Inside the Navy’s newest, most advanced warship: The USS Frank E. Petersen

The USS Frank E. Petersen guided missile destroyer is the U.S. Navy’s newest, most advanced warship and a vital part of America's maritime security strategy.
Published: Jun. 4, 2023 at 9:30 AM HST|Updated: Jun. 4, 2023 at 8:52 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The public is getting the rare opportunity to see an important part of America’s maritime security strategy in an increasingly tense Indo-Pacific Region.

During the Ford Island Open House this weekend, folks can go aboard the U.S. Navy’s newest, most advanced warship, the USS Frank E Petersen, Jr., designed to seek and destroy ballistic missiles.

The event comes amid reported confrontations between the U.S, and Chinese militaries. During a recent U.S. military exercise near Taiwan, a Chinese ship came within just 150 yards of an American destroyer. Meantime, a Chinese fighter jet recently flew directly in front of a U.S. Air Force aircraft.

U.S. Defense Secretary Llyod Austin told attendees at a security conference in Singapore that the U.S. will not back down, but added that talks between both sides should be efforted.

“We will not flinch in the face of bullying or coercion,” he said. “Dialogue is not a reward. It is a necessity. And a cordial handshake over dinner is no substitute for engagement.”

The Ford Island event allowed the Hawaii public for the first time to see the USS Frank E Petersen, which calls Pearl Harbor home.

She’s called a destroyer for a reason -- Commanding Officer Chad Stewart shows us the vertical launch system that can carry and fire 96 missiles.

“These are for both long range and short range strike, but he can use it for land attack, anti submarine, surface warfare, air warfare and ballistic missile defense,” he said.

The ship packs serious firepower, including a 5-inch barrel gun and several machine guns.

The ship’s also equipped with an advanced radar system to search and track threats.

Renz Malone Bueno of Maui mans the dishes that use laser beams to target incoming missiles.

“We do a lot of training a lot of drills,” he said, adding that he’s ready should North Korea shoot a missile.

“My primary job is to deflect missiles or distract missiles, other missiles,” said Dan Cauyan from Wahiawa, Oahu. “The pressure is real. That’s why this training, we do a lot of training. So hopefully, I never come to a real life situation. But if ever, we’ll be ready.”

Named after the first African American aviator and general officer in the Marine Corps, the ship is filled with tributes.

About 20 of the 330 crew members are from Hawaii.

“They use this helm and these throttles to steer the ship and drive the ship,” said Stewart, during a tour of the ship’s bridge. “So we used to use paper charts and sextants and validates to take bearings and fixes to stars and navigational aids. We still do that, but we use electronic charting now to do so.”

Commander Stewart expects to assist with missions in the South China Sea, Taiwan Strait and Arabian Gulf.

“What we’re here to do is make sure that the seas remain open to everyone, our allies, and partners around the world, for commerce and for those that just enjoy. 77% percent of the world is covered by an ocean and that’s for everyone to enjoy. It’s for everyone to get the resources from the ocean. We all rely on that. And it’s our job to make sure that remains free and open to everyone,” Stewart said.

It’s a mission that anyone can appreciate.

“All the servicemen here that they do and the sacrifice they give,” said Wayland Lum, whose daughter serves on the USS Petersen. “You really don’t know what is involved, because a lot of it, you know, is unseen. But you come here and you see what they’re dealing with and pretty amazing.”