Dave Harper, a BIW planner of 47 years, cut the first piece of steel for the future USS Louis H. Wilson Jr., the shipyard’s latest Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. Photo courtesy of Bath Iron Works

BATH — Bath Iron Works began construction this week on the latest Arleigh Burke-class destroyer for the U.S. Navy.

The future USS Louis H. Wilson Jr. (DDG 126) is named for a U.S. Marine Corps captain who earned the Medal of Honor for action at the Battle of Guam in 1944.

Dave Harper, a BIW planner of 47 years, started the cut on the first steel plate for the vessel.

“As we start DDG 126, we can reflect on the 41 ships of the class built by BIW over the last 30 years, and re-dedicate ourselves that Bath Built is Best Built, at all stages of construction,” Ed Kenyon, director of new construction programs, said during the ceremony.

In 2017 BIW was awarded a contract to design and build two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers for the Navy, one of which is the future USS Louis H. Wilson Jr. The Navy contract award was modified to include full funding for two destroyers, the DDG 126 and DDG 127, and will include funding for Flight III radar design upgrades on the DDG 126. The new, advanced radar is expected to significantly improve the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer’s ability to detect and destroy enemy targets, including ballistic missiles.

The Navy originally had wanted both ships built with the new radar system, which would have required a significant redesign of sections of the DDG 126, but members of Maine’s delegation and BIW officials worried that integrating a complex radar system into the design would have proven more costly, with the Bath shipyard being forced to absorb additional costs.


“These contracts help to stabilize our business and are welcome news,” Dirk Lesko, president of Bath Iron Works, said at the time. “We are grateful to Maine’s congressional delegation and Navy Secretary Spencer for their efforts and leadership.”

While building DDG 126 and DDG 127 will keep the crews at BIW busy for a few years, Sen. Angus King expressed his concern for BIW’s future during a hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Seapower earlier this week.

King emphasized Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are the “workhorse of the Navy” and reminded top Navy officials that steady construction of the ships is vital to ensure that shipyards like BIW can continue to thrive and make vital contributions to America’s national defense.

“What concerns me is if we have a gap in Flight IIIs and large-surface combatant takes longer, you end up with a capacity shortfall that could be in a crisis, could be a disaster,” said King.

Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition James Geurts said he believes Flight III DDGs, such as the future USS Louis H. Wilson Jr., are going to be the backbone of the naval fleet “If we’re going to compete and win at a global scale.”

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