Retired Navy Captain Susan Rabern (left), a sponsor of the USS Louis H. Wilson Jr., strikes welding sparks into her initials on the keel plate. She’s assisted by Bath Iron Works welder Eric Chase. Courtesy of Bath Iron Works

Bath Iron Works this week celebrated the keel laying for its latest warship, the USS Louis H. Wilson Jr.

It’s the shipyard’s first Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, which includes an advanced radar system. The ship’s namesake was a Marine Corps general from Mississippi who fought in World War II and earned a Medal of Honor during the Battle of Guam in 1944. Wilson died in 2005.

Wilson’s daughter, Janet Wilson Taylor, attended the keel-laying ceremony Tuesday and authenticated it by striking welding arcs on a steel plate that will be incorporated into the ship.

“The skill and hard work of our shipbuilding team are making (the USS Louis H. Wilson Jr.) a ship we can be proud to say is Bath built,” said BIW President Chuck Krugh in a statement. “When it sails down the Kennebec River, this ship will be ready to carry out its mission of protecting our nation and our families just as its namesake, Louis H. Wilson Jr., did throughout his distinguished career.”

USS Louis H. Wilson Jr. sponsors Janet Wilson Taylor (right), daughter of the ship’s namesake, and Susan Rabern embrace during a keel-laying ceremony. Courtesy of Bath Iron Works

Navy Capt. Seth Miller, the Arleigh Burke destroyer program manager, added, “We are proud to reach this important milestone in the production of the future USS Louis H. Wilson Jr. This great warship will carry the legacy of General Wilson’s unwavering commitment and service to our country.”

BIW started building the USS Louis H. Wilson Jr. in 2020. It should be ready for sea trials in about two years, according to BIW spokesperson David Hench.


The ship will feature Raytheon’s new SPY-6 radar, which the company says is the most advanced naval radar in the world. Raytheon said the radar can detect ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, aircraft and surface ships simultaneously.

“It’s a vast improvement over what the U.S. Navy currently has on it ships,” said Kim Ernzen, Raytheon’s president of naval power, in a statement on the company’s website. “It’s like going from a pen light to a huge flashlight.”

The USS Louis H. Wilson Jr. will be the Navy’s second Flight III destroyer. The first, the USS Jack H. Lucas, was built at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and launched in 2021. BIW and Ingalls Shipbuilding are the only shipyards that build Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, which carry missiles, torpedoes and have room for two helicopters. The roughly 500-foot ships have a crew of about 400.

The USS Louis H. Wilson Jr. is one of six destroyers under construction at BIW. The shipyard’s production in the last few years has been slowed by the coronavirus pandemic and a union strike, though last month Admiral Mike Gilday, U.S. chief of naval operations, visited and said production has been ramping back up. He said workers are 30%-60% ahead of schedule in some production phases.

BIW’s most recently completed destroyer, the USS Carl M. Levin, will be commissioned June 24 before heading to its home port in Hawaii to patrol the western Pacific Ocean.

Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King have been lobbying for the construction of more destroyers, saying they are the workhorse of the Navy and an important bulwark against China’s growing naval fleet. Collins, vice chairperson of the Appropriations Committee and ranking member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, helped secure funding for three new destroyers in the next fiscal year, but the Navy decided to purchase only two over concerns about production delays. The $858 billion defense bill that President Joe Biden signed in September gives the Navy the option to purchase 15 destroyers over the next five years.

BIW, which employs about 6,500, is working with Ingalls Shipbuilding on the design for the next-generation destroyer, the DDG(X), which would replace the Arleigh Burke destroyers. The new destroyers are expected to have lasers and hypersonic missiles.

Bath Iron Works welder Eric Chase (left) with USS Louis H. Wilson Jr. sponsors Susan Rabern (second from left) and Janet Wilson Taylor (second from right). At right is Dana Richardson, BIW’s welding superintendent. Courtesy of Bath Iron Works

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