NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The Navy commissioned its most advanced guided-missile destroyer to date, USS Nitze (DDG 94), in a ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., March 5.
Cmdr. Michael Hegarty took command of Nitze in a ceremony that included remarks from former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman, Undersecretary of the Navy Dionel Aviles, Rear Adm. Charles Hamilton II, program executive officer - ships, and Rear Adm. Michael Nowakowski, commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet. U.S. Reps. Bobby Scott, 3rd District of Virginia, and Randy Forbes, 4th District, were among the honored guests.
Lehman congratulated Nitze's inaugural crew, saying they are privileged to serve on a ship that will project U.S. power during wartime.
"Our enemies seek weapons of mass destruction to kill as many Americans as possible," he said. "In 90 percent of cases, we will have to act from the sea. This ship will play a major part in that."
Calling Nitze the most technologically advanced warship ever put to sea, Hamilton praised Sailors for their hard work preparing Nitze for commission.
"Never before has such a Navy crew taken on the spirit of its namesake," said Hamilton.
Named for former Secretary of the Navy and presidential adviser Paul H. Nitze, the ship is the newest of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, boasting the AEGIS weapons system and a MK 41 Vertical Launch System that fires a combination of up to 96 surface-to-air and Tomahawk missiles, as well as vertically launched ASROC torpedoes. In addition, Nitze is outfitted with a remote control minehunting vehicle able to operate without a tether to detect, localize and identify mines in deep and shallow water.
"It is perhaps the first ship built from the keel up with the Sailor in mind," Lehman said. "This ship can go into harm's way and not only survive, but see that all its Sailors survive."
Home to a crew of 300, Nitze is a Flight IIA Aegis destroyer. Significant upgrades include the addition of two helicopter hangars to house the SH-60 Seahawk Light Airborne Multi-Purpose helicopter. The new design also features a zonal electrical distribution system and other shipboard improvements.
Homeported in Norfolk, Va., the 509.5-foot, 9,300-ton vessel is equipped with four gas turbine propulsion plants that power the ship to speeds above 30 knots.
"This warship bears the name of a true American hero," Nowakowski said. "We honor his memory here today. Welcome, Nitze, to the U.S. Atlantic Fleet."
Elisabeth Scott Porter, Nitze's wife and ship's sponsor, said her late husband was quite proud of the vessel. During its construction in Bath, Maine, Nitze often visited the shipyard, signing autographs for workers.
"His strong spirit is with her today," Porter said, urging the ship's crew to man the rails and "bring her to life."
Nitze, who died Oct. 20, advised eight presidents and, for more than 40 years, was one of the chief architects of U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union. As Secretary of the Navy from 1963 to 1967, Nitze is credited with lengthening commanding officer tours and greatly improving quality of life for Sailors and Marines. He is also the primary founder of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
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