships pay tribute to its first frigates

Miguel Ortiz
Jul 17, 2023 6:43 PM PDT
2 minute read
USS Lafayette frigate


In tribute to the Navy’s first frigates, the new ship class and its lead ship were named Constellation.

The Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, first commissioned in 1977, were fully decommissioned in 2015. Five years later, the Navy awarded a new guided-missile frigate contract to Fincantieri Marinette Marine. In tribute to the Navy's first frigates, the new ship class and its lead ship were named Constellation.

A painting of the original USS Constellation (Rear Admiral John W. Schmidt, USN, Retired/U.S. Navy)

Formed in 1775, the Continental Navy that fought in the American Revolution was disbanded in 1785. With the war for independence over and the new nation heavily in debt, the navy was disbanded and its remaining ships sold. However, overseas piracy against American merchant ships emphasized the importance of a United States Navy.

The Naval Act of 1794 authorized the construction of six frigates which would be the first of the new U.S. Navy. At a cost of $688,888.82, over $19 million in 2023, the construction of the six ships was a big step for the country. The frigates were named Constellation, Congress, Chesapeake, Constitution, President and United States. USS Constitution, the only survivor of the original six frigates, remains a commissioned ship in the U.S. Navy and the oldest ship in the world still afloat.

The USS Constitution still sails Boston Harbor for special events (U.S. Navy)

On October 7, 2020, Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J. Braithwaite announced Constellation as the name of the new frigate class and its lead ship. The name for the original frigate was presented to George Washington in 1795 to represent the stars on the flag of the United States. Built in 1797, the Constellation remained in service until 1853. The new USS Constellation (FFG-62) will be followed by USS Congress (FFG-63) and USS Chesapeake (FFG-64), also named after the Navy's original six frigates.

A graphic rendering of the USS Lafayette (FFG-65) (U.S. Navy)

On June 29, 2023, during a trip to Paris, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro announced that FFG-65 would be named USS Lafayette. Marquis de Lafayette, a French officer who volunteered to serve in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, was critical to America's independence. In 2002, Congress even posthumously awarded him honorary U.S. citizenship.

Replacing the controversial Freedom and Independence-class littoral combat ships, the Constellation-class is based on the European multi-purpose frigate. Known in Europe as the FREMM, the frigate is sailed by the French, Italian, Egyptian and Moroccan navies. Fast, modular and reliable, the FREMM fit the U.S. Navy's requirements for its new frigate.

An artist rendering of the Constellation-class frigate (U.S. Navy)

Prior to the awarding of the contract, the Navy listed the following capability requirements: Destroy surface ships over the horizon; Detect enemy submarines; Defend convoy ships; Employ active and passive electronic warfare systems; Defend against swarming small boat attacks. So far, Constellation is the only ship under construction. Construction began on August 31, 2022, in Marinette, Wisconsin. The ship is expected to enter service in 2026.


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