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Navy to christen guided missile destroyer USS Lyndon B. Johnson on Saturday

By Allen Cone
Navy to christen guided missile destroyer USS Lyndon B. Johnson on Saturday
After a multi-day process last December, the future USS Lyndon B. Johnson is made ready before flooding of the dry dock at General Dynamic-Bath Iron Works shipyard in Maine. Photo courtesy General Dynamics-Bath Iron Works/U.S. Navy

April 26 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy plans to christen the USS Lyndon B. Johnson, a Zumalt-class destroyer, on Saturday at General Dynamics-Bath Iron Works shipyard in Bath, Maine.

The Johnson is the third ship in the Zumwalt-class, identified as DDG 1002 with the Zumwalt and Michael Monsoor home ported in San Diego. Although 32 ships were originally planned for that class of ship, the U.S. Navy has decided to only have three built.

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The destroyer is the first ship named for Johnson, who served as president of the United States from 1963 to 1969.

"The future USS Lyndon B. Johnson will serve for decades as a reminder of President Johnson's service to our nation and support of a strong Navy and Marine Corps team," Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer said in a Navy news release. "This ship honors not only President Johnson's service, but also the service of our industry partners who are vital in making the Navy the nation needs."

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Serving as ship sponsors are Lynda Johnson Robb and Luci Johnson, the two daughters of the former president.

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The sisters will christen the ship by breaking a bottle of sparkling wine across the bow in a time-honored Navy tradition.

They also authenticated the keel by welding their initials into the plate in January 2017.

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Last December, the ship was launched, which involves moving the vessel to a dry dock after construction and slowly pumping water into the dock before starting final work on the ship.

The multi-mission Zumwalt-class destroyers can perform a range of deterrence, power projection, sea control, and command and control missions.

The ships have a crew of 175, including a 28-person air detachment. They are 610 feet long, have a beam of 80.7 feet, displace almost 16,000 tons and are capable of reaching 30 knots speed, according to a Navy fact sheet.

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At nearly 15,000 tons, it is the heaviest among destroyers built by the United States.

Billed as the most advanced destroyer ever built, it has stealth capabilities and a gun system that could provide precision fire support deep inland ahead of advancing amphibious forces.

But the ships have encountered production delays and the Zumwalt's gun system has been changed.

Rather than being used as a shore bombardment vessel with a maximum range of more 60 miles, the Navy has designated the Zumwalt class as a surface strike platform with vertical launch missile system to engage land and sea targets with long-range cruise missiles. They include long-range SM-6 missiles with anti-air and anti-ship capabilities.

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Vice Adm. William Merz, during a hearing before the Senate Seapower subcommittee last December, said the 155mm Advanced Gun System has never reached the capabilities desired. If the Navy couldn't find cost-effective ammunition, the gun might be scrapped entirely and the space on the vessel used for something else.

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