The Navy has tried repeatedly to early retire the
Ticonderoga class Aegis cruisers, the most capable warships on
the planet. Setting aside the lunacy of
that intent, let’s assume that the Navy succeeds in its quest – ultimately, they
always do. Is there a secondary role
that “retired” Ticos could serve in?
Well, here’s a few fun speculations about secondary roles. Note that for most or all of these roles, the non-specified functions and capabilities would be removed and the crew size proportionally reduced. Thus, the Aegis system, sonar, helos, etc. would likely be removed. If desired, some simple sheet metal structural work could slant some of the superstructure that remains to add a degree of stealth. The degree obtainable might or might not justify the effort and cost.
AAW Barge – The Ticos could simply be filled with AAW missiles, have all other functions stripped out, be minimally manned, and provide an AAW missile inventory for other shooters.
Amphibious Assault Gun Ship – Removing the VLS cells would allow room for additional guns and magazines. It ought to be possible to raise the ship’s gun total to around five 5” guns. That would represent a vast improvement over what we have now in the way of gun support. Helos would be replaced by a sizable short range UAV complement for gunfire spotting and surveillance.
Surveillance UAV Carrier – If the flight deck were expanded and the helos deleted, the ship could make an excellent UAV carrier for conducting surveillance. The ship already has fairly extensive command, control, intel, and surveillance capabilities. It would be easy to blend in UAV operations.
Arsenal Ship – The VLS cells could be dedicated to cruise missiles. In fact, the guns could be removed and additional cells added.
Whether any of these options would make the perfect platform for the described role is not the issue. The issue is that the Navy is trying desperately to early retire the ships and these concepts represent possible ways to extract more useful life from the class. Do you have any ideas of your own?