Sunday, December 20, 2015

Alternate Ticonderoga Roles

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?


  1. Problem is that these hulls are getting old and therefore the costs of maintaining them goes up. Also the Tico's have always had issues from extra weight shoved into a Sprucan hull.

    In the end it would be cheaper to build a new hull with the Zumwalt's power system and all the features a AAW/ASW shp needs. Minus the weird hull and 'stealth' the Zumwalt has.

    1. Most of the class has not yet reached its life expectancy.

  2. I would say Ballistic Missile Defense and AAW defense and keep the others to a basic such as Guns for self defense and Torpedoes for ASUW defense.

    1. You could take one of those ships, put in a slip, bury it up to the deck, and AAW/BMD defense for a city. Its buried so you can't sink it but still has all the engines, etc so its self-contained.

  3. The most likely role is that they will be SinkEx'ed.

    In that regard, they will join the Spruance and several other platforms.

    It is a pretty appalling state of affairs if you think about it, but it is likely what the USN is aiming for. I have no idea the logic behind this though.

    I can only assume that it is defense contractors trying to push for more $$$ for new platforms?

    1. New platforms, if done right, are cheaper in the long run than keeping old hulls from sinking.

      I copied this from another person but it fits everything I would say in a much better way:
      "The problem was that we didn't scrap them soon enough. The cost of keeping a ship in service is exponential against time and the curve up is steep. Mathematically, it costs as much to keep an old ship in service for the last quarter of its life as it does to buy a new one. This was the mistake the US Navy made in the 1950s; it kept all the old war-built ships in reserve and in doing so spent a truck-load of money on them that could have funded new ships. Then they repeated the mistake with the CVs in the 1980s and 1990s. If we scrap ships when their maintenance cost starts to rise sharply and replace them, we support the construction infrastructure, we get a younger and more modern fleet, the ships we have are in better condition, we build more ships and we push the unit cost down. If we hadn't kept the old CVs and Enterprise in commission long past their sell-by date, we'd probably have two or three more CVNs in the fleet right now."


      "Politics mostly; it wasn't possible to get the funding for as many new carriers as we needed past Congress so the Navy tried to keep up the numbers by rebuilding (SLEPping) the old ones. That took up the money that should have gone to new ships. It's a deadly trap that a lot of navies fall into. They keep old ships in commission long past their due date so they can claim to have a larger fleet than they really do (thus impressing potential enemies and deceiving their own population). Then, they find all those old, obsolete ships are absorbing the funding needed to build their replacements. The Royal Navy had that problem for many years; they had ships listed in reserve that were far beyond saving. So did the USN."

    2. An interesting premise. Is there any data in a readily digestible form to support it?

      Consider the Enterprise/Ford replacement. At $14B for a new Ford, we could have done a LOT of maintenance on Enterprise and still bought a brand new Nimitz. Note - this is possibly not the best example since the Enterprise was 50+ years old but the Ticos haven't even met their life expectancy yet so I strongly doubt they're costing us huge sums of money.

      I'm quite skeptical about the premise but I'd love to see some data.

    3. I suppose the analogy would be like new cars sometimes being cheaper to operate.

      But in the case of the USN, it nor the defense industry has shown the ability to make affordable platforms, so the entire premise I would argue is invalid for the military.

      There isn't the massive desire for cost efficiency like in the civilian world. Perhaps that may be due to the concentration of the defense industry.

    4. There isn't any way to have updated the Enterprise. She was an old girl that was long past her prime. Besides reactors have there own limits due to neutron bombardment on the steel. Given enough time the metal could be prone to failure. Enterprise had 8 reactors.

      Question: What is the life expectancy? The Tico's are starting to hit 30 years with a lot of hard use under the hulls. They also are limited by their age and design with what updates they can get. Like there is no way to get the AMDR system installed. The new/old car analogy isn't really valid because a warship is far more complex and is in a much harsher environment. You have to make sure the hull stays in good shape, the engine train could break, and so much more. It is cheaper to go new than to keep pushing money at really old ships.

      The navy and the builders have done horrible at cost controls. When the navy yards actually built ships and did the overhauls that gave the civilians competition. The navy also used to design the ships to a large degree instead of trusting the contractors. With the Ford that's been a comedy of errors. Brand new: EML catapults, new arresting gear, a new radar system that only the Ford will have. All on one new ship. That was a huge mistake. You could have put pieces of it on the ship with space to add more later on when its fully tested. Keep building what already works with new enhancements and room to grow. That and stick to a 4 year cycle for CVN building. Pushing things out to 5-6 years actually makes cost go up.

