BATH — The Shiloh is being commissioned at Bath Iron Works on Saturday in part to show appreciation for workers who built the 567-foot guided missile cruiser, said the ship’s commander.
“They deserve this day,” said Capt. Bayard W. Russell, a New Hampshire native who took reporters and photographers on a tour of the Ticonderoga-class cruiser on Thursday.
U.S. Rep. Tom Andrews, D-Maine, will address the commissioning attended by Navy officers and crew and their families. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Frank B. Kelso II is delivering the keynote address.
Unlike the ship’s launching, which is open to the public, the commissioning marks the formal ceremony in which the ship is officially turned over to the Navy to join the nation’s fleet.
During the ceremony, the Shiloh’s crew will publicly “bring the ship to life” by firing the engines, rotating the guns and testing horns and sirens.
The 27-ship Ticonderoga-class cruiser construction program in nearing completion. Shiloh is the second-to-last cruiser built at Bath, one of the last in its class.
Russell said Thursday that there always will be a need for such state-of-the-art warships despite the changing world order and diminished threat from the Soviet Union.
The Aegis cruiser has advanced technical capabilities that make it a “flexible combatant” when it comes to sophisticated threats like chemical and biological warfare, he said.
Such cruisers, normally assigned to aircraft carrier battle groups or action groups, are also being used as the centerpieces of smaller maritime action groups designed to quickly respond to regional conflicts worldwide.
Because of its Aegis weapons system, the Shiloh represents the Navy’s state-of-the-art warship, capable of tracking and firing on an enemy as close as 50 feet or more than 20 miles away.
“The Navy will continue building ships,” he said. “These are the right ships for today and the threats we now face.”
In the days leading up to the commissioning, workers from the shipyard and officials from the Navy’s Supervisor of Shipbuilding worked as a team to get the ship in spit-polished condition.
The partnership has worked together since the Shiloh’s hull was laid in August 1989. The Shiloh was launched at Bath Iron Works in September 1990.