Tag Archives: first six frigates

The Unlucky President

In honor of President’s Day, here is a beautiful pen and ink circa 1802 drawing by artist Antoine Roux of the 44-gun “Original Six” frigate, USS President.

NHHC 76-327-a

One of only two American warships named for the office of the United State’s Chief Executive, USS President was ordered on 27 March 1794 during the administration of General Washington. Completed in 1800, the vessel was heavily involved in the Barbary Wars, helped spark the War of 1812 with the “Little Bent” affair, and was captured after tangling with a much stronger four-frigate British squadron– ironically after the end of hostilities– in that conflict. The Brits would rename her HMS President for a time and scrap the vessel in 1817.

The only other USS President was a sloop constructed on Lake Champlain in 1812 and, like the first, was captured by the British.

Probably a good thing the Navy hasn’t suggested the name a third time.

Welcome back, USS Constellation

I am a sucker for naval tradition and, while 20th Century frigates/destroyer escorts were named either for small towns (see Asheville– and Tacoma-classes) or heroes that are often otherwise forgotten (see Evarts-, Buckley-, Cannon-, Edsall-class, et.al), it was announced yesterday that the fleet’s next frigate class will start off with a familiar name– that of one of the First Six frigates of the newly-formed U.S. Navy, USS Constellation.

Action between U.S. Frigate Constellation and French Frigate Insurgente, 9 February 1799. Painting by Rear Admiral John W. Schmidt, USN (Retired), depicting Constellation (at left) taking position ahead of Insurgente. After an hour-and-a-quarter engagement, the badly outmaneuvered and damaged French frigate surrendered. Constellation was commanded by Captain Thomas Truxtun. Courtesy of the artist. Official U.S. Navy photograph, KN-2882.

Serving from 1797 and named in honor of the collection of 15 stars on the young country’s flag, the original 164-foot, 38-gun Constellation, called “The Yankee Racehorse” due to her speed, endured until 1853 when she was “greatly repaired” at Gosport Navy Yard to become the 179-foot 20-gun sloop-of-war that carried the same name and is currently preserved in Baltimore.

The third completed Connie, of more modern vintage, was the massive Kitty Hawk-class supercarrier which was in service from 1961 to 2003 and is remembered for her hard service in Vietnam, the Cold War, the Tanker War, and Iraq as “America‚Äôs Flagship.” Sadly, she was scrapped in 2015.

An aerial port beam view of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Constellation (CV-64) as crew members form the Battle E awards for excellence on the flight deck of the ship. 1 August 1986 National Archives and Records Administration photo, cataloged under the National Archives Identifier (NAID) 6429186 https://catalog.archives.gov/id/6429186

Now, as announced by SECNAV Kenneth J. Braithwaite this week, USS Constellation (FFG 62) will be the lead ship in the new Guided Missile Frigate (FFG(X)) class.

Appropriately, he made the announcement while aboard the museum ship Constellation in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

BALTIMORE (Oct. 7, 2020) Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J. Braithwaite announces USS Constellation (FFG 62) as the name for the first ship in the new Guided Missile Frigate class of ships while aboard the museum ship Constellation in Baltimore Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Md., Oct. 7, 2020. As the first in her class, the future Guided Missile Frigates will be known as the Constellation Class frigates. Braithwaite visited the museum ship Constellation for the announcement to honor the first U.S. Navy ships authorized by Congress in 1794. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Levingston Lewis)

The Navy emphasized that the FFG-X will be fighting ships, rather than the LCSs we currently have:

As the next generation of small surface combatants will contribute to meeting the goal of 355 battle force ships. With the ability to operate independently or as part of a strike group, it will deliver an Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar (EASR), Mk 41 Vertical Launching System, and Baseline 10 (BL 10) Aegis Combat System capabilities. The ships lethality, survivability, and improved capability will provide Fleet Commanders multiple options while supporting the National Defense Strategy across the full range of military operations.

It would be great if the next ships of the class repeat other First Six names (Chesapeake, Congress, and President) not currently in use, and carry forward with other famous ship names moving forward (e.g. why do we not have a Ranger, Hornet, Intrepid, etc?).

Either way, it is better than naming them for politicians and labor leaders.