USS John S. McCain forms just one part of the large, and ultra-critical, group of guided-missile destroyers serving the modern United States Navy (USN) known as the Arleigh Burke-class. This class currently (2017) numbers over sixty-five total vessels with some seventy-six originally planned for procurement. In navy-speak, destroyers are used in fleet support actions or can be called to operate independently. They are relatively compact so as to be kept maneuverable and historically originated with the "Torpedo Boat Destroyer" at the turn of the last century - these vessels charged with protecting capital ships from more nimble enemy torpedo boats. Today, the destroyer has evolved to feature a full complement of missiles and advanced technologies alongside conventional, projectile-based weapons, giving them the formal title categorization of "Guided-Missile Destroyer" (hull designation of "DDG").
USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) is named after both the grandfather and father of current U.S. Senator John McCain (John S. McCain III). Both were Navy men with long running histories in the service with the Senator following suit as a naval aviator.
The warship was ordered on December 13th, 1988 and laid down on September 3rd, 1991 by Bath Iron Works of Maine. She was launched on September 26th, 1992 and commissioned for service on July 2nd, 1994. She currently makes homeport (since 1997) at Yokosuka, Japan (though originally assigned to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii) and fights under the motto of "Fortune Favors the Brave". Her stationing in the Pacific makes her a powerful player in these very important international waters.
The McCain displaces 6,900 tons under light load and 9,000 tons under full load. Her length is 505 feet and her beam measures 66 feet. The draught is 31 feet. Power is from 4 x General Electric LM2500-30 series gas turbines developing 100,000 total horsepower and driving 2 x Shafts under stern. In ideal conditions, the warship can make in excess of 30 knots and ranges out to 4,400 nautical miles. Aboard there is a complement of about 280 personnel made up of a mix of commissioned officers, chief petty officers and enlisted sailors.
The warship is laden with modern and advanced technologies: An AN/SPY1D 3D serves as the primary radar fit and an AN/SPY-67(V)2 is the surface-search installation alongside the AN/SPS-73(V)12 unit. The AN/SPG-62 handled fire control and the AN/SQS-53C is the primary sonar array with the AN/SQR-19 being the towed array model. The ship is also outfitted with AN/SQQ-28 LAMPS III. For self-defense there is the MK 36 Mod 12 decoy-launching unit and the AN/SLQ-25 "Nixie" torpedo countermeasures suite. AN/SLQ-32(V)2 handles Electronic Warfare (EW).
The armament suite is led by a 29-cell and 61-cell Mk 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS) supporting the RIM-156 SM-2 Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM), the BGM-109 "Tomahawk" cruise missile and the RUM-139 VL-ASROC missile. Some ninety total missiles are carried. Beyond this are 2 x Mk 141 series Harpoon Anti-Ship Missile (ASM) launchers seated at midships to tackling surface threats. More conventional armament includes the Mark 45 5" /54 caliber turreted deck gun, 2 x 25mm chain guns and 4 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns. 2 x 20mm Phalanx systems handle incoming short-to-medium-ranged threats and 2 x Mk 32 torpedo launchers are carried to counter threats from submarines and surface warships at range.
Over the stern of the warship is a complete flight deck and hangar facility offering a built-in capability to launch, retrieve and repair up to 2 x Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk navy helicopters. These LAMP-equipped helicopters provide a critical over-the-horizon function and can search, track and engage enemy submarines and warships apart from the McCain itself.
USS John S. McCain's first call-to-action was in Operation Iraqi Freedom, the 2003 American "Shock and Awe" campaign which eventually unseated Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein following the events of 9/11. The warship launched a salvo of thirty-nine Tomahawk cruise missiles as inland targets with good results. The warship went on to claim several "Navy Battle E" decorations in the period following.
In 2011, the warship was called to aid victims of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake in Japan. From there, in 2013, she was stationed in Korean waters to help curb the nuclear ballistic missile aspirations of North Korea. Training then followed in 2014.
October 2016 - USS John S. McCain, along with USS Frank Cable, were the first USN warships to visit a Vietnamese port since the end of the Vietnam War (1955-1975). Relations between the former enemies have thawed now that China is a rising, and assertive, power in the region. As such, smaller naval powers are calling on the USN for support in containing Chinese expansion in the area - particularly with regards to the South China Sea.
August 2017 - In continuing its operations in the South China Sea region, USS John S. McCain was spotted some twelve miles offshore of the artificial island constructed by the Chinese. This action reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the region, much to the delight of its regional allies.