Saturday, March 26, 2016

Idled Cruiser Update

The Navy has been trying for several years, now, to early retire the Ticonderoga class Aegis cruisers.  Presumably, the reason is to eliminate any potential competition with the Flt III Burkes that might threaten their funding.  Ironically, the Spruance class destroyers were retired and sunk to eliminate them as competition with the Ticonderogas!  The wheel turns full circle, I guess.

In any event, here are the specifics on the initial idlings via Defense News website.  Here are the ships that have been idled and the year they were idled or are scheduled to be idled.

Cowpens        2015
Gettysburg      2015
Chosin            2016
Vicksburg        2016

As you recall, the Navy tried to block retire 11 of the 22 cruisers and Congress blocked that plan.  The Navy then came up with the fiction of “modernization”, which was simply an unofficial retirement, and Congress blocked that.  Ultimately, the Navy swore to Congress that they really would modernize the ships and return them to service and Congress responded by implementing a 2-4-6 law which limits the “modernizations” to two ships per year with completion mandated in four years and a maximum of six ships in “modernization” at a time.  So, four of the allowable six are now idled and, presumably, two more will follow suit in 2017.

Here’s the catch that the Navy, intentionally, hasn’t advertised.  When the ships come out of modernization they will replace retiring cruisers.  Thus, the four (next year, six) ships represent a net permanent decrease of four (next year, six) cruisers from the force.

It’s inconceivable to me that in the midst of declining fleet numbers and a stated desire for a 300+ ship navy, that we would early retire the most powerful surface warships in the world.

The crews of the ships are being disbanded.

“Once NAVSEA takes control, the ship will slim down from a 325-person crew led by a captain to a 45-person crew led by a lieutenant commander.” (1)

The Aegis cruiser fleet, once 22 ships, is now 18 ships and will drop to 16 next year, never to return.  China must simply be giddy with delight.  A Chinese secret agent inserted into the upper ranks of Navy leadership couldn’t do as much damage to the US fleet as we’re doing to ourselves.

(1)Defense News, “The Navy keeps sidelining its best surface ships. Here's why”, David Larter, Navy Times, March 25, 2016


  1. The navy leadership is like our politicians from either party. They are only trying to enrich themselves not defend the country.

    If they idle theses ships without replacements or congressional approval then the navy brass shows a lack of regard to the wishes of the elected Congress

    Welcome to the Roman empire where the military rules and those elected listen

  2. Whats wrong with replacing old outdated ships with newer Burkes with the latest radar and software( except WR21 propulsion which is a dog)
    Its a bit like battleships built just before the WW2 looked much the same as Iowa ( all with 9 x 16 in) but the underwater protection was totally different , and better.

    1. ???? You completely lost me, whatever your point is. Try again?

    2. "Its a bit like battleships built just before the WW2 looked much the same as Iowa ( all with 9 x 16 in) but the underwater protection was totally different , and better."

      Ztev, that's a commonly claimed legend, but it's actually wrong.
      All the US' 'new era' Battleships looked similar (and many of the new heavy cruisers followed the same scheme as well), but the Iowas' TDS was actually overall better than their predecessors... just not as efficient.
      The Iowas' TDS was rated for 700lbs, and later up-rated to 940lbs (and would later be up-rated again to a still-classified number). The North Carolinas' TDS was rated for 500lbs, and later up-rated to 700lbs.

      Ironically, the Iowas' TDS also proved to be more resistant to modern 'back breaking' torpedoes (such as the Mk14/15, when it worked as designed, and the Mk48 ADCAP), which is why the last of the Montana-class designs switched back to the Iowa-style TDS.

    3. Old ships have a long hsitory of being replaced by better ones.
      The VLS Ticos the earliest is from 86, the latest from 94. The ones you name are 25 years old , which is not really worth modernising.

    4. The Ticos have a design life of 35 years. The Navy is trying to replace them at around 25 years. The problem with doing this is that we can't replace ships on a one for one basis after only 70% of the life. If they had their way, the Navy would have block retired 11 cruisers. We can't block replace 11 new ships. The fleet will continually shrink. The Navy knows this. Their 30 year plan specifies unrealistically long ship lives as it is and early retiring is just going to make the fleet size even smaller.

      Not worth modernizing??? Even if they were simply maintained, not modernized, they would still be the most powerful surface warship in the world. Do you really think it makes sense to retire 11 of the most powerful ships in the world with an average of 10 years of service life left?

      Replaced with better ones??? It's highly debatable that the Burke Flt IIIs are better than a Tico. The Flt IIIs will have 96 VLS versus 122 for a Tico, 1 gun versus 2 for a Tico, etc. The main advantage of the Flt III is the AMDR and that will be a scaled down version that doesn't meet the Navy's own stated requirement. The Ticos can be, and have been, adapted to perform BMD.

