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CG Guided Missile Cruiser Conversions

Conversion plans were developed for the battle cruiser Hawaii and the unfinished battleship Kentucky. These plans were cancelled as it became apparent that the missiles were not sufficiently mature. Boston and Canberra, two Baltimore-class heavy cruisers from WWII production, were converted to CAG 1 and 2 respectively in 1952. Each ship had two Terrier launchers in X and Y (aft) positions, retaining A and B turrets with the original 8-inch guns. The aft 8-inch turret (including its armored barbette) and the aft 5-inch /38 twin had been removed. A lattice foremast carried an SPS-8 height-finding radar, while a new pole mainmast carried a CXRX hemispheric scan radar used for missile target acquisition. Aft of that there were two illuminators; only two missiles could be airborne at a time, even though each launcher was doublearm. Evidently, this was not a very good solution and could easily be saturated by even a small attack.

Next, BuShips sought a conversion candidate for the larger, ramjet-powered Talos missile. The Talos antiaircraft missile was a long -range, ramjet, beam-riding surface to air missile with semi-active terminal homing; it was introduced in 1957. The Talos missile was therefore larger than Terrier and called for even more elaborate guidance equipment. Because of a belief, which seems rather irrational in hindsight, that there would eventually be numerous Talos conversions, the few heavy cruisers available were considered unsuitable for conversion because they didn"t provide a sufficient number of identical hulls. Therefore, the Bureau picked the Cleveland class light cruisers, all of them in reserve by this time, as candidates.

The first to be converted was Galveston, recommissioned in 1958. The other two ships with similar conversions differed in that they had flag facilities; they were Little Rock and Oklahoma City (1960). In these conversions, the two aft 6-inch turrets and three aft 5–inch turrets were removed and a complete new aft superstructure was provided to house the missiles and guidance radars. New search radars were also installed. In the flag conversions, B turret was removed and two of the forward 5-inch guns were removed; one 5-inch twin was mounted in B position and the superstructure was expanded to provide accommodation.

Similar conversions were performed for Terrier from identical Cleveland class hulls, Providence, Springfield, and Topeka. These differed from the Boston class in that they mounted only one Terrier launcher aft, but had substantially better electronics, including two missile control radars (one per launcher arm). The light cruiser hulls were smaller than the Baltimore class hull, and therefore could not support two launchers.

The air threat to a task force was still a dominant element in US strategic thinking, while the long term need for gunfire support had yet to register before Vietnam. Also, actual missile combat experience was lacking, so that decision makers tended to believe the claims of a high kill ratio made by SAM proponents. Accordingly, in 1962, the US commissioned its first "double-ended and double-sided" missile conversion of a heavy cruiser. This Albany class of 3 ships (two additional sisters were cancelled) had no guns at all as designed. Two of these were Oregon City class ships, (CA 123 and CA136), and one was Baltimore class (CA 74), all commissioned 1945-6 and identical after conversion.

With a futuristic superstructure of enormous height and the funnels and masts integrated into "macks", the main armament was Talos with launchers fore and aft, and Tartar, a new smaller missile, mounted in wing launchers port and starboard of the fore superstructure. The Tartar supersonic surface-to-air missile was developed in the 1950's primarily for destroyers, and was designed to attack low altitude, high-speed threats. Later improvements in the Tartar missile extended the range from 7.5 to 18 miles. Tartar was later superseded by the Standard 1 (MR) missile.

These ships were intended to mount the Regulus surface to surface missile, but ASROC was substituted during construction in the space between the fore and aft superstructures; after completion, two 5-inch 38's were added amidships. These ships were successful; Chicago was credited with shooting down a MiG fighter at a range of 48 miles, off Vietnam in 1972. Albany was modernized in 1973-74, and became flagship of the Second Fleet afterwards.

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