BB-61 Iowa-class Reactivations
USS New Jersey was the only battleship recalled to duty during the Vietnam War. She recommissioned in April 1968 and arrived off Southeast Asia in September. From then until April 1969, she conducted frequent bombardments along the South Vietnamese coast. While preparing for a second Vietnam tour, she was ordered inactivated and decommissioned in December 1969.
Congress directed the reactivation and modernization of the first Iowa-class battleship in the summer of 1981. This ship, USS New Jersey (BB 62), was commissioned for the third time on December 28, 1982. USS Iowa (BB 61) was recommissioned April 8, 1984. USS Missouri (BB 63) was recommissioned May 10, 1986 and USS Wisconsin (BB 64) was recommissioned October 22, 1988. As of April 2, 1981, the Navy's estimate was $326 million to reactivate the New Jersey. This was a substantial increase from the $247 million estimate initially provided by Navy officials. The Navy spent about $1.7 billion to modernize and reactivate the four Iowa class battleships.
Initially the Navy planned to remove the aft 16-inch gun mount on the battleship New Jersey. Navy officials explained that several options to use the space generated by removing the turret are under consideration. One is to install a vertical missile launcher in place of the turret, giving the battleship an additional 48 TOMAHAWK/HARPOON launchers. Other options involve various configurations for employing aircraft (rotary wing and/or vertical/short takeoff and landing (V/STOL)}. These plans were not implemented.
After two and a half decades in "mothballs", Iowa was modernized under the 1980s defense buildup and recommissioned 28 April 1984. Iowa was in inactive service twice as long as she was in active service (36 years, 9 months, compared to 18 years, 11 months). USS Iowa participated in operations in the Caribbean and the North Atlantic. She went to European waters in 1985, 1986 and 1987 through 1988, with the latter cruise continuing into the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea. On 19 April 1989, an explosion of undetermined cause ripped through her Number Two sixteen-inch gun turret killing 47 crewmen. Turret Two remained unrepaired when she decommissioned in Norfolk, Va., for the last time 26 October 1990.
USS Missouri (BB 63) began her new life with an around-the-world cruise, the first such cruise for a battleship since the Great White Fleet sailed in 1907. In 1987, Missouri deployed to the Persian Gulf area and spent the following three years in exercises in the Pacific. Missouri again went to the Persian Gulf in January 1991 and actively participated in the War with Iraq in January and February. Her subsequent operations were in the Pacific, including another visit to Australia and participation in December 1991 ceremonies at Pearl Harbor remembering the fiftieth anniversary of the Japanese attack there. USS Missouri decommissioned in March 1992 and was placed in Reserve at Bremerton, Washington.
The retirement of USS Missouri generated competing requests from organizations in Bremerton, Washington and Long Beach and San Francisco, California, before the Navy awarded her to Pearl Harbor.
The first battleship battle group (BBBG) deployed to the Western Pacific in 1986, built around USS New Jersey (BB 62). In addition to demonstrating the desired flexibility and US presence, USS New Jersey's BBBG deployment was an exercise of Navy interoperability with land-based US Air Force units. USS New Jersey's performance during her initial deployment demonstrated the ability of the modernized battleship to do the job. Her reliability, responsiveness and endurance confirmed their value and the need for battleships in the surface Navy of the 1990s and beyond. During that initial ll-month deployment, which began as a three-month shakedown cruise, USS New Jersey fired her 16-inch guns for the first time since rejoining the fleet at gun emplacements ashore while off Beirut, Lebanon.
Despite long-standing private sector interest in obtaining the New Jersey under the donation program, the ship was subject to several administrative and legislative actions that caused her to be taken off, then placed back on, the Naval Vessel Register in the 1990s, before being finally removed in 1999. She was removed from the Register in January 1995 as part of a Navy decision to remove the four Iowa class battleships built for the Navy during World War II.
