The U.S. Navy will christen Aegis Guided Missile Destroyer Oscar Austin (DDG 79) Saturday, Nov. 7, during a 2 p.m. (EST) ceremony at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine.
Adm. J. Paul Reason, Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, will deliver the ceremony's principal address and his wife, Dianne Reason, will serve as ship's sponsor. Mildred Austin, mother of the ship's namesake, will serve as matron of honor. In the time-honored Navy tradition, Mrs. Reason will break a bottle of champagne across the bow to formally name the ship.
The ship is named in honor of Pfc. Oscar P. Austin who demonstrated extraordinary heroism and courage while serving as assistant machine gunner with Company E, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division near Da Nang, Vietnam on Feb. 23, 1969. During an attack by a large North Vietnamese force, Austin left the safety of his concealed position, crossing fire-swept terrain, to assist an unconscious, wounded Marine. Upon reaching him, Austin shielded his fellow Marine from the detonation of a nearby grenade. Austin was mortally wounded when he unhesitatingly threw himself into the line of fire from a North Vietnamese soldier attempting to shoot his stricken comrade. Austin was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his indomitable courage and selfless devotion to duty.
Oscar Austin is the 29th of 51 Arleigh Burke class destroyers currently authorized by Congress. These high-tech Aegis destroyers are equipped to conduct a variety of missions in support of national military strategy - from peacetime presence and crisis management to sea control and power projection. Oscar Austin will operate with battle groups in high-threat environments and will provide essential escort to Navy and Marine Corps amphibious forces, combat logistics ships and convoys.
These multi-mission ships are equipped with the Navy's Aegis combat weapons system, which combines space-age communication, radar and weapons technologies in a single platform for unlimited flexibility, while operating "Forward...From the Sea."
Oscar Austin will carry Tomahawk Cruise missiles, as well as Standard missiles to intercept hostile aircraft and missiles at extended ranges. Both Tomahawk and Standard missiles will be launched from forward and aft Vertical Launching Systems (VLS). Oscar Austin will also be equipped with the Phalanx Close-In-Weapons System (CIWS) and Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles which have a range in excess of 65 nautical miles and are fired from stand-alone launchers.
Oscar Austin's 5"/54 caliber gun can be used as an anti-ship weapon, close-in point defense or in support of forces ashore with naval surface fire support. Its undersea warfare suite will be the most advanced system in the world. The Tactical Towed-Array Sonar will provide long range passive detection of enemy submarines. The hull-mounted sonar can detect and track submarines actively and passively. This is the first Arleigh Burke class ship to incorporate dual helicopter hangars, enabling embarkation of a SH-60B LAMPS MK III helicopter, adding to the capabilities in several mission areas, including undersea warfare and over-the-horizon surface engagements.
Cmdr. Paul C. Smith, is the prospective commanding officer of Oscar Austin. Upon commissioning in the year 2000, Oscar Austin with a crew of 21 officers and 322 enlisted personnel will be homeported in Norfolk, Va., as part of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. The ship is 471 feet in length, has a waterline beam of 59 feet and displaces approximately 9,217 tons when fully loaded. Four gas turbine engines power the ship to speeds in excess of 30 knots.