Feb 4

The Strike Cruiser

Tuesday, February 4, 2020 12:01 AM


In the 75 years since the end of World War II only two countries have constructed major surface combatant ships other than aircraft carriers. The Baltic Shipyard in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) built four nuclear-propelled battle cruisers, completing the 28,000-ton warships of the Kirov class from 1980 to 1996.[1] These massive warships were fitted with the latest weapons and electronic systems.

Earlier, the U.S. Navy built the nuclear cruiser Long Beach (CGN 9), completed in 1961. The most capable surface combatant of her era, the Long Beach at 16,250 tons was significantly smaller than the Soviet giants. But the Long Beach was a one-of-a-kind.

The U.S. Navy did plan to construct warships similar to the Soviet battle cruisers—the so-called “strike cruisers,” designated CSGN. The strike cruiser was an outgrowth of the nuclear-propelled “frigate” (DLGN) program; these were essentially “super destroyers” that approached cruisers in size but had destroyer lines and roles—primarily fleet air defense. Beginning with the USS Bainbridge (DLGN-25), completed in 1962, the U.S. Navy built eight DLGNs through 1978. The Navy also built more than two dozen oil-burning DLGs. (In 1975 the DLG/DLGN frigates were redesignated as cruisers or destroyers.[2])

Strike Cruiser-Original Configuration
(Courtesy of the Author)

In 1974, the advocacy of Admiral H.G. Rickover, then head of the Navy’s nuclear propulsion program, led Congress to stipulate in the fiscal year 1975 legislation that all future large surface combatants must have nuclear propulsion.[3] The wording of the legislation was clear: All future cruisers and “super destroyers” must be nuclear.

The planned strike cruiser was an outgrowth of the DLGN concept, developed in 1973-1974 as an enlarged carrier escort ship, intended specifically to carry the Aegis combat system. The CSGN was to have a displacement of 17,284 tons—slightly larger than the Long Beach, but still more than 10,000 tons smaller than the Soviet giants (see box).

With the Aegis combat system, the CSGN would have the phased-array SPY-1 radars plus the SPS-55 surface search, SPS-49 three-dimensional, and various fire-control radars. For the antiair role the ship would have twin-arm Mark 26 missile launchers forward and aft that could fire Standard and ASROC antisubmarine weapons. Also for the antisubmarine role the ship would have hull-mounted SQS-53 and towed-array sonars, Mark 32 tubes for lightweight torpedoes, and two LAMPS helicopters would be embarked.[4]

For the antisurface role the ship would have four quad canisters for the Harpoon missile and would mount the Mark 71 8-inch/55-caliber major-caliber lightweight gun. Eight Tomahawk atiship cruise missiles were envisioned when that weapon became available. Two close-in weapon systems (guns) were planned to complete the ship’s armament.

The CSGN was to operate independently or with other surface forces, with nuclear propulsion advocates calling for up to four strike cruisers to operate with each nuclear-propelled aircraft carrier. In 1977, Vice Admiral James H. Doyle Jr., the Deputy Chief of Naval operations for Surface Warfare, told Congress:

From a show of force to reassure or deter, to war fighting, the strike cruiser will be an important addition in maintaining maritime superiority. It is not possible to postulate all the independent mission scenarios that will require participation of a strike cruiser whether it be a crisis situation or an actual shooting war. However, with the development by the Soviets of a global maritime posture and dramatic increase in capabilities of Soviet naval forces, there is no question that the United States needs highly effective cruisers capable of independent offensive operations in support of national interests.[5]

Strike Cruiser-Modified Configuration with VSTOL flight deck and hangars for Harriers and helicopters; no elevators or hangar deck
(Courtesy of the Author)

The cost of the lead cruiser in fiscal 1976 was estimated at $1.37 billion and the ship was to be completed in December 1983. At that time the cost of a nuclear carrier was approximately $3 billion.

But Congress ignored the strike cruiser, in part because Rear Admiral Wayne Myer, the Aegis program manager, was able to “shoehorn” the Aegis system into the hull of the antisubmarine destroyer Spruance (DD-963), resulting in the Ticonderoga (CG 47) class “cruisers.”[6] After the failure of Congress to approve and fund the strike cruiser, the Naval Sea Systems Command developed the strike cruiser Mark II, a design retaining most the same armament but with a flight deck added that could operate several vertical/short takeoff and landing (VSTOL) aircraft. This design was inspired by the Soviet Kiev-class VSTOL carriers that had a significant weapons and electronics payload incorporated in a flight-deck configuration. Unlike the Kievs, the strike cruiser Mark II would house its few VSTOL aircraft in hangars built into the island structure on the starboard side of the flight deck.

But Congress also rejected that design.

Thus died the Navy’s plans for nuclear-propelled surface combatants. The last DLGNs were retired in 1999, with the Navy’s nuclear-propelled aircraft carriers now being escorted with oil-burning destroyers and cruisers. The Aegis system has now been installed in the smaller destroyers of the Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) design. These ships, with the Ticonderoga-class cruisers, are the backbone of the U.S. Navy’s surface combatant forces. There are no nuclear-propelled surface combatants on the horizon.

Strike Cruiser (CSGN)

Displacement: 17,284 tons full load

Length: 666 feet overall

Beam: 77 feet

Draft: 22 feet

Propulsion: steam turbines; 2 shafts

Reactors: 2 upgraded D2G

Speed: 30+ knots

Complement: 687


[1] The four Soviet nuclear cruisers underwent name changes following the end of the Soviet regime in December 1991:

Admiral Ushakov (ex-Kirov) comm. 1980

Admiral Lazarev (ex-Frunze) comm. 1984

Admiral Nakhimov (ex-Kalinin) comm. 1988

Petr Velikiy (ex-Andropov) comm. 1996

A fifth ship was cancelled before completion.

[2] See N. Polmar, Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet, 19th ed. (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press), p. 148.

[3] Title VIII of the Fiscal Year 1975 Military Authorization Act, Public Law 93-365. 88 Statute 408.

[4] LAMPS = Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System.

[5] Vice Adm. Doyle, testimony before Seapower and Strategic and Critical Materials Subcommittee, Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives, 16 February, 1977.

[6] See “The Father of Aegis” at: https://www.navyhistory.org/2013/12/normans-corner-the-father-of-aegis/ займы на карту

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