The Ticonderoga-class Guided Missile Cruisers are some of the most lethal ships in the United States Navy, but their time has come, and their retirement from the fleet is beginning in earnest this year.
This class of warship was first ordered in 1978, and the first models of it went into service in 1983. The Ticonderoga-class ships were originally planned as a class of destroyers, but before they began service, they were upgraded and armed with the advanced Aegis Combat Systems and the AN/SPY-1 radar system, which increased their combat capabilities. These ships also had the capability of operating as a flagship, which changed their classification from a DDG (a guided-missile destroyer) to a CG (a guided-missile cruiser).
Over time, from 1980 to 1994, some 27 of these CGs were built and entered the fleet. They were the replacements for the previous Virginia-class cruisers. Some 21 of these Ticonderoga-class CGs remain in the fleet at this time. But this year, they are beginning the process of decommissioning. Six were retired earlier, but the rest will now be more rapidly decommissioned beginning this year.
One of the five being decommissioned is the USS Vella Gulf. Her current commanding officer, Capt. Mike Desmond, says, “By my calculations, Vella Gulf has sailed nearly a half million miles.” Those miles took their toll on her. Desmond reported that in her later years, the ship became temperamental. “When all systems were a go, operating as designed, she was arguably the most reliable, capable, and lethal warship on the planet. And certainly the most fun to sail.” The Vella Gulf had two COVID-19 deployments, one with the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group in February 2021, but was shortly sidelined due to mechanical issues.
She deployed again with the same carrier group in 2020, through the Middle East and Europe, according to Rear Adm. Brendan McLane. “Two hundred days straight underway. Nobody came out. Nobody left,” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to prevent its spread. The USS Vella Gulf will be towed to the Navy’s Inactive Ships facility in Philadelphia, PA, on Oct. 11, 2022. It will be placed in Logistical Support Asset status.
The Ticonderoga-class ships displace some 9,600 tons and are 567 feet in length with 55-foot beams and a draft of 3 feet. They are driven by 4 General Electric LM2500 gas turbine engines and can achieve speeds of up to 32.4 knots. They have a range of 6,000 miles at 20 knots and 3,300 at 30 knots. They carry around 330 officers and crew. Their radar systems are vast and as advanced as they come, and they have the capacity for electronic warfare.
Their armaments include 26 missile launchers and can launch several types of air-to-air ship-to-shore missiles, including Tomahawk and Harpoon missiles. They also have 2×5 127mm/54-caliber lightweight guns, 2-4 .50-caliber machine guns, 2 Phalanx CIWS defensive weapons, and 2 torpedo tubes. In other words, they are some of the most lethal warships in the U.S. Navy.
They have multiple roles in the fleet. They are designed to be elements of carrier battle groups or amphibious-ready groups. They can accommodate helicopters as part of their capabilities as well. They can be used for interdiction or escort missions. With their upgraded AN/SPY-1 phased radar system and their missile payloads as part of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, they have repeatedly demonstrated their proficiency as mobile anti-missile and anti-satellite weapons platforms.
These CGs are being replaced with Arleigh Burke-class DDGs.Whizzco