The USS VINCENNES, probably best-known for accidentally shooting down an Iranian airliner on July 3rd, 1988, is going into reserve. She’s the fourth TICONDEROGA-class cruiser to be decommissioned since last August.
For a transcript of Ted Koppel’s 1992 piece on the investigation of the Iranian Air incident, see this page.
These ships had originally been scheduled to be retired beginning in 2018 or so, but plans change. The first five ships (Baseline 0 and Baseline 1) were not equipped with VLS (vertical launch system) and still carried an early version of the AEGIS air defense system, and instead of upgrading them as planned, it was decided to retire the ships.
From an article on the retiring of the TICONDEROGA herself:
Much like with a maintenance availability when a ship is in a shipyard, contractor personnel are responsible for much of the heavy maintenance work.
Contracted personnel are responsible for removing pieces of equipment too large for ship’s crew to maneuver or which have to be physically cut or unbolted from the ship’s structure. Additionally the area responsible for ensuring all the sea valves are closed, sealed with a blank flange, and wired shut. The Ticonderoga has 95 major sea valves.
Contracted personnel are also responsible for preparing the ship for towing, and ensuring the ship is airtight, sealing off all ventilation shafts, and any other shaft or system where air or water could possibly get into the ship.
The Navy will recapitalize the equipment being removed from the Ticonderoga. The radar antenna, other antennas from the ship’s mast, weapons systems illuminators, and much of the engineering equipment have already been removed and are being redistributed to other ships in the Navy as needed.
The last of the five ships marked for early retirement, the USS THOMAS S. GATES, will be decommissioned later this year.
With the DD(X) program in doubt, some may wonder why not upgrade these cruisers to modern specs instead of building new destroyers with multi-billion dollar pricetags. Well, the secret is that the TICONDEROGA cruisers are built with the hulls and propulsion of destroyers. In fact, the TICONDEROGAs were originally classed as destroyers. The SPRUANCE-class destroyers, upon which the TICONDEROGAs are based, have a length of 564 feet and a displacement of 9,200 tons. The TICONDEROGAs have a length of 567 feet and a displacement of 9,600 tons.
So while the SPRUANCEs might be a bit big for destroyers, the TICONDEROGAs are certainly small for cruisers. By comparison, the BOSTON-class cruisers, which were the first to be modified from WW2 BALTIMORE-class heavy cruisers to missile cruisers, were 673 feet long and displaced 17,500 tons. Maybe they should have split the difference and at least called both the SPRUANCEs and the TICONDEROGAs ‘light cruisers’. The CLEVELAND-class light cruisers of WW2 were 610 feet long and displaced 10,000 tons.
This means that the ships are crowded. And, as I’ve noted previously, top-heavy. And the hulls have a tendency to crack slightly.
Though they’ve served well, the early TICONDEROGAs won’t really be missed much. And their size (or lack of) means that they can’t really be upgraded to utilize the Advanced Gun System, one of the new weapons developed for the DD(X) program.