Though the United States Navy has been supplanted by China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) as the largest naval force in the world, the U.S. still maintains some of the most powerful warships in the world today. Moreover, the age of the massive battleships is essentially over – and it is smaller, faster, and more capable vessels that can take command of the waves.

This was noted earlier this month as the USS Ted Stevens (DDG-128) was launched and then christened four days later. She is the third Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyer to be built for the U.S. Navy – and the 36th of the 72 in the class built by Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII). The keel of the warship was laid in a ceremony at Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula, MS, in March 2022.

DDG-128’s sister vessel, USS Jack H. Lucas (DDG 125) was delivered to the United States Navy in June, while Ingalls is currently constructing three additional Flight III warships – the future Jeremiah Denton (DDG 129), George M. Neal (DDG 131) and Sam Nunn (DDG 133).

Lead With Courage

The destroyer, whose motto if “Lead with Courage,” is named in honor of the late United States Senator Ted Stevens, who served as a pilot during the Second World War before becoming the longest serving Republican senator in U.S. history – representing the state of Alaska – until he retired in 2009.

“From Alaska to Mississippi we are connected as a community of shipbuilders, sailors and servants by both the passion of our shipbuilders, who have brought us to this point in construction, and also by the late Sen. Ted Stevens and his passion for service,” Ingalls Shipbuilding President Kari Wilkinson said in a statement on Saturday. “We are grateful to everyone that is part of our community and this mission and especially to the U.S. Navy for entrusting us with doing the work that we do here.”

Senator Stevens wasn’t a “Navy Man,” but as a World War II veteran he served with distinction in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a pilot in the China Burma India Theater and was awarded two Air Medals for his service.

“To the captain and her crew, lead with courage (the motto of the ship), the courage to be determined, the courage to be diligent and to be focused on mission,” said Sean O’Keefe, the 69th secretary of the United States Navy and a former staff member of Sen. Ted Stevens during the commissioning ceremony.

“I am supremely confident that the spirit of Ted Stevens will be standing watch with you during the performance of your duties around the globe,” O’Keefe added. “This ship has the great good fortune to have three extraordinary co-sponsors who are sure to pass on their admirable qualities and the culture of this amazing instrument of national power.”

The destroyer was co-sponsored by the late senator’s wife, Catherine Ann Stevens, along with his daughters Susan Stevens Covich and Lily Irene Becker. Together, the three sponsors officially christened the ship on Saturday.

“My family and I pay tribute to the captain and crew,” Becker said. “We know you will be prepared with the best systems and will carry the spirit of Alaska and the determination of Ted Stevens with you. Captain Hays, we know you and your crew will lead with courage.”

The Improved Arleigh Burke-class Destroyers

The Flight III destroyers incorporate a number of design modifications that collectively provide significantly enhanced capability. The warships are built around the new AN/SPY-6 Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR), and are set to be the replacement for the U.S. Navy’s Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser, and thus serve as the primary air defense platform of the carrier strike group. In addition, the Flight III are equipped with the Aegis Baseline 10 Combat System.

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyers were developed to serve as highly capable, multi-mission ships able to conduct a variety of operations, from peacetime presence and crisis management to sea control and power projection. These guided missile destroyers are the backbone of the U.S. surface fleet and are capable of fighting multiple air, surface and subsurface threats simultaneously.

Earlier this month, Ingalls Shipbuilding announced that it will build six of the nine Arleigh Burke-class destroyers from Fiscal Year 2023 to 2027 for the contract while BIW will build the other three, according to the announcement. The contracts include an unspecified number of additional contract options.

“These ships were procured using a limited competition between the current DDG 51 class shipbuilders, HII Ingalls and GD BIW, in order to generate the best price for the government and its taxpayers,” Naval Sea Systems Command said via a statement first provided to USNI News. “This acquisition strategy leveraged competition, fixed-price contracting, and workload stability in order to meet the Defense Department’s overarching objectives of achieving increased capability affordably. This is the fifth MYP for the DDG-51 class shipbuilding program.”

According to a U.S. Navy estimate, each Flight III costs about $2 billion, a number that includes the Navy providing about $1 billion of equipment for the ship. The cost to build the hull, electrical and mechanical components is $1 billion. However, the cost for each shipyard to build the hull is considered business-sensitive information, the Navy said.

“The dollar values associated with the multiyear contract are considered source selection sensitive information and will not be made public at this time,” the Naval Sea Systems Command added.

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who covers business technology and cyber security. He currently lives in Michigan and can be reached at You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.