Ticonderoga-class Cruisers Get Improved Missile Capability

(c) K.B. Sherman, 2002

Predicting future war is risky. Only a little more than 50 years ago, the US Air Force forcefully argued before Congress that the US Navy should be disbanded and its air assets given to the Air Force since, with the US’ new B-36 and nuclear weapons, ‘there will be no use for ships in the future.’ The USS United States, the Navy’s first post-World War II “supercarrier,” was scrapped. Only under the threat of mass resignation by the Navy’s top admirals was the Air Force thwarted. How things change. As the new century begins and terrorism becomes the new enemy, it would be impossible for the United States to defend itself without its navy.

Accordingly, Lockheed Martin Naval Electronics & Surveillance Systems (NE&SS) – Marine Systems (Baltimore, MD) was recently awarded a $6.5 million contract by the US Navy to upgrade the MK 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS) installed aboard 22 of the service's 27 Ticonderoga-class AEGIS guided missile cruisers (CGs). This upgrade is part of the Navy's ongoing Cruiser Conversion Program, which involves a multi-year contract for the continued production and delivery of VLS for the US Navy and for Foreign Military Sales (FMS) customers through 2004. The contract’s total value is $323 million if all options are exercised. Twenty-seven Ticonderoga-class (CG 47 - CG 73) guided missile cruisers were built between 1983 and 1994 by Ingalls Shipbuilding at Pascagoula, Mississippi and Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine. Since 1994, the Navy has concentrated upon building DDG-51 Burke-class guided missile destroyers. Thirteen Ticonderoga-class ships are operational in the US Navy Atlantic Fleet and 14 in the Pacific Fleet. The CG-47 class is one of two classes equipped with the AEGIS combat system (the Burkes are the other). CG-52 onward were originally fitted with two Mark 41 Vertical Launch Systems (VLS), each armed with eight Tomahawk cruise missiles. The first five ships (USS Ticonderoga to USS Thomas S. Gates) are fitted with conventional twin launchers. The 9,460 ton ships carry two SH-60B helicopters and are heavily armed, carrying two 5-inch naval rifles, 2 Phalanx CIWS, Tomahawk and Harpoon missiles, and 2 Mk 48 mod 5 triple torpedo launchers. They also carry 4 or 6 Loral Hycor SRBOC 6-barreled Mk-36 decoy launchers, the SLQ-25A Nixie towed torpedo decoy, the NATO Sea Gnat, the SLQ AEB, SLQ 39 chaff launcher, and SLQ-32(V)3 jammer.

“This most recent contract is part of a production contract we signed in June of this year,” said NE&SS spokesman Thomas Greer. This contract is specific to hull numbers 52 (USS Bunker Hill) through 73 (USS Port Royal). The new contract provides for funding to cover the cost of non-recurring engineering development and design work to upgrade the current VLS launchers aboard these ships.

“The Cruiser Conversion Program is upgrading the USN’s Ticonderoga-class fleet for better capabilities in ballistic missile defense, land attack, maritime force protection and operations in the littorals,” said Greer. This involves, in part, migrating the Launch Control Computer Program (LCCP) from the current AN/UYK-44 computer to the COTS-based Lockheed Martin AN/ALQ-70, which provides improved Ship Self Defense. The upgraded launchers will accommodate the MK 25 Quad Pack Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) canister (United Defense Limited Partnership), which houses four ESSM missiles in a single VLS cell.

As another part of the Conversion Program, the class’ existing 5/54 5-inch naval rifles are to be replaced by the MK 45 5-inch/62-caliber (MOD 4 Extended Range Guided Munition) gun. This will nearly pentuple the gun’s range from 13 to 62 miles as the USN concentrates more upon supporting the demands of amphibious warfare in the 21st century.

A CG-47 class fires two VLS missiles simultaneously