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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, November 7, 2002

New ship readied for Pearl Harbor

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

A new Arleigh Burke guided-missile destroyer, which will be christened on Monday, is expected to add to the Pacific Fleet's firepower next year.

The USS Chafee, shown here under construction in Maine this year, will be christened Monday. The guided-missile destroyer still has about a year of preparation to go, then will join the Pearl Harbor force.

U.S. Navy

The Chafee, named in honor of former Rhode Island Sen. John H. Chafee — who also served as Navy secretary, Rhode Island governor, and a Marine — will have a traditional bottle of champagne broken across its bow at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, on Monday. Chafee died in 1999.

The Navy yesterday said the Chafee, which will be homeported at Pearl Harbor, will be commissioned in October of 2003 in Newport, R.I., following final construction, the "move-aboard" of its crew of 30 officers and 355 enlisted sailors, and sea trials.

It will arrive at Pearl Harbor sometime after that. The new crew will bring about $14.7 million in salaries and an estimated 115 new families.

Early next year, crews will bring the ship's power on line. The 511-foot destroyer, which cost about $1 billion, is considered by the Navy to be its most capable and survivable surface ship, and is intended to protect other ships in a fleet or battle group.

Arleigh-Burke-class destroyers have the AEGIS air defense system and advanced SPY-1D radar, and are armed with a 90-cell vertical launch system capable of rapidly firing Tomahawk, Harpoon anti-ship, and anti-submarine missiles.

The ships can fight air, surface and subsurface battles simultaneously. The destroyers were the first Navy ships to use shaping techniques to reduce radar signature.

"Chafee will bring tremendous capability to the Pacific Fleet," said spokesman Ensign Mike Morley. "Pearl Harbor is a port of strategic importance, and to have the most capable Arleigh Burke ship such as the Chafee here gives naval commanders great flexibility."

Four Arleigh Burke destroyers, which have gas turbine engines that power the ships to speeds of more than 30 knots — continuing their nickname as the "greyhounds of the sea" — are based at Pearl Harbor: the Hopper, O'Kane, Paul Hamilton, and Russell.

The Paul Hamilton is part of the USS Abraham Lincoln battle group in the Arabian Sea along with the Pearl-Harbor-based destroyer USS Fletcher, a 22-year-old Spruance-class vessel scheduled to be decommissioned in 2004.

The O'Kane, commissioned in October 1999, is the newest of approximately 12 surface ships and 18 attack submarines based at Pearl Harbor.

Virginia Sen. John Warner will deliver the address at Monday's ceremony for the Chafee, the 40th destroyer of the Arleigh Burke class. Co-sponsors for the christening are Virginia Chafee, wife of the ship's namesake, and Diane Blair, wife of retired Adm. Dennis Blair, the former commander in chief of the Pacific Command at Camp Smith.