The US Navy named a new warship after Gabrielle Giffords on Friday, honoring the former Arizona lawmaker who survived a gunman's bullet to the head a year ago.

The USS Gabrielle Giffords represented a fitting tribute to a congresswoman who embodies the navy's "unwavering courage," Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said at a ceremony at the Pentagon.

"So it's very appropriate that LCS 10 be named for someone who has become synonymous with courage, who has inspired the nation with remarkable resiliency and showed the possibilities of the human spirit," said Mabus, as Giffords and her husband looked on.

Mabus also said the ship's sponsor would be Roxanna Green, the mother of a nine-year-old girl -- Christina Taylor-Green -- who was killed in the same shooting spree that left Giffords seriously wounded.

Under naval tradition, a sponsor's "spirit and presence guide the ship throughout its service life," the Pentagon said in a statement.

Giffords was shot in the head a year ago while she met with constituents outside a grocery store in Tuscon.

Last month she resigned her seat in Congress to focus on her rehabilitation, having made stunning progress after fighting for her life in the hours after the attack on January 8, 2011.

The Arizona Democrat, who walks with difficulty and speaks haltingly, has vowed to return to public service when she is fully recovered.

The newly-named ship has yet to be built and the last two littoral combat ships -- new, speedy vessels designed to operate near coastlines - were named after American cities, Montgomery and Little Rock.

The Navy secretary has irked some on the right for his ship-naming choices, especially his decision to call a dry cargo and ammunition ship after Cesar Chavez, the Latino labor activist.

AFP Photo/Jonathan Gibby