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Anti-Missile Ship Planned

The Navy — in part due to congressional pressure — is examining the possibility of a large, 25,000-ton missile cruiser with nuclear propulsion. Details of the proposals and analyses were revealed this week by Christopher P. Cavas in Defense News and Navy Times.

Two cruiser designs are being considered. The first is a new warship based on the controversial DDG 1000 (Zumwalt class) destroyer, which features the controversial tumblehome hull. This design is being called an escort cruiser to protect aircraft carrier strike groups. It would have gas turbine propulsion, as do all other U.S. cruisers, destroyers, and frigates.

The second cruiser would be a much larger, 25,000-ton, nuclear-propelled ship with a more conventional hull featuring a flared bow. This ship would be optimized for the Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) mission.

Reportedly, five nuclear-propelled CGN(X) ships and 14 escort cruisers designated CG(X) would be built to fulfill the cruiser requirement in the Navys 30-year, 313-ship plan. These ships would be, in part, a replacement for the 22 remaining Ticonderoga (CG 47) missile cruisers, completed between 1986 and 1994.

These cruiser concepts are taking shape as part of an Analysis of Alternatives (AoA), due to the Navys leadership this fall from the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) in Arlington, Virginia. While details of the AoA have been closely held, sources confirmed to Mr. Cavas that two different designs are being considered. They also say the analysis will recommend dropping the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) from the CG(X) program.

The KEI is a large BMD missile under development by Northrop Grumman as a ground– or sea-based weapon to intercept ballistic missiles in their boost, ascent, and midcourse flight phases.

The KEI is much larger than the SM-3 Standard missile developed by Raytheon to arm Navy cruisers and destroyers for the BMD role. The 40-inch diameter KEI is nearly 39 feet long, while the 21-inch diameter SM-3 stands just over 21 feet tall. Both missiles use a kinetic energy warhead, intended to ram an enemy missile.
Sources said a missile launch tube for a KEI missile would take the place of six SM-3 launch cells in a surface ship.

The CNA team is said to be firm in its recommendation for the smaller escort cruiser. Details are less developed on the nuclear-powered variant, sources said.

– Norman Polmar

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Byron Skinner July 25, 2007 at 11:05 am

Good Morning Folks,
Hasn’t the Navy been down this route before with CGN’s?…wasn’t cost a big factor in retireing all these ships early…this idea seems to be alomost as useless and dumb as the arsenal ship…warning keep CNO away sharp objects and firearms.
Byron Skinner


Max July 25, 2007 at 12:00 pm

From an ex-CGN sailor:
The “cost” you refer to was the cost of refueling the ship, only once every 13 years. The rest of the time, the ship was cruising the seas without the necessity of refueling. It was an extremely valuable platform for the Navy (notwithstanding the two 5-inch popguns that broke down repeatedly, and the paper-thin hull, and the top-heavy superstructure etc). The almost 5 years I spent on it were within a few dozen feet from two nuclear reactors, and I never felt safer anywhere. The nuclear-powered concept is sound. What it needs it the right kind of ship design to go with it, like an old Battleship :-) .
It was the bean-counters that shot down the CGN concept. In my opinion, it was yet another example of unwise congressional politics at the expense of good military strategy.


Majii July 25, 2007 at 2:49 pm

The main reason for the retirement of the CGNs was the cost of up-grading their weapon and electronic systems in order to be compatable with newer vessels coming on-line. You must remember that at the time these ships were designed, they did not concider retrofitting them with either new weapons or electronics. At that time it was concidered more ecomonical to build new hulls specificaslly designed to house each weapon system as it was developed. As such, when the VLMS came on-line, it was desided to scrap the CGNs rather than retrofitr the CGNs with it. Were they corret? I don’t know, what were the differnces in operating costs between then and the CG-47s? I do know that the support costs of supplying a Nuclear force consisting CVN, CGNs, and DDNs would be less as only resupply of aviation fuel and weapons would be required.


ohwilleke July 25, 2007 at 3:01 pm

What precisely is the point of having nuclear powered aircraft carriers when they always travel with petroleum fuel powered escorts?
Also, why would anyone, politically speaking, base a design for a new escort carrier upon a class of ships that was canned after just two ships were purchased? Do they really think that they can do a better job of cost control this time around?
And, why exactly do we need a new class of escort cruisers? The military capabilities of, and practical uses of, existing cruisers and existing destroys seems to be identical, the Navy has in everything but name merged the cruiser class and destroyer class of ships into a single role.
Also, the lead article doesn’t say, but how large would the escort cruisers be? The sensible move, if someone is finally going to admit that the vast majority of cruisers and destroyers are air craft carrier escorts pure and simple, would be to make them smaller that existing destroyers and cruisers (? 5000 tons?), with capabilities better tailored to a new and narrower mission. Why, for example, should mere aircraft carrier escorts need a capability to destroy enemy warships, destroy enemy fighter aircraft or carry helicopters, when carried aircraft should be doing that? Shouldn’t an escort ship be limited to the ASW, point defense against anti-ship missiles, and anti-small craft roles of the sort that might be needed in a swarm attack from Iran in the Persian Gulf on an aircraft carrier group?


