150 Years of Cruisers sent to Mothballs

Over the weekend, the Pascagoula-built Ticonderoga-class sisters USS Hué City (CG-66) and USS Anzio (CG-68) were decommissioned, ending the lengthy careers of the two cruisers. Ordered on the same day in 1987 as part of a money-saving bulk buy, they were the first and second U.S. Navy warships named after their respective Vietnam and WWII-era battles.

Commissioned just nine months apart (14 September 1991 and 2 May 1992) they served 61 years combined.

ATLANTIC OCEAN (July 4, 2016) The guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio (CG 68) transits the Atlantic Ocean alongside aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), not pictured. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Justin R. Pacheco/Released) 160704-N-NU281-142

U.S. 5th FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY (Sept. 27, 2012) The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Hue City (CG 66) is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman/Released) 120927-N-FI736-273

They were preceded by the younger USS Vella Gulf (CG-72), decommissioned last month on 4 August just shy of 29 years of service, and the slightly older USS Monterey (CG-61), decommissioned on 19 September after 32.

A fifth Tico, USS Port Royal (CG-73), is set to decommission on Thursday– at Pearl Harbor– bringing a close to her 28th year with the fleet. Port Royal is the youngest of her class and will likely be the last cruiser ever built for the U.S. Navy.

Truly the end of an era.

NEW YORK CITY (May 20, 2009) The guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) transits the Hudson River during the Parade of Ships as part of Fleet Week New York City 2009. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class David Danals/Released)

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Oct. 6, 2020) The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG 61), front, the Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116), center, and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) sail in formation with the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), not pictured. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Aimee Ford) 201006-N-VG565-0001

PEARL HARBOR (June 24, 2011) The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal (CG 73) passes by the Waianae Mountains as the ship departs Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for a scheduled deployment in the western Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel Barker/Released) 110624-N-RI884-060

These five decommissionings strip the Navy of 610 strike-length VLS cells, 10 5-inch MK45 guns, 60 ASW torpedo tubes, 80 Harpoons, five helicopter hangars, and assorted Aegis systems with companion air defense commander suites.

It could be argued that six Flight III Burkes could more than replace the capabilities lost with the five paid-off cruisers and the Navy plans on buying two destroyers per year from FY 2023 through FY 2027 but that seems like a long way away, especially considering the 17 remaining Ticos are all set to be retired by then.

Meanwhile, the DDG(X) program, which is supposed to fill the gap left by the cruiser slaughter, isn’t set to even start fabrication until FY2028. 

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