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Typhon DLG / DLGN / CGN

Typhon CGNOn 22 September 1961 secretary of defense Robert McNamara sent to the service secretaries and joint chiefs of staff the budget assumptions for fiscal year 1963. They were devastating. Although accepting the navy's needs for a force of fifteen attack carriers, and although approving funding new carriers in fiscal years 1963, 1965, and 1967, none were to be nuclear powered. He would approve one more nuclear-powered frigate. With this ship and the ones previously authorized, the navy would have an austere nuclear-powered task force to be used on those occasions when endurance was necessary.

The nuclear-powered frigate McNamara was proposing for the 1963 program was to be the first of a new design built around the Typhon. An elaborate and sophisticated weapon system, Typhon was to defend a carrier force against weapons coming into operation after 1965. It would be able to handle more targets, detect them at greater ranges, and react more quickly than any existing system the navy had. It could provide the ship with a greater degree of air control of antiaircraft and antimissile missiles than ever before. It made sense to put the system in a ship that could provide plenty of electric power and steam at high speed for a long period of time without refueling.

The nuclear-powered guided missile frigate would come equipped with the still experimental long- and medium-range Typhon surface-to-air, surface-to-surface and surface-to-missile system. She would operate offensively with carrier strike, ASW and amphibious forces. In the Typhon system, a single multi- purpose radar would perform all functions formerly assigned to separate search, acquisition, tracking and guidance radars.

The AEC was disturbed to learn that the application of nuclear propulsion to the surface navy was to be limited to a single task force. Seaborg found himself confronting the same situation McCone had faced: reconciling the commission's development of naval reactors for ships the navy was not going to build. Commissioner Robert E. Wilson, a chemical engineer who had been chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the Standard Oil Company (Indiana), thought the problem might be Rickover and his tight grasp on naval nuclear propulsion development. Maybe it was time for the commission to seek a new leader for the program. By asking the navy to review its plans for nuclear-powered surface ships and the commission to study different reactor types, something might turn up to break the deadlock.

The navy was shifting its attitude toward nuclear propulsion for surface ships. The operations of the Long Beach and more particularly the Enterprise were actualities and promises fulfilled. The service was coming to the conclusion that the navy needed nuclear-powered surface ships and that the only way to get them was not to wait for a technological breakthrough to lower costs, but to embark upon a steady construction program. That way put the secretary of the navy and the chief of naval operations on a collision course with the secretary of defense.

The Enterprise, Long Beach, and Bainbridge had proved the outstanding capabilities of nuclear propulsion and the reliability of these plants for surface ships. Based on these considerations the Navy and AEC supported nuclear propulsion for all new major combatant surface ships larger than 8,000 tons the chief of naval operations issued a revised policy statement to that effect on March 28. All future attack aircraft carriers, beginning with the CVA 67 and those planned for fiscal years 1965 and 1967, should be nuclear powered; all future frigates should be nuclear powered beginning with the lead Typhon in fiscal year 1965 and continuing with the two guided missile destroyers in fiscal year 1968.

The SPG-59 was an electronically scanned radar like today's SPY-1, but unlike phased arrays (the technology of the early 1960s was too large and inefficient for shipboard use), it used a Luneberg Lens deep in the ship to act as a phase generator for radar signals. SPG-59 was originally going to be produced in three versons, a 10,000 antenna element version for cruisers, a 7,000 element intermediate design, and a 3,400 element version for DLGs and DLGNs. Both versions could track the same number of Typhon missiles inflight, but the Cruiser version had much more transmitted power, which meant more range, allowing it to support Typhon LR. The DLG/DLGN version only had the range to support Typhon MR. The difference in target track capability was due to the bigger and more powerful computer mainframes installed with the cruiser version.

Typhon on Norton SoundHaving been home ported at Port Hueneme, California since 30 November 1948, Norton Sound stood out to sea in June of 1962 bound for Norfolk, Virginia and ultimately to Baltimore, Maryland. She arrived at Norfolk, Virginia and was decommissioned on 10 August 1962, and was later towed to Baltimore to enter the Maryland Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. shipyard for installation of major portions of the prototype TYPHON Weapons System, which consisted of the AN/SPG-59 Radar and its associated control system. TYPHON was a radical step in the evolution of naval surface weapons systems, being the first system capable of simultaneously taking multiple targets under fire and tracking many more.

Since Typhon radar was power hungry, only a large ship (a cruiser) had the required power even in a non-nuclear powerplant. In smaller ships DDG and DLG (destroyers and frigates), it was much more difficult. The Navy tried to design a DDG with Typhon but this meant using only the Medium-Range version of the missile and a conventional (mechanical scan) radar. This was unaccpatable, and so the projected DDG grew in scale till reaching the DLG size (some 8,000 tons). And even so, the ship would have had the smaller 3400 element radar, operating 10 percent of the time (so the ship needed a separate conventional air search radar for the remaining 90 percent). This conventional powered ship would have had a long range and a medium-range Typhon launcher.

So in march 196i the Navy decided to go nuclear, discarding the DDG and going for a cruiser and a DLGN. There was a last try at conventional, with a CONAG powerplant (30,000 hp gas turbines), but the cost was higher than a a pure nuclear (CONAG was tried because the available DLGN-size reactor weren't able to drive the ship at the desired 30 Knots). The NAvy settled for a pure nuclear DLGN with a longer hull (600 ft) that permitted the 30 knots at lower power. This was 1962.

Nothing in the operation of the Enterprise before or during the Cuban crisis changed McNamara's mind that all the navy needed, at least for the present, was a small nuclear-powered task force. He had included the Typhon frigate in the 1963 program to round out that force. The Bureau of Naval Weapons was finding the Typhon system far more difficult to develop than anticipated.

In May 1962 it had proposed substituting a Bainbridge for the Typhon frigate, placing an oil-fired Typhon in the 1964 program, and reviewing the Typhon effort to make sure that in performance, cost, and size it would be suitable for a large number of ships. Furthermore, the navy lamely proposed a single-reactor destroyer with a modified Typhon.

By November 1962, the Secretary of the Navy, with the concurrence of the Secretary of Defense, had requested and received permission from Congress to cancel the Typhon cruiser in the 1963 shipbuilding program and to reprogram the fund to support the 3T Get Well Program. Pessimism about completing the weapon system on time and the escalating cost of the radar were factors in the decision to slip the date of the first Typhon ship.

On 26 November 1962, McNamara cancelled the Typhon frigate of 1963 and permitted no substitutes. A third Bainbridge was not what the navy needed, and the navy had no operating experience with a singlereactor surface ship. He proposed that the navy spend its available funds on correcting the deficiencies of the Terrier, Talos, and Tartar surface-to air missiles. Here the secretary was touching upon a sore point, for the performance of the missiles during Kennedy's review of the fleet had been so bad as to evoke the intervention of the president himself. McNamara pointed out that the rejection of the Typhon frigate, a third Bainbridge, and the single-reactor destroyer was not to be construed as opposition to nuclear propulsion for these ships. He would consider the matter again in the next year.

Unfortunately, the electronic state of the art at that time was not capable of providing the necessary components in the size required to build a system deployable in a destroyer. The TYPHON Programs was cancelled on 7 January 1964 by Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara. Therefore, it was decided that the installation in Norton Sound would be used to gather data which would help advance the state of the art, and prepare the way for development of a serviceable small ship system at a later date.

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Page last modified: 16-11-2017 18:44:36 ZULU