CG-16 Leahy class
Modern US Navy Guided Missile Cruisers perform primarily in a Battle Force role. These ships are multi-mission (AAW, ASW, ASUW) surface combatants capable of supporting carrier or battleship battle groups, amphibious forces, or of operating independently and as flagships of surface action groups. Due to their extensive combat capability, these ships have been designated as Battle Force Capable (BFC) units.
These futuristic-looking U.S. cruisers were the first double-ended guided-missile launching surface ships in the U.S. Navy. They originated at the suggestion of Admiral Sanders, Chairman of the Long-Range Shipbuilding and Conversion Committee. Ships Characteristics Board Project Number 172 was promulgated as requiring a double-ended missile frigate. Two designs were considered: one based on a hull like the Norfolk (DL 1) and the other on a long forecastle-deck ship. In the interests of costs, seakeeping, and stability, the long forecastle-deck design was chosen.
One of the principal missions of these ships, like their predecessors, the Farragut Class (DLG 6), was to form part of the anti-air and antisubmarine screen for carrier task forces. They were expected to be able to control aircraft from the carrier, vectoring them to their assigned targets. With no 5-inch gun aboard, two 3-inch/50 twin mounts were the only gun battery. The gun aspects were sacrificed to achieve a higher number of SAM's. These ships carried two Terrier missile launchers, one forward and one aft. There were some early problems with the Terrier missiles that were very complex with 100 vacuum tubes and 1,000 resistors, all of which had to function under wildly varying conditions of shock, humidity, temperature, and pressure. The missile weighed over a ton and achieved supersonic speed within three seconds. After launch, the missile was captured by a radar beam and handed off to a guidance beam which the Terrier missile rode to its target. One commanding officer of Leahy commented on the missile control radars, "two of the four were installed were usually spare parts lockers for the two years that I was aboard.
The spartan antisubmarine weapons system featured the Mk 32 triple torpedo tubes and an ASROC launcher with no reloads for either. The ASROC required the AN/SQS-23 sonar system, which was mounted in a bow dome.
The endurance in these ships was increased, which was one of the major reasons for the growth in length over the DLG 6 Class. During a high-speed deployment of a carrier task force, the Leahy retained a higher percentage of her total fuel than did the heavy cruiser Boston (CAG 1). Although the steam propulsion plant of the DLG 6 was retained, the electrical plant experienced major growth because of the increases in the power requirements from the missile launchers and their requisite electronics.
These ships introduced the "Mack" (combined stack and mast) on which the new radars could be mounted without smoke interference. To provide a measure of ballistic protection and notch-tough steel, the sheer strake and outer deck strake on the 01 Level were constructed of HY 80 while the hull itself was HTS.
These vessels were equipped with a knuckled hull forward to protect the forward Terrier launcher from green seas washing aboard. They were excellent sea boats. The knuckle forward allows a very hollow, flared forefoot area without excessive beam at the weather deck. It is a common feature of 20th century cruisers and appears to have originated with the British Kent or County class in 1928.
The Leahy class were the first close escorts of the Midway (CVA 41) and Forrestal (CVA 59) carriers. Compared to the earlier Farragut class, the increased endurance improved their ability to stay with these carriers and provide the air and submarine defenses that these ships required. This increased capability also was reflected in the fact that the Leahy's and following DLG/DLGN were assigned captains (O-6) as commanding officers (following cruiser practice) instead of commanders (O-5) as the Farragut's had.
The Leahy-class Guided Missile Destroyer Leader [DLG], as with other similar ships were reclassified as Guide Missile Cruisers [CG] on 30 June 1975. The class was given an AAW upgrade during the late-1960's and early 1970's, with Terrier launchers modified to fire Terrier or Standard SM-1ER missiles. The 3"/50 guns were replaced by 8 Harpoon missiles, the Terrier launchers were upgraded to fire the Standard SM-2ER missile, and 2 Phalanx CIWS were added. All were upgraded under the late-1980's New Threat Upgrade (NTU) program, which included combat system capability improvements to the ship's Air Search Radars (SPS-48E and SPS-49), Fire Control Radars (SPG-55B), and Combat Direction System (CDS). These improvements provided an accurate means of coordinating the engagment of multiple air targets with SM-2 Extended Range missiles. During the NTU overhaul, all spaces were renovated, berthing and food service areas were refurbished, and the engineering plant was fully overhauled.
The entire class was taken out of service in the early 1990's, stricken and transferred to the Maritime Administration for disposal.
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