Aries may soon ride again
Back in the 1970s Adm. Elmo Zumwalt came up with the idea that flotillas of small, fast attack craft could help control the coastal littoral in time of war. Used in places like the Baltic and Scandinavian, they could blunt potential Soviet Red Banner fleet amphibious operations if the balloon went up.
The only outcome of this was the six pack of Pegasus-class hydrofoils. Termed “PHM” (Patrol, Hydrofoil, Missile) these stubby 133-foot craft could zip at 51-knots when wide open and, using a Mk 92 fire control system, fire off eight Harpoons and a Mk 75 76mm OTO Melara main gun with a crew of just 21 men (skippered by a LCDR!).
The PHMs were home-ported in Key West, Fla. as Patrol Combatant Missile Hydrofoil Squadron TWO, but were decommissioned as a class on 30 July 1993 after just a decade of service that included a lot of USCG missions and regular UNITAS exercises among others.
The Boeing-built craft were all named after Greek mythological figures: USS Pegasus (PHM 1), USS Hercules (PHM 2), USS Taurus (PHM 3), USS Aquila (PHM 4), USS Aries (PHM-5) and USS Gemini (PHM-6).
Bought back in 1996 for $20,000, sans armament and most of her neat-o gear but still with her propulsion and hydrofoils still largely intact, ex-Aries is the only one of her class saved from the scrapper as a museum ship in Missouri.
After spending 18 years docked on the Grand River at Brunswick, Mo., the former Navy hydrofoil USS Aries is slowly coming back to life.
A group of volunteers from the Ohio Navy and the barge industry have been working on the Cold War naval ship since last November at the Gasconade (Mo.) Shipyard, restoring it for future use as a 21st century maritime training vessel.
The Aries remains tied off at the shipyard at the mouth of the Gasconade River, just up from the wine-laden town of Hermann, Mo., until May 2017, when it is hoped that the ship can be moved under its own power to Cairo, Ill., for drydocking. The Aries would then travel north on the Ohio River to Hebron, Ky., in June for final renovations.
The Rev. Kempton D. Baldridge, chaplain for the Ohio River Region with the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI), Paducah, Ky., said a week-long cadet orientation will likely take place onboard in late July, with a recommissioning ceremony tentatively scheduled for July 30 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Baldridge, who briefly served on the Aries and its five sister ships in the ‘80s as a Navy Reserve chaplain, has helped the Ohio Navy—an organized, all-volunteer unit that has been serving the State of Ohio and the nation since 1896—rehab the vessel by making connections in the marine industry, raising funds and lending a physical hand during the process.
“The day after Aries observes its recommissioning, the vessel will help commemorate the 120th anniversary of the first Ohio Navy training cruise, with a two-week, 902-mile river circuit from Cincinnati to East Liverpool, Ohio, and return,” said Baldridge. “Aries’ crew, which will include a dozen or so maritime cadets, would transit all nine of Ohio’s locks and dams twice, once northbound and once southbound. At least that’s the plan as it stands now.”