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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 514-00
August 18, 2000

NAVY TO COMMISSION NEW DESTROYER

The Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer, Oscar Austin (DDG 79), will join the U.S. Atlantic Fleet during an 8:00 p.m. EDT commissioning ceremony on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2000 at Pier 11, Naval Station Norfolk, Va.

The ship is named in honor of Pfc. Oscar P. Austin, a native of Nacogdoches, Texas, 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.

John White, former deputy secretary of Defense, now with the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., will deliver the ceremony's principal address. Dianne Reason, wife of retired Navy Adm. J. Paul Reason, will serve as ship's sponsor. In the time-honored Navy tradition, Mrs. Reason will give the order to "bring our ship to life."

Oscar Austin is the 29th of 58 Arleigh Burke class destroyers currently authorized by Congress. Using the Navy's most modern sea-going weapons systems, DDG 51 destroyers are the most capable surface warships ever built. Truly multi-mission combatants, these ships can conduct a variety of operations from peacetime presence and crisis management to sea control and power project, in support of National Military Strategy.

Equipped with the latest weapons, electronics, helicopter support facilities, and propulsion, auxiliary and survivability systems, DDG 51 destroyers will carry out the Navy mission well into the next century. State-of-the-art command, control, communications, computers and intelligence systems provide their ships' crews with complete situational awareness.

Oscar Austin is equipped with the Navy's Aegis combat weapons system, the world's foremost naval weapon system. Space-age communications, radar and weapons technologies are combined in a single platform for unlimited mission flexibility. The systems include the AN/SPY-1D (V) phased array radar; the MK 41 Vertical Launching System, which fires a combination of Standard surface-to-air, and Tomahawk surface-to-surface missiles, and the AN/SQQ-89 (V)10 anti-submarine warfare system.

In addition, the ship has MK 32 Mod 7 torpedo tubes, as well as MK 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapons systems and a multi-mission 5"/54 caliber deck mounted gun which can be used as an anti-ship weapon, close-in point defense or in support of forces ashore the naval fires.

This is the first Arleigh Burke class ship with Flight IIA, which features an aircraft handling and support facilities that will incorporate dual helicopter hangars to port and starboard. These facilities will enable embarkation of SH-60B LAMPS MK III helicopters, adding to the capabilities in several mission areas, including undersea warfare and over-the-horizon surface engagements.

Following commissioning, Oscar Austin will be homeported in Norfolk, Va., with Navy Cmdr. Paul C. Smith, of Massachusetts, as the commanding officer, and a crew of 21 officers and 322 enlisted personnel. Built by Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, the ship is 471 feet in length, and has a waterline beam of 59 feet. Four gas-turbine engines power the fully loaded 9,217 ton ship to speeds in excess of 30 knots.

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