Haze Gray Photo Feature
Launching Oscar Austin (DDG 79)
The First Flight IIA AEGIS Destroyer
The most significant change associated with Flight IIA is the addition of dual helicopter hangars aft, on either side of the after VLS. Other upgrades to the ships' aviation capabilities include addition of Recovery Assistance, Securing and Traversing (RAST) helicopter hauldown systems on the flight deck, relocation of the helicopter control station, and additional berthing for a full aviation detachment. To accommodate these changes there have been numerous other alterations, including raising the aft VLS and aft SPY-1D radar faces by one deck level, relocation of the Mk32 12.75 inch torpedo tubes, deletion of Harpoon missiles and the SQR-19 towed array, and extensive internal rearrangements around the helicopter hangars.
While Oscar Austin is the first ship of a new era, she is also one of the last ships of an old era - the era of ways-launched ships at BIW. In the last 114 years over 400 ships have been launched from BIW's inclined shipways, but after DDG 79 only four more ships will be built and launched on the ways. Hours before DDG 79's launch, a separate ceremony at the other end of BIW's yard marked the start of construction on the Land Level Transfer Facility, a completely new construction and launch facility scheduled to replace conventional shipways at BIW. Starting with DDG 90, scheduled to be laid down late in 2000, BIW ships will be built on a large, flat expanse of concrete, and launched by drydock. This new facility and new construction techniques are expected to result in significant improvements in efficiency and productivity.
Oscar Austin (DDG 79) is named for PFC Oscar Austin, USMC, who was killed near Da Nang, Vietnam, on 23 February 1969. According to the launch program, "PFC Austin's obervation post came under a fierce ground attack by a large North Vietnamese force using a heavy volume of hand grenades, satchel charges and small arms fire. Observing that one of his wounded companions had fallen uncounscious in a position dangerously exposed to hostile fire, Austin unhesitatingly left the relative security of his fighting hole and, with complete disregard for his own safety, raced across the fire-swept terrain to drag the marine to safety. As he neared his companion, he observed an enemy grenade land nearby. Leaping between the grenade and the injured marine, Austin took the full force of the explosion himself. Although he was badly injured, Austin turned to help his fallen companion and saw a North Vietnamese soldier aiming a weapon at the unconscious man. With full knowledge of the probable consequences, Austin threw himself between the injured marine and the hostile soldier. In doing so, he was mortally wounded."
PFC Austin's mother, Mrs. Mildred Austin, was Matron of Honor at the launch ceremony. Her granddaughter, Miss Monique E. Hart, was the Maid of Honor. The Ship's Sponsor was Mrs. Dianne F. Reason, wife of Admiral J. Paul Reason, Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, who was the Principal Speaker.
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