Byron Skinner July 26, 2007 at 11:55 am

Good Morning Folks,
If having a sea based platform for the KEI missile system is so critical and I don’t think it is, why not put it on the already exixting SSGM Submarines.
The SSGM is a proven platform we already own four and launching missiles is what it was designed for. The only developmental work would be adapting the Ages Radar to a submarine, which doesn’t seem to be all that challenging.
From a tactical point of view a 25K ton floating target it would seem would not be to had to find, where as a SSGM would be far harder to locate.
Byron Skinner


John Keeney July 27, 2007 at 4:49 am

Put an antimissile system on a submarine platform? You are aware that radars don’t work underwater? That a sub’s stealth comes from being deap & quite, not surfaced and radiating a few million watts?


David Boe July 27, 2007 at 7:00 am

As a former sailor having served on a CGN I cannot overstate the positive qualities of having a nuclear powered escort for our CGN’s. The South Carolina (and California) escorted the Nimitz everywhere she went in the mid 70′s. We could have left Norfolk VA and been to the Med in less than 8 days if necessary traveling 30+ knots without ever slowing down for a “drink” (fuel). With China comming on line as a viable navel threat it may be time to re-think our anti nuke stance.
David Boe former EM1 (Nuke)


Ron July 27, 2007 at 10:41 am

The existing hulls of the 4 remaining Iowa class Battleships could be modernized for a tiny fraction of the cost of developing a 25,000 ton cruiser, and be a hell of a lot harder to kill. With modern smart munitions and missle launchers, they could provide both an escort and shore bombardment functions.
Much like the many thousands of leftover M113 “ACAV” hulls rotting in warehouses from the Vietnam war, there is much more profit in R & D (which produces no real deliverables) then in upgrading and using what you already have.


Byron Skinner July 27, 2007 at 11:07 am

Good Morning Folks,
To clearify a point brought up by John Kenney. Both a Sidewinder and a Sparrow missile have made successful intercepts after being launched from a sumerged SSN with VLT’s. The Navy is planning a SSN/VTL test of the Standard Missile sometime later this year or next Spring.
The KEI Missile as I recall has an internal gudience system.
“Stewart’s Platoon”


Jeffery Hamilton July 27, 2007 at 1:50 pm

I am experiencing a disconnect, so someone please enlighten me; how is an anti-ballistic missile ship an effective escort for a carrier battle group? Last time I was privy to ballistic missle tech, they weren’t well-suited to strikes against a (very) mobile target. And using ships for coastal defense outside home waters place them at increased risk of being targeted by hostile forces?
I agree with previous posts indicating escorts for nuclear carriers should themselves be nuclear powered simply to keep up. However isn’t the threat profile now aircraft, submerged approaches and anti-ship missiles (which are much shorter ranged and of a much flatter trajectory)?


justbill July 27, 2007 at 4:51 pm

Jeffery Hamilton wrote, “I am experiencing a disconnect, so someone please enlighten me; how is an anti-ballistic missile ship an effective escort for a carrier battle group?”
The Chinese have been jabbering about developing a ballistic missile carrier killer for some time. It’s been mentioned on other national security/defense websites.


William A. Peterson July 27, 2007 at 5:29 pm

To the folks experiencing a ‘disconnect’…
Please go back and read the article, again!
The larger ship design is the one that would be optimized for the BMD mission, while the smaller, Zumwalt-class vessel would be the supposed Carrier escort!
As to the problems with the Nuclear power plants, you’re part right…
Initial build cost is a lot higher, and, yes, personnel retention is a BIG problem (especially if we’re going to be building a lot more civilian Nuclear Power Plants!)…
But, the long term cost of a Nuclear powered vessel, once you include the cost of the fuel to keep it going, and the cost of sending fuel ships out to re-fuel the conventional cruiser, is MUCH lower!
Hey! Maybe we can hire Iranian Nuclear Power plant technicians to run our new Nuke Cruisers! :->


Max July 29, 2007 at 6:24 pm

“Opting for CGN’s would offer fewer hulls that cost more, which in turn make them higher value targets themselves. The only advantage is long legs.”
This argument is completely wrong, with all due respect to “chiefkent”. He should remember the standing Navy doctrine that the only ship that really matters is the Carrier. All others (including the CGN’s, CG’s, DDG’s, and FF’s) are EXPENDABLE, because they only serve one purpose: buy enough time to get the Carrier’s planes off the deck to deliver the (you know what) :-) .
Even not considering the nuclear war doctrine, the Carrier’s escorts are still expendable. Any other mission like shore bombardment is a secondary mission for a CGN, CG, or DDG.
Therefore, arguing that being nuclear-powered makes them a higher-value target is non sequitur (it does not follow). The only true high value target is a Carrier.
Nuclear-powered ships are highly desirable, even with the extra expense of training.
And, as far as the submarine threat goes, ALL SURFACE SHIPS ARE TARGETS, just ask the bubbleheads :-) . The best ASW platform is another submarine, not a surface ship. But we need both to do the job most effectively.
(Ex-CGN sailor)


nb July 30, 2007 at 9:21 am

Interesting about the size increase of the missile for the this new proposed ABM missile ship. You’re getting into a silo that could perhaps support SRBM (say Pershing II size), or even ICBM’s.


