New high-tech destroyer en route to Pearl Harbor
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer
The Navy's 40th and newest Arleigh Burke-class destroyer is expected to arrive Dec. 19 at Pearl Harbor, bringing added firepower, 385 crew members and more than $15 million in salaries to Hawai'i.
The $1 billion USS Chafee, capable of firing Tomahawk cruise missiles, is in San Diego after sailing from Norfolk, Va., where it got a last-minute propeller-system fix.
Commissioned on Oct. 18 in Rhode Island, the Chafee is one of the Navy's most advanced and powerful ships, fast on the water and able to fight air, surface and subsurface battles simultaneously.
The 511-foot destroyer will join four others at Pearl Harbor: the Hopper, O'Kane, Paul Hamilton and Russell.
A sixth Arleigh Burke destroyer to be homeported at Pearl Harbor, the Chung-Hoon, is expected to be commissioned in Hawai'i next September.
Jim Tollefson, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawai'i, said the basing reinforces the Navy's role here. The Navy also is looking at moving an aircraft carrier strike group to Hawai'i.
"We're very important as a forward base of operations in the Pacific," Tollefson said. "And even more importantly, (the destroyer basing) is a way of maintaining peace and stability in the region by being a deterrent against aggression."
The ship was named after the late John Chafee of Rhode Island, who was a U.S. senator, Navy secretary, Rhode Island governor and Marine.
Gunners Mate 1st Class Scott Minary, 31, a Chafee crew member, has been in Hawai'i since September helping ship families as they arrive and taking care of other logistics.
Minary said the Chafee is the second destroyer he has served on at commissioning. The first was the USS Laboon.
"In the seven years since I did that, the technology has advanced in leaps and bounds," Minary said. "It's almost a completely different ship from then to now."
Among the changes: the addition of a hangar large enough to accommodate two helicopters. The first 28 Arleigh Burke destroyers had a helicopter deck but no embarked helicopters, the Navy said.
The Honolulu Council of the Navy League is organizing a reception Dec. 19 that will include canoes, a conch blower and hula dancers on the pier.
The O'Kane, commissioned in 1999, was the newest of approximately 12 surface ships based at Pearl Harbor, a number down from 21 ships in 1988, but representative of the overall reduction from President Reagan's "600-ship Navy" to about half that number in the fleet today.
The second new destroyer, the Chung-Hoon, is named after Rear Adm. Gordon Paiea Chung-Hoon, who was born in Honolulu in 1910 and died in 1979.
Chung-Hoon received the Navy Cross and Silver Star for his leadership and courage following a kamikaze attack on his ship, the USS Sigsbee, in 1945. Twenty-three crew members died in the World War II attack.
Reach William Cole at email@example.com or 525-5459.