Tag Archives: USS Constellation

Welcome back, USS Constellation

I am a sucker for naval tradition and, while 20th Century frigates/destroyer escorts were named either for small towns (see Asheville– and Tacoma-classes) or heroes that are often otherwise forgotten (see Evarts-, Buckley-, Cannon-, Edsall-class, et.al), it was announced yesterday that the fleet’s next frigate class will start off with a familiar name– that of one of the First Six frigates of the newly-formed U.S. Navy, USS Constellation.

Action between U.S. Frigate Constellation and French Frigate Insurgente, 9 February 1799. Painting by Rear Admiral John W. Schmidt, USN (Retired), depicting Constellation (at left) taking position ahead of Insurgente. After an hour-and-a-quarter engagement, the badly outmaneuvered and damaged French frigate surrendered. Constellation was commanded by Captain Thomas Truxtun. Courtesy of the artist. Official U.S. Navy photograph, KN-2882.

Serving from 1797 and named in honor of the collection of 15 stars on the young country’s flag, the original 164-foot, 38-gun Constellation, called “The Yankee Racehorse” due to her speed, endured until 1853 when she was “greatly repaired” at Gosport Navy Yard to become the 179-foot 20-gun sloop-of-war that carried the same name and is currently preserved in Baltimore.

The third completed Connie, of more modern vintage, was the massive Kitty Hawk-class supercarrier which was in service from 1961 to 2003 and is remembered for her hard service in Vietnam, the Cold War, the Tanker War, and Iraq as “America’s Flagship.” Sadly, she was scrapped in 2015.

An aerial port beam view of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Constellation (CV-64) as crew members form the Battle E awards for excellence on the flight deck of the ship. 1 August 1986 National Archives and Records Administration photo, cataloged under the National Archives Identifier (NAID) 6429186 https://catalog.archives.gov/id/6429186

Now, as announced by SECNAV Kenneth J. Braithwaite this week, USS Constellation (FFG 62) will be the lead ship in the new Guided Missile Frigate (FFG(X)) class.

Appropriately, he made the announcement while aboard the museum ship Constellation in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

BALTIMORE (Oct. 7, 2020) Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J. Braithwaite announces USS Constellation (FFG 62) as the name for the first ship in the new Guided Missile Frigate class of ships while aboard the museum ship Constellation in Baltimore Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Md., Oct. 7, 2020. As the first in her class, the future Guided Missile Frigates will be known as the Constellation Class frigates. Braithwaite visited the museum ship Constellation for the announcement to honor the first U.S. Navy ships authorized by Congress in 1794. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Levingston Lewis)

The Navy emphasized that the FFG-X will be fighting ships, rather than the LCSs we currently have:

As the next generation of small surface combatants will contribute to meeting the goal of 355 battle force ships. With the ability to operate independently or as part of a strike group, it will deliver an Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar (EASR), Mk 41 Vertical Launching System, and Baseline 10 (BL 10) Aegis Combat System capabilities. The ships lethality, survivability, and improved capability will provide Fleet Commanders multiple options while supporting the National Defense Strategy across the full range of military operations.

It would be great if the next ships of the class repeat other First Six names (Chesapeake, Congress, and President) not currently in use, and carry forward with other famous ship names moving forward (e.g. why do we not have a Ranger, Hornet, Intrepid, etc?).

Either way, it is better than naming them for politicians and labor leaders. 

Connie’s Escort Service hard at work, 32 years ago today

In a departure from our standard Warship Wednesday format, here we see an aerial port beam view of the Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carrier USS Constellation (CV-64) in her prime as crew members form the Battle E awards for excellence on the flight deck of the ship, 1 August 1986. Among these is the Pacific Fleet Battle Efficiency Award for an 18-month period. She is pictured off the West Coast just a month before she started a short two-month NorPac cruise, Capt. Melvin David Munsinger, USN, in command.

National Archives and Records Administration photo, cataloged under the National Archives Identifier (NAID) 6429186 https://catalog.archives.gov/id/6429186

About half of her airwing is on deck, and it is a masterpiece of 1980s Red Storm Rising-style carrier warfare.

Forward you can see at least 17 F/A-18A/B Hornets from VF-A-113 and VFA-25 nestled around her starboard Sea Sparrow launcher. Next, are followed a half-dozen S-3A Vikings from VS-37, a collection of 16 KA-6D/EA-6B/A-6Es from VA-196 and VAQ-139, three E-3 Hawkeyes from VAW-113 aft her the island, along with a pair of big ole beautiful SH-3 Sea Kings from the “Eighballers” of HS-8. The huge delta-wing fighters, of course, are the F-14A Tomcats with their variable geometric wings in their closed position, from VF-21 and VF-154. All are of Carrier Air Wing 14 (CVW-14) which deployed on Connie during Vietnam as well as five times between Feb. 1985 and Oct. 1989 before chopping to USS Independence.

The above was taken the year before Connie was sent to help support Operation Earnest Will, the 14-months of nail-biting that came with escorting of re-flagged Kuwaiti tankers in the Persian Gulf as a result of Iranian attacks against international shipping with assets from the Pacific’s Third and Seventh Fleets and the Mediterranean-based Sixth Fleet. This was known by the crew as “Connie’s 24-hour Escort Service” (NSFW).

Connie was decommissioned 7 August 2003 and struck later the same year. She arrived in Brownsville on 16 January 2015 for dismantling and has been going to pieces slowly ever since.

CVW-14 was deactivated effective 31 March 2017, a process which started back in 2011.

45 Years ago today..

F-4J Phantom II aircof Fighter Squadron (VF) 96 pictured on a catapult on board the carrier Constellation (CVA 64) steaming in the Gulf of Tonkin in May 1972

Click to big up 2003×1328

F-4J-35-MC Phantom II “Showtime 104” of Fighter Squadron (VF) 96 pictured on a catapult on board the carrier USS Constellation (CVA 64) steaming in the Gulf of Tonkin during Operation Linebacker, May 10, 1972.

Sadly, everything you see is now but a memory.

The Fighting Falcons of VF-96 have been inactivated since 1 Dec 1975 while the last combat rated Phantoms (the F-4S’s of VF-202) were retired in 1987 although some were converted to QF-4 target drones and kept around at at NAS Point Mugu as late as 2004.

Speaking of which, BuNo. 155787, shown on the cat above, was converted to a F-4S model and was transferred to the AMARC boneyard as 8F0285 9 July 1987, remaining one of the very last Phantoms in Navy service with the aforementioned VF-202. She took a few more rides under remote control as QF-4S drone “106” and was stricken in 2000, likely expended in a live fire shoot.

As for Conny herself, she was put out to pasture in 2003 after 42 years of very active service. She has been in the breakers since last year.




The Connie’s sad last trip around the Horn

uss contellation on way to scrapping

From NASA Goddard’s Flickr feed:

“NASA’s Operation IceBridge  collected some rare images on a flight out of Punta Arenas, Chile on Nov. 5, 2014, on a science flight over western Antarctica dubbed Ferrigno-Alison-Abbott 01. Following a routine calibration pass over Punta Arenas airport, the NASA DC-8 overflew the ex-USS Constellation (CV-64) which is being towed for demolition after 53 yeas of service [41 on active duty, 12 in reserve mothballs]. The crew then snapped a few shots of a calving front of the Antarctic ice sheet. This particular flight plan was designed to collect data on changes in ice elevation along the coast near the Ferrigno and Alison ice streams, on the Abbot Ice Shelf, and grounded ice along the Eights Coast.”