The Building of USS WINSTON S. CHURCHILL
Following a visit to the USS JOHN S. McCAIN, DDG-56, in 1997, it was dreamed of to build one of these powerful, elegant and formidable man-o-war.
A “Plug” was commenced in 1998, by Allan Pew of APS Models, a long time friend. Allan cast a beautiful fibre-glass hull, some 2.19 meters (86.25 inches) with a beam of .315 Meters (12.5 inches).
It was decided from the outset to name the model USS WINSTON S. CHURCHILL, DDG-81, in honour of the United States Navies 31st ARLEIGH BURKE Class Guided Missile Destroyer. President William Jefferson Clinton had previously announced the naming of this vessel to a joint session of the British Parliament on the 29th of November 1995.
The model was commenced in June 1999 and very quickly took shape with bilge keels, shafts, rudders and screws being fitted. A two piece marine ply deck was fitted and fibre-glassed into place. By November 1999, the model was ready to run its first engineering sea trials at the TASK FORCE 72 annual regatta. All her running gear was fitted along with a small amount of superstructure including her hangars and both uptakes. Her major forward superstructure was still being built so remained in the workshop. She didn’t look very graceful in her grey, red and yellow primer paint scheme, but she did run well. In fact, the best model I have ever run. She was quick and highly manouverable.
Following this initial success, she went back to the dockyard to carry out more construction work. By January 2000, most of the superstructure was in place including the large complex mast. She was still red, yellow and grey, but at least she started to resemble a man-o-war. All her upper works, from the main deck, including the mast up are built of Evergreen Styrene. I build all my models from this plastic and probably have bought enough of it to have shares in the company by now. A small amount of Aluminium tube runs through the yard-arms to give them support and guardrails are square brass stock.
More and more detail was added over the coming months including guard rails to the superstructure, deck-lights, screen doors, hatches, and deck gear. Most of these parts had to be scratch built, as being the first of the Arleigh Burke’s to be built, not much in the way of fittings were available.
In May and June 2000, she was finally ready for painting. At last she started looking like she was supposed to. She was painted in US Navy Haze Grey, of which a sample was gathered from a visiting US Navy Destroyer. “Would ya mind just dabbin’ a bit of that paint on this? Handing out the back of a club name tag. “Thanks mate”. They look at you a little funny to start with, but you get used to it.
Over the coming months she was fitted with all her upper-deck lighting and red spot lighting, Flight Deck lights and Navigation Lights. As an association rule, we must show navigation lights when we sail at night, but the guys thought I was a little mad when she showed up for the first night run and turned on over 80 lights.
Another system fitted, was the first (at least in our club) operational and scale VLS (Mk 41 Vertical Launcher System). The model initially could fire 4 scale SM-2 ER Anti-Aircraft Missiles from scale sized tubes in the forward launcher. Using a selector switch and then firing a by servo activated micro-switch, she could fire one missile at a time through one of the four open hatches.
This system has been a little more refined and I can now fire eight missiles using one electronic switch, which resets after each firing. They can be fired in quick succession with two or three in flight at the same time. So far over 80 missiles have been fired and she has a pretty good kill record of two other models, a sixteen foot dingy and crew, a spectator’s car and a small child (No significant damage to the small child!)
On the third of March 2001, the big day had arrived to commission WINSTON S. CHURCHILL into the Task Force 72 “Fleet”. She was decked out in her red, white and blue bunting surrounding her upper decks and with her battle ensign flying, a fine bottle of Australian Champagne was ceremonially poured over her forecastle, by my now wife, Teresa. The model commissioned into our fleet exactly a week before the real USS WINSTON S. CHURCHILL commissioned into the US Fleet.
I am extremely proud of my model of CHURCHILL, and she continues to perform outstandingly. A small joke with this model has been running around since I decided to build her. One of our members, Jonathan Evans, living in Ontario, Canada, managed to get his hands on a USS WINSTON S. CHURCHILL ball cap, which he kindly sent to me as a gift to wear when sailing my new command. Little did he tell me that he had also bought another one with scrambled eggs on it (Commanding Officers Cap) which he had given our association VP, Peter Cole, on a visit to Canada. On the commissioning day, Peter wades up to me, and then waits for my reaction to him wearing the senior officers ball cap. He then swaps caps with me, telling me that he and Jonathan had been waiting to do this for months. To add further insult, on Teresa’s and my recent visit to the US and Canada (honeymoon coinciding with an invitation to attend the launch of the latest Arliegh Burke Class DDG, USS MASON at Bath Iron Works), Jonathan comes out wearing another USS WINSTON S. CHURCHILL ball cap with more scrambled eggs on it (Admiral’s Cap) and promptly hands it to Teresa to wear. I can see who is going to run this household! They always say that behind every Admiral there is always going to be someone outranking him, and it’s usually his wife.
The First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Nigel Essinghigh CBE RN, happily poses for a photo alongside the model of USS WINSTON S. CHURCHILL in March 2002. He was visiting the “Bridge Simulator Facility”, at which Russ was once an instructor. It was hoped that the model would make him feel “At Home” as the Admiral’s son, Lieutenant Angus Essinghigh, RN, was the commissioning Navigation and Royal Navy Liaison Officer of CHURCHILL. This is the first time in the US Navy that a Royal Navy Officer has been permanently assigned to a front line US warship as part of her ships compliment.
The Admiral was also a special guest at the commissioning of the CHURCHILL on the 10th of March 2001 in Norfolk, Virginia, USA.
The model, as does the real USS WINSTON S. CHURCHILL, has some sophisticated electronics and systems. She is a fully remote controlled model, being able to control both engines independently with micro-processing speed controllers and gas turbine sound effect generators on each.
The model can also rotate and elevate her Mk45 Mod 4 five inch gun on the bow, turn on her two navigation RADARs and turn on Navigation and upper deck lighting by remote control. The model can also fire up to 8 vertical launched SM-2 ER missiles. More sound effects are being added including General Quarters alarm, firing bell for her missiles (rings for approx 10 seconds prior to a missile launch) and a ships siren (horn).
The model recently completed a rather prolonged refit. I wanted to update her detail and systems, but with work commitments, I ran out of time so she sat in the workshop for quite a while. After getting my new HOBART up and running it was decided to finish her refit and get her running again. After about 4 months in which most of her detail was removed including all guard rails, fire fighting gear and fittings, a lot of her superstructure was rebuilt and she was completely repainted and fitted with new engines and radio control equipment. All her fittings and weapons were refurbished or replaced and fitted back in place. The real ship has been upgraded in recent years so the model was fitted with the same upgrades. This included some new domes and equipment. A new MH-60 “ROMEO” Seahawk was built and fitted to her flight deck.
She ran again for the first time in late 2011 at the TASK FORCE 72 National regatta in Canberra and it felt great to have her back to her old self. She ran beautifully and was happily accepted back into the fleet.
With our recent move to the New England area of New South Wales our businesses have taken a slightly different direction and CHURCHILL now has a front row seat in our shop window right on the New England Highway. There, she draws a lot of attention from visitors passing through our beautiful little town and from locals alike. She will get a lot of sailing over the coming year and I look forward to many more years of her looking her best.