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DLG 26 / CG 26 BELKNAP 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.

The primary mission of Belknap-class was to provide anti-air (AAW) and anti-surface (ASUW) defense for aircraft carrier task force. Her secondary missions were to provide defense against submarines (ASW) and to conduct shore bombardment (NGFS) in support of amphibious operations.

Designed to operate at high speed for extended periods of time in support of long range Battle Group operations, the Belknap-class was fitted with air search radars and a weapons direction system that uses digital computers. This system processed data on air targets and feeds it to the missile fire control and launching systems in order to aim and fire extended range standard missiles at any attacking aircraft or missile.

The Belknap-class was equipped with long range sonar which provided data to the underwater battery fire control system. The ASW armament included Anti-Submarine Rockets, Light Airborne Multi-Purpose helicopters, and torpedoes. They were also equipped with a single dual-purpose rapid fire five-inch 54 caliber gun for defense against air and surface attacks as well as for NGFS. Other armament included two 20mm Gatling guns (CIWS) for close-in air defense, the HARPOON surface-to-surface missile system for use against enemy ships over the horizon, and the Super Rapid Blooming Offboard Chaff (SRBOC) for use as a decoy.

The explosive growth of electronics and guided-missile systems overtook the DLG 16 design, which exceeded its design displacement by some 400-500 tons. In the next purchase of guided missile frigates, several new weapons systems were available that altered the characteristics of the follow-on designs. The Drone Anti-submarine Helicopter (DASH), a new and more powerful sonar, AN/SQS-26, and Naval Tactical Data System were now available and enthusiastically supported for use by the Commander of the Cruiser Destroyer Force of the Pacific Fleet. To aid in the placement of the combat system, the ASROC launcher was eliminated and its missiles loaded in the forward Terrier magazine, which was enlarged to handle 60 missiles instead of 40. This was done by the addition of a third 20-round horizontal carrousel to the two in the Leahy's forward magazine.

There were many critics of the all-missile DLG 16 class as lacking a sufficient gun armament. Experience during the Cuban Missile crisis during the fall of 1962 confirmed the need for a gun armament. Therefore, a 5-inch/54 gun was added in place of the aft Terrier launcher to provide a shore-bombardment capability, in addition to the anti-ship function, that was absent in the DLG 16 Class. The tradeoff was that if the forward missile launcher malfunctioned or was damaged, the entire antiaircraft and antisubmarine capability of these ships would be lost. Also it resulted in only having two missile directors instead of four, reducing the number of air targets that could be engaged simultaneously.

The DASH program was not successful and was ultimately replaced in the 1970's on the DLG 26 by one LAMPS Kaman SH-2D Seasprite helicopter in a hangar at the aft end of the superstructure.

The Naval Tactical Data System was provided starting with the DLG 28 and was backfitted to all earlier DLG's as well. The DLG 26 was basically a lengthened DLG 16 hull with the addition of a 14 foot insert between the forward engine room and after fire room. Since the ship had significant curvature at the insertion point, the section was not a parallel-sided section but one with form. Although the added length resulted in more frictional resistance, the ship had a more favorable speed/length ratio, so that speed loss was minor.

The engineering plant was the same one as in the previous Leahy class with 1200 psi and 950°F steam conditions. The maximum shaft horsepower was identical but the displacement was greater. Therefore, maximum speed was 0.1 knots slower in the DLG 26, despite a more advantageous speed-to-length ratio. The RPM's of the shafts were decreased to reduce propeller noise and achieve greater efficiency. The most significant difference was in the electrical generators where a 50% increase in KW was provided for the combat system specified for these ships.

To improve their capabilities when assigned as a flagship, three of the class were fitted with a tactical flag communications center (TFCC) from 1983-1985.

The comprehensive New Threat Upgrade (NTU) 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 Belknap was rebuilt after her collision with the carrier John F. Kennedy in November 1975. She was extensively modified to serve as a numbered fleet flagship for the 6th Fleet. She was equipped with a fleet command center (war room), improved communications, drafting and photographic facilities, additional berthing and messing for flag personnel, an office and reception area for a fleet commander and an expansion of the helicopter landing area aft to receive the SH-3 Sea King helicopter. The ship's hangar was converted into a berthing area. She did not receive the New Threat Upgrade (NTU) provided to other eight ships in her class.

Originally classified as Guided Missile Destroyer Leader [DLG] these ships were reclassified as Guide Missile Cruisers in 1975. Although the Belknap-class cruisers had only recently acquired these new capabilities, they were retired in the early 1990s after roughly 30 years of service.



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