      Now if we want something to replace the Tico's start with a bigger hull than a Burke like a South Korean Sejong the Great or bigger. Add Zumwalt's power plant design. That gives you power to spare and with the electric motors you can put the gas turbines anywhere on the ship instead of where the boilers used to be. Outfit it with the full version of the AMDR and say 3 VLS. In a lot of ways, its a Zumwalt without the weird hull, 'stealth', and a complete radar. A ship with full fledged AAW/ASuW/ASW capability.

      If we're building a fleet designed to take other people's stuff and/or smash it, there is no justification whatsoever for tin cans without full-fledged AAW/ASuW/ASW capability. It'll just get people killed.

    5. "Like there is no way to get the AMDR system installed."

      Of course there is. We're essentially backfitting AMDR into Burkes that weren't built for it. We could take a Tico and rip out what's there and add an AMDR if we wanted. Would it be the optimum size? Maybe, maybe not but the Burke Flt III AMDR isn't going to be the optimum size either.

      A nuclear ship is a special case. There does come a point where nuclear fatigue becomes an unsolvable problem barring a replacement that would cost more than a new ship. However, Enterprise as a hull could have been maintained for many more years.

  4. Well, the Navy is strongly focussed on spending money in the ways that the defence contractors want, because that's what pleases the Congressmen who provide the money. And from the point of view of those Congressmen, the Ticos look amazingly old-fashioned: "Cruiser" is a word from WWII, and the design is from the Carter administration, that period that undermined everything that makes America great.

    Yes, those arguments are totally superficial, and based in prejudice, not facts. Listen to your politicians and try to tell me that isn't how most of them think.

  5. This is a fun exercise but it ultimately is a fruitless one. If the Navy is not willing to find the funds to maintain the vessel in its current configuration, its very unlikely that the Navy would find the funds to make even minor modifications. Removing particular systems would be one thing (there could be a demonstrated ROI for the investment to remove the items vs the cost savings to maintain that item) but installing new systems or making large modifications it likely a non-starter. Modifications to the SSGNs made sense because the vessels were available and were considered to have significant life left in the hulls, but this is a bit different. Using that logic, an arsenal ship is the only option that really makes sense...remove the guns, the AEGIS system and other command and control functions and just load the VLS tubes with what payloads the deployment might call for.

    Something not mentioned is that the Tico's were one of the first platforms to get the SQQ-89A(V)15 system, making them a capable ASW platform platform...might be able to retain that role/capability with the arsenal ship concept. Essentially make them Spruance class DDs.


    1. Quite right. This is just a fun thought exercise although the general concept of ships having a second life is valid.

  6. With the current methods of CAD design, it makes it practically impossible to upgrade older ships ( and a lot of newer ones too- unless they area 'modular' design like LCS). The days of people in shipyard making substantial changes work out from experience are gone. They dont exist anymore.
    Yes existing systems can be taken out and replaced overhauled etc but they go back essentailly where they came from. Luckily for Aegis , newer computers as we all know are smaller lighter use less power and create less heat than the ones they replace for a substantial upgrade in capability. Software of course can be changed anytime.

    The old Aegis cruisers should be heading to the scrap yard as the Burke destroyers are their functional replacement. Very little difference in overall size and a bit fewer VL silos.
    What congress should be doing is adding extra new builds for the two yards that produce AB flightIII, not keeping ships that are expensive to maintain in service

    1. "With the current methods of CAD design, it makes it practically impossible to upgrade older ships "

      ???? You're making a point but I'm not getting it. Try again? Obviously, we can replace or rebuild anything we want. It's just a matter of motivation and money. We could lop the superstructure completely off a Tico and add a new, different one if we wanted.

      I'm missing your point.

    2. Modern CAD design /and manufacturing/ assumes you're completely in control of the dimensions of the thing you're building, and makes things to exact sizes. Older ships and aircraft tend to be of slightly variable dimensions, constructed on a cut-to-fit basis, so new parts for them tend to have to be designed on a custom basis for each vehicle. This pushes up design costs and deprives you of advantages of scale in manufacturing.

      In the worst case (and contractors have motive to budget that way) this requires redoing the design work for each vehicle. More modern CAD software lets you avoid much of that work, but that has to be got into use and budgeting and bidding processes adjusted to take advantage of it.

      This problem is why the UK scrapped its Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft. They'd originally been built in the early 1960s and no two of them were the same.

  7. There is a historical precedence of using a Tico cruiser as an arsenal ship. In the 1990 Gulf War, the San Jacinto (CG-56) acted as a "special weapons platform" with a loadout of 122 cruise missiles. Though I understand she only fired a handful of missiles. And, if memory serves, I think Harpoon had a scenario where a Tico acted as a special weapons platform.


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