The Department of the Navy will commission its newest guided missile destroyer Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81) Saturday, March 10, 2001, during a 1 p.m. EST ceremony at Town Point Park, Norfolk, Va. Winston S. Churchill is the fifth American warship to be named in honor of an Englishman and will be the only one in active service named after a foreign dignitary.
The ship is named in honor of Sir Winston Spencer Churchill (1874-1965), best known for his courageous leadership as British prime minister during World War II. He was a formidable political thinker, soldier, pilot, farmer, bricklayer, painter and skilled orator. When he retired from the House of Commons in 1964, Churchill had spent more than six decades in public life, a career that spanned the period from the last great British cavalry charge to the nuclear age.
Churchill won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1953, the same year he became a Knight of the Garter, acquiring the title "Sir Winston." He retired in April 1955, but remained a Member of Parliament for another nine years. The son of an American heiress, Churchill received honorary U.S. citizenship from President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Churchill died at the age of 90 on Jan. 24, 1965.
British Ambassador to the United States, Christopher Meyer, will deliver the ceremony's principal address. Janet Langhart Cohen, wife of former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, is the ship's sponsor and Lady Mary Soames, Churchill's youngest and last surviving child, will serve as honorary sponsor for the United Kingdom. Among the guests attending the ceremony will be The Duke of Marlborough, Sir John George Vanderbilt Henry Spencer-Churchill; Sen. Edward M. Kennedy; Former Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen; Acting Secretary of the Navy Robert B. Pirie; Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vernon E. Clark; and First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff Royal Navy Adm. Sir Nigel Essenhigh.
Winston S. Churchill is the 31st ship of the Arleigh Burke class and the 18th of the class to be built by Bath Iron Works. These highly-capable multi-mission ships can conduct a variety of operations, from peacetime presence and crisis management to sea control and power projection, in support of the National Military Strategy.
The mission of Winston S. Churchill is to conduct sustained combat operations at sea. The ship is capable of fighting air, surface, and subsurface battles simultaneously. It is equipped with the AN/SPY-1D phased array radar, the most powerful air search radar in Navy's inventory. The ship contains myriad offensive and defensive weapons designed to support maritime defense needs well into the 21st century.
The new destroyer boasts of several unique features. It is the only U.S. Navy ship to have a Royal Navy officer assigned to ship's company. The British officer, Lt. Angus Essenhigh RN, will serve as the ship's navigator during his tour of duty. Also the ship has the first installation of the Navy's most advanced gun - Mk 45 Mod 4 - a 5"/62 caliber gun designed to shoot an extended range guided munition with incredible accuracy at targets nearly 60 miles away.
Cmdr. Michael T. Franken, a native of Sioux Center, Iowa, is the commanding officer of Winston S. Churchill, commanding a crew of 24 officers and 326 enlisted personnel. The ship will be homeported in Norfolk, Va., as an element of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. The ship is 513 feet in length, is 148 feet in height, has a draft of 33 feet, a beam of 66 feet and displaces approximately 9,600 tons when fully loaded. Four gas-turbine engines power the ship to speeds in excess of 30 knots.
More information on Arleigh Burke class destroyers is available on the Web at: http://www.chinfo.navy.mil/navpalib/factfile/ships/ship-dd.html or the ship's web site www.churchill.navy.mil/.