Secretary of the Navy John H. Dalton announced Friday, July 4, 1997 that Lady Mary Soames, the daughter of the late Sir Winston Churchill, will be the "Honorary Sponsor for the United Kingdom" of the United States Navy guided missile destroyer named in honor of the British prime minister during World War II.
As honorary sponsor for the United Kingdom, Lady Mary Soames will assist the sponsor of the ship, Mrs. Janet Cohen, wife of the Secretary of Defense, in the performance of her official duties. The sponsor of a Navy ship christens the ship and bestows the chosen name on the ship. The christening ceremony is a historic milestone in the life of a U.S. Navy ship and represents the moment "the ship leaves land to enter her new home, the sea."
President Clinton announced on November 29, 1995 during an appearance before the British Parliament, that the U.S. Navy was naming one of its newest guided missile destroyers in honor or the war-time British prime minister.
Construction of the state-of-the-art warship, hull number DDG 81, is already underway. The christening of Winston Churchill, which is being built by Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, is scheduled for March 1999. Winston Churchill will join the U.S. fleet in the year 2000.
Winston Churchill is the 31st of 32 Arleigh Burke Class ships authorized by Congress. These multi-mission guided missile destroyers are equipped with the Navy's AEGIS combat weapons system, which combines space-aged communications, radar and weapons technologies in a single platform. The unlimited flexibility provided by this powerful sensor-weapon combination makes this the perfect Navy ship to operate "ForwardFrom the Sea."
These new destroyers are replacing older, less capable ships that are being taken out of service. The Navy is building ships with increased capabilities as part of an overall plan to modernize the fleets. These versatile Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyers are designed to operate independently as a multi-threat offensive platform or in support of aircraft carrier and amphibious operations.
Ships of the Arleigh Burke class are 505 feet long, have a beam of 65 feet and can sustain speeds in excess of 30 knots. These ships displace 8,850 tons and have a crew of approximately 300.