mike July 31, 2007 at 11:36 am

perhaps some people MISSED the little google earth snafu with china. china is also building balistic missile subs. however they would NOT be my top concern. while china may be semi hostile towards the US politically, I think they realize 2 very important things. 1 in an all out fire fight even with their limitted high tech long range offense they stand very little chance against the US. all those troops are worthless unless it turns in to a US led invasion… since there’s no way for them to all make it to our soil. second is thier economy. no US no money, no way will that fly.
not that it would matter. NASA let the cat out of the bag on the US ability to track ANY and all submarines from satalites simply by monitoring the water they displace while submerged. go deep but the US can still track you.
also the cole was NOT hit by a torpedo. it was a suicide bomb on a small boat.
as far as the navy’s need for new ships. I can see both of these being of use. a lower cost GT powered cruiser to protect the fleet makes sense. lower cost is good. since one of the tactics used by the US navy since the cold war is to give off a false radar signature on screen ships to make them a larger target for radar guided anti shipping missiles. now the larger nuclear powered ship would be used closer to hotspots to deter the launch of nuclear tipped ballistic misiles (aka off the coast of North Korea).


Max July 31, 2007 at 1:26 pm

I don’t know who put that link on the word “training” in my last posting, but it is unwelcome. Put your links in your own postings, please.


Graham Strouse September 4, 2007 at 2:00 am

I’m a softie for big surface ships but frankly, the US carrier-based surface fleet & its escorts are rapidly becoming defunct. They’re too vulnerable to swarm attacks, wave attacks & advanced (but relatively cheap) diesel-electric submarines with heavy ordnance, especially in conjunction. Our nuclear submarine fleet is by far our greatest tactical and strategic (especially with the converted SSGNs & the somewhat ironically named USS Jimmy Carter-a Seawolf-variant with intelligence-gathering and SEAL-deployment capability).
But just for the sake of argument, let’s say we want to build some CGNs. I would model them in part on Germany’s WWII light battleships/pocket battleships & partly on the big cruisers Russia built towards the end of the Cold War-a big ship that can take care of itself in all three dimensions.
1) Enough mass (including old-fashioned armor, particularly along the belt & especially in the bulge) to provide littoral survivability.
2) Good speed & an off-the-shelf reactor, if there is such a thing. Nuclear ships DO tend to be lower maintenace when it comes to fuel over the long haul. Anyway, I’d say 31 knots or so would be fine. That’s fast enough to act as a fleet escort & command ship. In littoral waters, speed is not essential for a big ship.
3) Less gee-whiz tech. More off-the-shelf affordability. Look, there ain’t nothing wrong with using stuff we’ve got. And if we can reduce the radar or sonar signature some, groovy. But not if it makes the ship less survivable or so expensive that we can’t afford to risk it. Get serious about off-the shelf.
4) Heavy ASW battery & helo complement & a heavy SAM/AA array-go for volume here. Fancy missiles get expensive when you get into power projection roles. You also run out of them real fast.
(The Russians were REALLY thorough in this department-especially ASW-because they knew our sub fleet was lethal. We’re at risk now from the new diesel-electrics. We might even want to consider something along the lines of the re-designed Hyuga & Ise…the WWII hybrid BB/carriers. Anything this big out to be versatile. At the least it ought to have a stretch aft & a healthy number of ASW helos).
5) Land attack ability. This means guns folks, preferably guns with a large ammo capacity and ROF. And enough dumb rounds to make fire support affordable. The biggest practical guns available, please. That might mean 155s, with twin or triple turrets (two or three) that would make for some decent NGFS.
Shoot, one might consider ML rocket platforms like the Chinese 52B destroyers for indirect fire. The multi-rocket missile platform was one of Stalin’s better ideas. Never seems to get old. Be creative here.
6) Adequate ASM capability backed by rapid-firing secondary armament (navalized 30 mm bushmasters?) for dealing with swarm attacks & small boats. I’m just shooting from the hip at this point.
7) Hardened electronics & command capabilities. 8) Rapid production & reasonable unit cost. I believe the estimate for a total overhaul of Wisconsin and Missouri came to 1.5 billion each. If we get into DD(X) range & 10 year deployment ranges, then we might as well trust re-vamp the old wagons with more ASW & SAM capability.
I’m just brain-storming. Feel free to nitpick. Or email at grahamcstrouse@yahoo.com. Give me a holler. We can design the perfect CGN. Then we sell it to the Navy, get rich, move to Russia and buy out the oligarchs. ;)


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