      You've seen the combat fleet size trend in the post after this one. If we keep retiring ships early and replacing them on a less than one for one basis we'll eventually wind up with a combat fleet of a single ship. That's the path we're on.

      This is a very poor decision, any way you look at it.

    5. The days of just maintaining the hull and mechanical systems are over. The expense of upgrading the electronic systems no longer makes a 35 year life worthwhile along with the current cad/cam way of doing things.
      As the latest Burkes have a better radar - combat system-missiles they are the equal or better of the mid age Ticos you refer to.
      As for the Ticos role, the only one they have left is close company with a carrier task force, where the AAW commander is the Tico captain.
      And how many Ticos are needed to fill this role with a carrier ? Even 11 seems too many.
      As usual Congress is cutting its nose to spite its face, and could end up with no Ticos before a replacement is built.

    6. I have to disagree....the ships are still very useful....9 active carrier and 8 or 9 Amphibious Carriers so you still need at least 16 ships for that. They could be used in surface strike, 114 VLS for TOMAHAWK missiles or fit the Army's MLRS rockets in them, and dont forgot the two guns with extended range munitions....if you wanted drop crew numbers remove the AEGIS from them.

  3. The doggedly persistent energy USN leadership have invested into this COA - retiring as many CGs as they can get away with - is mind-boggling.

    As an outsider, I read about the litany of failure in recapitalising or even 'sustaining' the current fleet - documented here in detail; then elsewhere, I read about how critical the numbers are when it comes to procurement, eg: in the context of needing the full purchase of L?S.

    None of it fits a consistent narrative. A tiny fraction of the examples;
    - 'We don't need Frigates. They are soooo 19th Century!'
    - 'L?S will be reworked into a cough-Frigate-cough.'
    - 'Actual Frigates cost too much.' Even though they can fight; whereas the L?S/Franken-Frigate(mod), can't (against more than pirates). For the same money.
    - Let's not even start on the new CVN...or the Flt III DDG...or the modules that don't fit in the modular holes...or the lack of surface connectors in the new amphib...or the fact replacing the simple Harpoon in good time is a bridge too far...or fitting it into a VLS...

    Thanks for keeping track of these developments, CNO. It is a depressing read, but I'm glad someone is pulling it together.

    Random query: Has the USN been so adrift, ever before?
    Actually, 'adrift' implies benign intent. This seems malignant.

    1. "None of it fits a consistent narrative."

      Actually, it does fit a consistent narrative. The Navy's goal (meaning the mindset of upper level uniformed leaders) is to maintain or increase their slice of the budget pie. That's done by building new ships. The Navy exists, then, to build ships. The Navy will sacrifice anything to build new ships. We've seen the Navy sacrifice manning, maintenance, readiness, air wing size, operational relevance in ship design, etc. all in the name of new construction.

      Once you recognize the mindset of today's Navy leadership, their pattern of behavior and the decisions they make can be seen to fit a consistent and self-logical narrative, to use your word.

      Now, the next question is "why"? Why do the Navy's leaders believe, wrongly, that their job is to maintain/grow the budget by building ships at the expense of all else? Why don't they believe that their job is protecting the country, developing a combat ready and relevant fleet, spending the taxpayer's money wisely, concentrating on maintenance and tactics, etc.? For that, I have no answer. I can see the pattern of behavior quite clearly but I can't explain the "why".

    2. this what I've been saying for a long has nothing to do with defense and all about money and corporate welfare. Same goes for the Air Force, F-35 no more proof needed.

  4. I always felt that the SINKEX on the Spruance Class was done to justify building more DDG's. Regardless, at this point the Tico's represent the best ASW platform in the entire surface fleet. If big Navy is serious about the undersea environment, it would be better off putting money to ensure CG-47's are maintained.

    The FLT III DDG's as currently planned are a bad investment. Burke's are too small of a platform from a power and missile perspective for the AMDR mission.

    1. The Spruance class was terminated to avoid a competitive threat to Aegis from the New Threat Upgrade (NTU) which was proposed for the Spruance class. At that time, NTU was equal or slightly superior to Aegis and constituted a real threat to Aegis funding.

      You're correct about the Burkes.

    2. I think we are saying the same thing; that the USN was fully committed to Aegis and eliminating DD-963 class not only got rid of a competitive sensor suite but would justify Aegis expansion due to the loss of 25 hulls with plenty of life in them.

      Coincidentally if you go to google images and type in Aegis Spurance you can find a proposed mod to retrofit the DD's with SPY mast for Taiwan.


Comments will be moderated for posts older than 7 days in order to reduce spam.