The USS Valley Forge, an Aegis-equipped guided-missile cruiser and sister ship to the USS Vincennes, will coast into Port Hueneme this morning as bagpipes play at dockside.
The ship will be the centerpiece for a four-day celebration as the Naval Ship Weapons Systems Engineering Station marks its 25th anniversary.
The Valley Forge is one of seven ships now outfitted with Aegis, a sophisticated $525-million system designed both to detect enemy aircraft and aim missiles toward them.
The system is the one used by the Vincennes in the Persian Gulf last weekend. The ship mistakenly shot down an Iranian commercial airliner, killing all 290 passengers and crew members aboard. A congressional inquiry into the tragedy will focus on, among other things, flaws in the Aegis system.
Dressed in regimental kilts, Oxnard's Glean Lyon Pipe and Drum Band will serenade the Valley Forge when it arrives at 9 a.m. from San Diego. The USS Fox, a Terrier missile cruiser, will follow the Valley Forge and dock at 10 a.m.
Station employees and their families will tour the ships Friday. The vessels will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
With an annual budget of more than $196 million and a payroll of $74 million, the Port Hueneme engineering unit is one of the military's primary locations for the development of missile and weapons systems. When it was established on July 8, 1963, the station ran on a budget of $7 million.