PASCAGOULA, Miss., June 9, 2001 (PRIMEZONE) -- America's newest Aegis guided missile destroyer, PREBLE (DDG 88), was christened today at Ingalls Shipbuilding, a Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) company, when U.S. Rep. Edward L. Schrock of Virginia called for increasing the number of ships built annually by seven to eight ships.

Technologically advanced U.S. Navy ships like the PREBLE "will permit America to keep its commitments to defend our shores, protect our interests, shield our allies, and promote peace, trade and democracy throughout the world," said Rep. Schrock, who represents Virginia's second congressional district. A retired Navy captain who served in Vietnam, Rep. Schrock was the principal speaker at the christening of PREBLE, named for a Revolutionary War hero.

"PREBLE will be able to strike at targets hundreds of miles away, while maintaining her status as the least vulnerable military platform other than a submarine," Rep. Schrock said. "She can strike her adversaries wherever they exist, whether ashore, in the sky, on the seas or under the seas, and in the future, PREBLE will be a critical part of the sea-based missile defense system shielding America and her allies from weapons of mass destruction."

The congressman said when commissioned in 2002, PREBLE will join a fleet of approximately 316 ships, down from 600 ships more than a decade ago. He noted that at the current rate of construction, in the next eight years, the U.S. fleet will be reduced to approximately 180 ships. At any given time, approximately a third of our fleet is deployed, a third is en route to and from deployment and a third is at home undergoing maintenance. That means that with a 180-ship Navy, our fleet could have only 60 ships deployed around the world," he added.

"We must increase the number of ships being built each year by seven to eight ships. This is a commitment that must be made today," Rep. Schrock said.

Rep. Schrock noted that "this great ship can only be as effective as the craftsmanship that goes into her construction. The men and women who will serve aboard PREBLE should feel confident in the workmanship put into this vessel by the mean and women of Ingalls Shipbuilding."

In naming DDG 88 PREBLE, the Navy for the sixth time honors Commodore Edward Preble (1761-1807), a pioneer in U.S. naval and merchant marine service. Mrs. Connie Rae Clark, wife of Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vern Clark, USN, christened the ship with the traditional bottle of champagne. Mrs. Clark, of Washington, D.C., was joined by three Matrons of Honor: her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Christine Clark of Phoenix, Ariz.; her sister-in-law, Mrs. Elaine Johnson of Toledo, Ohio; and Admiral Clark's cousin, Mrs. Judy Gowan of Tulsa, Okla.

DDG 88 is the 38th ship in the ARLEIGH BURKE (DDG 51) Class of Aegis guided missile destroyers - the Navy's most powerful destroyer fleet. PREBLE is the 17th Aegis destroyer to be launched and christened of 25 ships under contract or option to Ingalls. Fourteen Ingalls-built Aegis destroyers are already in the fleet.

"This area is truly one of the shipbuilding centers of the United States of America and therefore of tremendous importance to me and to the United States Navy," said Admiral Clark. "This shipyard is one of the cornerstones of American seapower. Anybody who knows anything about what our economy is built on and the prosperity we are enjoying today knows that seapower is fundamental to our nation. It is fundamental to the security and prosperity of the United States of America," he added.

"I am proud to be one small part of a team of many thousands of people and hundreds of companies, especially the great workers here at Ingalls Shipbuilding on the Mississippi Gulf Coast," said Rear Adm. William W. Cobb Jr., USN, program executive officer, Theater Surface Combatants. "It is only through their efforts that these magnificent warships are able to join the fleet and make a difference."

Rear Adm. David M. Stone, USN, commander, Cruise Destroyer Group Five, noted, "Warships like PREBLE are sovereign U.S. territory and bring hope to those who know only despair and security for those who know only fear. Such is the power of these great ships like PREBLE who by their robust combat capability help ensure U.S. access in areas important to our national interest around the globe."

Rear Adm. Jan C. Gaudio, USN, commander, Navy Region Southeast, commented, "The link between the city of Pascagoula and our sailors and their families is a tight bond of partnership and I appreciate everything that is done for them. "I feel confident that this community will embrace the precommissioning crew of PREBLE as they have with every sailor who enters this community. Ingalls designs and builds these ships and with the oversight of the supervisor of shipbuilding and the assistance of Naval Station Pascagoula, these partnerships will play a strong role in preparing this ship for entry into the U.S. Pacific Fleet," he added.

"While we are acutely aware of our many responsibilities in the supervisor of shipbuilding command, none are more important than to those who will bring PREBLE to life - her crew," said Capt. Phil Johnson, USN, supervisor of shipbuilding, conversion and repair, Pascagoula. "They are America's finest young men and women."

Jerry St. PĂŠ, chief operating officer of Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, spoke of three essential ingredients that are needed "if this country is committed to a strong Navy fleet and a shipbuilding industrial base that can respond in a timely fashion to the building of Navy ships in the most affordable way." First, he said, "we have to be prepared to respond to the Navy requirements and we are backing that up with a long-term shipbuilding program that has a shelf-life beyond two or three years. Next, we have to have an adequate number of ships for our Navy to carry out its mission and finally, those of us in the shipbuilding industry need to back up our commitment through investment, technologies and training so that no only do we have the capability, capacity and commitment to build ships, but we can do it in the most efficient fashion."

Mr. St. PĂŠ added, "We at Northrop Grumman are committed in every respect to be prepared to respond to the Navy requirements, and we are backing that up with tremendous investments in our facilities."

Northrop Grumman's Ship Systems, headquartered in Pascagoula, Miss., includes Ingalls and the Ship Systems Full Service Center, both located in Pascagoula, as well as Litton Avondale Industries, located in New Orleans, La. Ship Systems, which currently employs more than 17,000 shipbuilding professionals, primarily in Mississippi and Louisiana, is one of the nation's leading full service systems companies for the design, engineering, construction, and life cycle support of major surface ships for the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard and international navies, and for commercial vessels of all types. Ship Systems has a firm business backlog exceeding $5.6 billion, in a variety of naval and commercial shipbuilding programs.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a $15 billion, global aerospace and defense company with its worldwide headquarters in Los Angeles. Northrop Grumman provides technologically advanced, innovative products, services and solutions in defense and commercial electronics, systems integration, information technology and non-nuclear shipbuilding and systems. With 80,000 employees and operations in 44 states and 25 countries, Northrop Grumman serves U.S. and international military, government and commercial customers.

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