Section 1011 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996 included battleship readiness requirements to (1) list and maintain at least two Iowa class battleships on the Naval Vessel Register [the official inventory of ships in custody or titled by the Navy] that are in good condition and able to provide adequate fire support for an amphibious assault; (2) retain the existing logistical support necessary to keep at least two Iowa-class battleships in active service, including technical manuals, repair and replacement parts, and ordnance; and (3) keep the two battleships on the register until the Navy certified that it has within the fleet an operational surface fire support capability that equals or exceeds the fire support capability that the Iowa-class battleships would be able to provide for the Marine Corps' amphibious assaults and operations ashore. The Navy placed two Iowa Class battleships [Wisconsin and New Jersey] on the register about 2 years after the act's requirement took effect. Both ships were in good material condition and had been maintained on the register in the highest readiness category for inactive ships. The Navy planned to keep the battleships on the register until its naval surface fire support gun and missile development programs achieve operational capability, which was estimated to occur between fiscal year 2003 and 2008.
Before section 1011 was enacted, the Navy had begun to demilitarize the New Jersey by welding down the training mechanisms of its 16- inch guns. Despite this action, the Navy selected the New Jersey over the Iowa, which had one of its 16-inch gun turrets rendered inoperable, due to an earlier explosion because repair cost estimates for the latter were greater. In the Strom Thurmond National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1999, Congress directed the Navy to substitute the Iowa for the New Jersey on the NVR and to arrange for its donation. One of the legislation's requirements was that the ship be located in New Jersey as a condition of the donation. The Navy made this change in January 1999.
On 20 January 2000, the Secretary of the Navy approved the selection of the Home Port Alliance, a nonprofit organization, to receive the New Jersey under the Navy's ship donation program. The organization had sought to obtain the ship for use as a floating museum to be moored in Camden, New Jersey. The Secretary's decision represented the culmination of a competition between the Alliance and the USS New Jersey Battleship Commission, another nonprofit organization, which had sought to obtain the ship for a proposed museum in Bayonne, New Jersey.
Placed out of commission at Bayonne on 08 March 1958, Wisconsin (BB-64) joined the "Mothball Fleet" there, leaving the United States Navy without an active battleship for the first time since 1896. Subsequently taken to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Wisconsin remained there with USS Iowa (BB 61) until recommissioned again on 22 October 1988. USS Wisconsin returned to war when Iraq invaded Kuwait. In February 1991, Wisconsin fired her 16-inch guns at targets just north of Khafji, Saudi Arabia, the ship assisted shore-based ground units in their tasks. Wisconsin shared gunnery duties with USS Missouri (BB 63). USS Wisconsin was decommissioned for the final time, on 30 September 1991. After being berthed at the Naval Station Norfolk, VA, she was moved on 31 May 2000 to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. She moored in downtown Norfolk as a museum in late 2000.
The Marine Corps established requirements in a document titled "Naval Surface Fire Support Requirements for Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare" in March 2002. This document established specific near-term, mid-term and far-term requirements for factors such as system response time, accuracy and precision, and range. A draft joint fires requirements document for expeditionary operations in the littorals was developed primarily by the Marine Corps in May 2005.
The DDG with extended-range guided munitions largely meets near- and mid-term Naval Surface Fire Support requirements, while the DD(X) meets mid-term requirements and may meet far-term requirements depending on the ultimate range of the projectiles. DOD officials from the joint staff, combatant commands, Navy, and Marine Corps do not believe that reactivating battleships would be cost effective nor would the modernized battleships significantly reduce those risks or provide the best means to meet long-term joint fires capability requirements. Navy officials stated that the battleships would be expensive to operate, have munitions that lack accuracy, and are manpower intensive.
The Navy currently [as of 2006] incurs expenses of about $1.5 million per year to sustain both battleships in inactive status. Of this amount, about $1 million covers additional annual preservation maintenance and ongoing paint preservation work on the Wisconsin. The ships are inspected twice a year to document electrical, safety, hull and general ship conditions. In addition, the deck of the Iowa must be repaired to ensure its safety.
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