The U.S. Navy commissioned its newest Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, USS Ralph Johnson (DDG-114), during a 10:00 a.m. EDT ceremony on March 24, at Columbus Street Pier in Charleston, South Carolina.
USS Ralph Johnson is the first warship named for Medal of Honor recipient Marine Pfc. Ralph Henry Johnson.
Gen. Robert Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, delivered the ceremony’s principal address. Mrs. Georgeann McRaven, wife of retired Adm. Bill McRaven, served as the ship’s sponsor. In a time-honored Navy tradition, she gave the order to “man our ship and bring her to life!”
“The future USS Ralph Johnson will become one of the most capable weapons in our nation’s arsenal,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “It will serve for decades to come as a fitting tribute to the heroic actions of Pfc. Ralph Johnson who, in the face of certain death, sacrificed his own life to save the life of a fellow Marine.”
DDG 114’s namesake, Pfc. Ralph H. Johnson, received the Medal of Honor for his actions during Operation Rock in the Vietnam War, 1968. Johnson jumped on top of a tossed grenade to spare his fellow Marines from the blast. The heroic action took Johnson’s life but saved the lives of his brothers in arms and undoubtedly prevented the enemy from penetrating his sector of the perimeter. The Charleston native had only been in Vietnam for a little more than two months when he was killed at the age of 19.
In early fall of 2014, the keel of Ralph Johnson was laid down. The ship was launched on Dec. 12, 2015 and christened on April 2, 2016 during ceremonies at the Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
USS Ralph Johnson, commanded by Cmdr. Jason Patterson, a Chicago native, is the 64th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, and the 30th DDG 51 class destroyer built by the Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) shipyard.
DDG 114 is the third of the DDG 51 Flight IIA restart ships to deliver. The ship is equipped with Aegis Baseline 9 combat system, which includes an Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) capability incorporating Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) 5.0 and Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air.
Aegis Baseline 9 IAMD destroyers have increased computing power, along with radar upgrades which improve detection and reaction capabilities against modern anti-air warfare and BMD threats.
Arleigh Burke (DDG 51 class) class destroyers are highly-capable, multi-mission ships that conduct a variety of operations, from peacetime presence to national security. These DDG’s provide a wide range of warfighting capabilities in multi-threat air, surface, and subsurface environments.
The Aegis Combat System will enable the ship to link radars with other ships and aircraft to provide a composite picture of the battle space, and effectively increase the theater space. New ships in this class, such as Ralph Johnson, have anti-ballistic missile capabilities as well. The DDG’s all-steel construction provides a survivable platform.
After the commissioning in Charleston, she made her way to homeport in Everett, Washington.