By CAROL COMEGNO
The battleship USS New Jersey museum now holds an exact replica of the long-range Tomahawk missile it once carried while earning its active-duty stars.
Defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. of Moorestown donated $47,000 in services to place one of the ship's eight armored box launchers into firing position. The company also inserted into the launcher a mock replica of the missile that it once housed. It appears ready to fire.
The ship had eight launchers that once carried a total of 32 Tomahawk missiles. They were added in 1982 when the ship was overhauled for modern warfare with new technology, replacing four of the eight five-inch gun mounts that dated to World War II. The ship was also equipped with four anti- ship Harpoon missile launchers that could fire 16 missiles with a range of 60 nautical miles.
Scott Kodger, curator of the Camden Waterfront museum, said the public now can better appreciate the modern weaponry the ship carried. The exhibit was dedicated this week and can be viewed by tourists.
The USS New Jersey became the first Navy surface ship to fire a Tomahawk land-attack missile, which has a range of 700 nautical miles. On May 10, 1983, it fired off the West Coast during naval exercises and scored a direct hit on a target in Nevada.
Kodger and retired Rear Adm. Thomas Seigenthaler, the ship's executive officer, said no other ship museum in the country has an operable launcher.
The launchers on the USS Missouri, the New Jersey's sister ship that is a museum in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, are in the closed position. They are two of four Iowa-class battleships - the largest ever built at 887 feet long.
Lockheed spokesman Scott Rudder said his firm hired two other companies - IMCO of Moorestown and Van-Air Hydraulics of Maple Shade - to build the missile and make the launcher functional.
He said Lockheed has a great interest in contributing to the museum because of the ship's history of nearly 50 years and its return to the Delaware River, where it was built. It is the Navy's most decorated battleship with 19 campaign stars.
"The Tomahawk exhibit is an important part of making this museum the premier warship museum in the country," said Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J, who attended the ceremony.
Reach Carol Comegno at (609) 267-9486 or e-mail email@example.com