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The USS Arleigh Burke transits the Bosporus near Istanbul, Turkey, Nov. 25, 2021. One week after delivering its 33rd destroyer to the U.S. Navy, Ingalls Shipbuilding announced the start of fabrication on another.
The USS Arleigh Burke transits the Bosporus near Istanbul, Turkey, Nov. 25, 2021. One week after delivering its 33rd destroyer to the U.S. Navy, Ingalls Shipbuilding announced the start of fabrication on another. (Yoruk Isik/Twitter)

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (Tribune News Service) — One week after delivering its 33rd destroyer to the U.S. Navy, Ingalls Shipbuilding announced the start of fabrication on another.

The Pascagoula shipyard announced this week fabrication had begun on the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer George M. Neal (DDG 131), just days after Ingalls had signed the paperwork transferring custody of the Frank E. Petersen Jr. (DDG 121) to the Navy.

“Start of fabrication is our first opportunity to formally celebrate and reflect on our contributions as shipbuilders,” said Ingalls president Kari Wilkinson. “We are very proud of what we do here for the country and endeavor to do our part in building and activating what will be the newest Flight III destroyer.”

DDG 131 is named in honor of Navy Aviation Machinist’s Mate, Petty Officer 3rd Class George M. Neal, who was awarded the Navy Cross for his heroic actions while attempting to rescue a fellow service member during the Korean War.

Neal volunteered to fly in a helicopter deep into North Korean mountains to attempt the rescue of U.S. Marine Capt. James Wilkins, who was trapped by North Korean forces after his Corsair had crashed after taking anti-aircraft fire. During the rescue attempt, under heavy enemy fire, Neal’s helicopter was disabled and crashed.

Neal assisted both his pilot, Lt. John Koelsch, and Wilkins in evading enemy forces for nine days before being captured and held as a prisoner of war. Neal was eventually released and returned to the U.S. with more than 320 fellow POWs in 1952.

Neal died in 2016 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Ingalls has delivered 33 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers to the Navy. In addition to George M. Neal, other destroyers currently under construction include Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG 123), Jack H. Lucas (DDG 125), Ted Stevens (DDG 128) and Jeremiah Denton (DDG 129).

In addition, the fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act agreed upon by leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees includes nearly $1.7 billion for another Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, as well as $100 million for support for amphibious assault ship LHA-9, to be built at Ingalls. The additional $100 million would bring the total value of the contracts for LHA-9 to $557 million.

©2021 Advance Local Media LLC.

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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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