CG-47 Ticonderoga-classThe Aegis Era began in earnest on April 25th, 1981 with the launch of CG 47, the USS Ticonderoga. To be sure, the Ticonderoga was not the first ship fitted with the Aegis system. That distinction belongs to the USS Norton Sound, a WWII era seaplane tender converted to a guided missile test ship. The Norton Sound was fitted with the Aegis system in 1974, and was also the first ship to fire a ship launched VLS missile.
The roots of the CG 47 class can be traced back to a paper written by Mr. R. Murray in 1965, who was then Assistant Secretary of Defense. Mr. Murray contended that to control or reduce the costs of naval ship construction, modern manufacturing processes would have to be employed. This led to the introduction of the DX/DXG Project, formally proposed by the Secretary of Defense, Mr. Robert McNamara, in the fall of 1966. Mr. McNamara initiated the Major Fleet Escort Study to determine what new family of destroyer types would be necessary for the Navy of the future. The DX/DXG Program began to mature and take shape, eventually resulting in the design and construction of the DD 963 Spruance Class destroyers. The DD 963 Class is pertinent because they were designed with the intention of following them with a new guided missile-equipped fleet escort (DDG or DLG) class, based on the DD 963 design (the U.S. Navy never ordered the DDG but ended up with four ships (the DDG 993 Kidd class) originally ordered by the Shah of Iran).
The objective was to save cost by retaining the same hull, hull arrangements, and machinery plant as the DD 963 in the new design. The notion that 60 identical hulls with 40 of them equipped as austere ASW escorts and 20 as AAW escorts (the intended split in 1966) would cost less than two classes of 40 DD's and 20 DDG's was based on a primitive understanding of mass production. It is likely that the savings by series production in 60 units was minuscule; true mass production requires far greater volumes, in the tens of thousands of units, to be effective. Also, there were hidden costs in the commonality of the two designs. To leave adequate room for future upgrades and the AAW variant, the DD 963 Class was designed with larger than normal space and weight margins. While this left room for the as-yet-unnamed DDG or DLG metamorphosis, it resulted in a destroyer with overall dimensions much larger than needed for the light armament carried by most of the hulls. These margins later allowed major upgrades to the in-service DD 963 ships as well as development of the CG 47.
As the first of the Spruance Class hulls was being laid down, the Navy began to focus its attention on a new, powerful cruiser design designated as the CGSN Strike Cruiser, a completely new breed of American fighting ship. The CSGN was first studied in the 1973-74 timeframe, with commissioning planned to be in 1984. Although evolved from the earlier California and Virginia Class cruisers originally designed as DLGN's and intended as screening ships for nuclear propelled aircraft carriers in high threat areas, it could also undertake independent operations.
The CGSN was to be the first ship to carry the new Aegis advanced fleet defense system. The classification of "Strike Cruiser" was developed to indicate the offensive capability of these ships. The CSGN was envisaged to carry SM-2 surface to air missiles, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and Tomahawk cruise missiles, as well as an advanced ASW suite. A larger air capable version with an angled flight deck to support VSTOL aircraft and helicopters was also studied. The downfall of the CGSN is attributable to the high price tag that came along with the offered capability. Specifically the use of nuclear propulsion, mandated by Congress in 1975 for use in all new strike force designs, drove costs outside of a range palatable by Congress.
With the cancellation of the CSGN, the Navy proposed the CGN 42, an improved Virginia class with a new superstructure designed for the Aegis system and with a displacement of about 12,000 tons. Compared to the CSGN this design was not as survivable and had reduced command and control facilities for an embarked commander. Ultimately this design was also cancelled during the Carter Administration due to its increased cost compared to the non-nuclear DDG 47 (which became the CG 47) as well as the administration's plan to stop building nuclear carriers (overridden by Congress in FY80 and reversed by the Reagan Administration) which undermined the case for nuclear escorts.
Starting in the early 1970's and in parallel with the Aegis nuclear cruiser design studies, a less expensive destroyer version was also studied. This was in line with the philosophy of buying a "high-low" mix of ships and aircraft to achieve required force levels (the FFG 7, F-16 and F-18 also came out of this philosophy). The CNO, Admiral Zumwalt, imposed a displacement limit of 5,000 tons as well as a cost constraint. These limits turned out to be too constraining and ultimately the Ticonderoga, an Aegis DDG based on the existing Spruance hull using the growth margins incorporated in the original design was proposed to be built along with the CSGN/CGN 42. It appears that this design may have originally been proposed in 1975 as a strike cruiser (CSG) before becoming a DDG.
Twenty days before the DDG 47 hull was laid down and with the Aegis nuclear cruisers canceled, the Ticonderoga was redesignated as the CG 47, a guided missile cruiser. This action reflects that, although the hull of this class is the same as that of the Spruance Class, the Ticonderoga Class has a full load displacement 1,225 tons greater than the Spruance, as well as a much greater combat capability than the ex-DLG cruisers then in the fleet. Another feature that provides the CG 47 increased capabilities over destroyers is that she is fitted with a Unit Commander Stateroom and an area in CIC for his use. A Unit Commander is a senior Captain, sometime given the position title of Commodore, who controls a small ad-hoc group of ships such as a merchant ship convoy or ESG escort group. These facilities have also been used on occasion by a flag officer with a reduced size staff. The CG 47 commanding officers are also sometimes assigned duties as anti-air warfare commanders within a battle group and use the additional command and control facilities in this role.
The CG 47 Ticonderoga was laid down on January 21st, 1980, as the first of twelve new guided missile cruisers to be procured over the next five years. Ultimately the class would consist of 27 cruisers, acquired through four upgraded baselines. The Ticonderoga was launched in March of 1981 and commissioned in January of 1983.
Eleven Ticonderoga Class cruisers participated in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1990-1991. During the war, on February 18, 1991, the Princeton (CG 59) struck a bottom-laid influence mine in 16 meters of water that detonated causing a sympathetic detonation of a second nearby mine, damaging the ship. USS Princeton restored her TLAM strike and Aegis AAW capabilities within two hours of the mine strike and reassumed duties as the local AAW commander, providing air defense for the Coalition MCM group for 30 additional hours until relieved by the USS Valley Forge. The damage to the Princeton required her to be towed to port, although at no time was the ship in danger of sinking, and most of her combat systems remained operational.lxxxi Operation of blue water assets in relatively shallow and confined waters continues to be a major operational challenge for the future fleet.
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