Morale: Ships Named After Living Heroes


October 19,2008:  As part of a two century old tradition, the U.S. Navy has named a new ship after a living person. A new Aegis destroyer, DDG-108, was named after Rear Admiral Wayne E. Meyer. Never heard of him? Most people haven't. But sailors who work with the hundred Aegis equipped warships know about the 82 year old admiral Meyer. He was the one person most responsible for getting Aegis into service. This was difficult because Aegis was new and expensive, but potentially revolutionary. It was a powerful, 3-D radar. It used phased array technology, where the radar consisted of thousands of tiny radar transmitters, that could be electronically aimed in different directions. Aegis can track over a hundred targets, nearly 200 kilometers from the ship. Aegis was more than just a radar system, it was a tightly integrated combat system that gave the captain unprecedented "situational awareness" of what was around the ship (in the air, on the surface, and under water.) The Aegis radar not only tracked targets, but controlled Standard anti-aircraft missiles for long range shots, until the missiles onboard radar could pick up the target and destroy it. The phased array radar was more difficult to jam and, in general, was way ahead of what any other navy has, and it still is. The latest version of Aegis and Standard missiles can shoot down ballistic missiles and low orbit space satellites.

Development on Aegis began four decades ago, and in 1973 the first seagoing Aegis radar (for testing purposes) was at work. Ten years later, the first Aegis equipped warship, the cruiser USS Ticonderoga, entered service (and was decommissioned 31 years later). Admiral Meyers spent 13 years running Aegis development and construction. He entered the navy at age 17, during World War II, and was trained as an electrical engineer. He later obtained additional degrees at several other schools, including MIT. He was promoted to captain at age 40, after having spent several years at sea in cruisers. But he had a reputation as a smart guy with the new missile systems the navy was introducing, and was selected to run the Aegis development. Meyers proved very adept at running complex technology development projects, and was kept with the Aegis project for 13 years because, even then, he was recognized as a key factor in the success of of the program. He retired in 1985 and, since then, as worked as a technical consultant and government advisor.

The USS Wayne E. Meyer is the 85th Aegis warship built, and has the 100th Aegis system delivered to the U.S. Navy. Five foreign navies operate 18 Aegis equipped ships.

Naming ships after living persons is rare, but not uncommon. George Washington had four warships named after him before he died. In fact, over a dozen U.S. warships were named after notable revolutionary period leaders. Up through the U.S. Civil War, about one American warship a decade was named after a living person (usually a politician). In 1900, the first modern U.S. submarine was named after the fellow who developed it (John Philip Holland). Throughout the 20th century, especially after World War II, seven warships were named after living people, mainly politicians who were helpful to the navy. So far this century, five warships have been named after living Americans. These were USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) in 2001, USS Nitze (DDG-94) in 2004, USS Jimmy Carter (SSN-23) in 2004, USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77) in 2006 and USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG-108).




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