HMAS Sydney (1948)

HMAS Sydney (1948)

RAN Light Fleet Aircraft Carrier (1948-76)

Australia Day !
HMAS Sydney (R17/A214/P214/L134) was the former HMS Terrible (1944), a Majestic-class “light aircraft carrier”, sold in 1947 and completed, then commissioned into the RAN as HMS Sydney, 3rd of the name, in 1948. She was the first RAN carrier, one of three operated during the cold war, and flagship until the 1960s. Her carrer until 1973 included the Korean War, use as a training vessel when arrived in 1955 HMAS Melbourne, in reserve in 1958 but reactivated as fast troop transport from 1962, operating for Malaysia and from 1965, made one of 25 tours of duty in Vietnam until 1972 (“Vung Tau Ferry”).

Genesis: The RAN two-carriers fleet (1948-1973)

Background of HMAS Sydney and Melbourne

HMS Melbourne in San Diego. Both career would make significant careers and saw combat in Korea and Vietnam.

In 1944, the Australian government suggested that Australian personnel could replace British crews in high demand with the increase in size of the Royal Navy, notably to man one aircraft carrier, two cruisers and six destroyers. The Admiralty agreed to schedule one of its a Colossus-class Light Fleet carrier as a perfect candidate when completed. At first, it selected HMS Venerable, not to serve for the RN with an aussie crew, but directly under RAN supervisions, as gift for its war effort, or on loan. Australia from made a full review review of manpower requirements and recoignised the scale of war effort in all branches, making sure to “reserve” the personnel needed.

By mid-1945, the RAN came back with its proposal, but in between the surrender of Germany had the Royal Navy drastically reduced. All vessels engaged on the Atlantic were now to be disposed off and the freed crews were felt largely enough to continue the war in the Pacific. There was no more emergency. The Royal Australian Navy staff then offered to purchase one of the new Colossus-class, HMS Ocean, but in June PM John Curtin’s government decided against. In July, after a short interregnum of PM Francis Forde, Ben Chifley revised again this proposal.

HMS Glory, Pacific, August 1945. All but four of the many carriers of the 1942 programme missed WW2. HMS Terrible, second of the improved Majestic class, was one of these.

The war ended without resolution or participation of a RAN carrier to the war effort. Post-war cirumstances led to a review of RAN needs in a new geopolitical context, which was still fluid in 1946. The RAN specified its plans to acquire three aircraft carriers to form corresponding task forces (One for the Southern waters, one for the Indian Ocean, one for the South Pacific) at the heart of its new fleet. However postwar funding restrictions had it reduced to two, for the north and east coast’s fleets. The staff came back to the same idea of acquiring two Majestic-class ships, with now the certitude their cost would be inferior due to those being now surplus to requirement for the RN.
They selected HMS Terrible (as Sydney) and later the lead ship HMS Majestic, upgraded for jet operations (recomm. 1955) as HMAS Melbourne. In between HMS Vengeance was loaned (from 1952) until Melbourne was fully converted and commissioned, thus, starting its two-carrier fleet’s training and exercizes.

Origin: 1942 Design Light Fleet Carrier

HMAS Sydney was one of the six Majestic-class light fleet carriers, actually a modified Colossus with improvements for the flight deck design, and roomier, among others. The Colossus “superclass” (including the following Centaur) were all seen as “disposable”, civilian yard-built, simplified, unprotected vessels, which were to be and scrapped after WW2 or after just three years of service. But instead, their low price compared to standard fleet carriers, the fact they would be soon surplus to requirement meant the British government would soon have many of these placed on reserve. The new labor government fiercely opposed the RN’s demands for ten task forces and wanted these lower value carriers to be sold or scrapped and focus on the modernization of former fleet carriers as well as completing the ones started on WW2. Thus started a wave of international purchase with some cartoons playing with the idea of all these carriers on liquidation sales. Canada, not Australia, was the first of these “happy customers” acquiring a cheap carrier, HMCS Magnificent.

The Colossus of at large, 1942 “light fleet carriers” were a Vickers project, which already designed the famous Illustrious class armored carriers. The admiralty totally entrusted their design teams to solve the difficult requirements of building an aircraft carrier in civilian yards. This was one of the most complex ship imaginable, but yet, the same yards proved they have been able to ramp up their game considerably. Depending on their size and abilities, they were trusted to built at first the small Flower class corvettes based on a whaler, the properly military River class ASW frigates which went to serve for decades in the cold war, and it was though that carriers were still manageable as unlike battleships, cruisers or destroyers, mixing protection, various layers or armaments and sensors, a simple unprotected carrier could be undertaken in the large shipbuilders of the nation. Thos accustomed to tankers, freighters and passenger liners. The latter were eager for this anyway as the “cake” was generous: Sixteen were planned by the British admiralty, this was an unprecedented effort for an European Nation.

The eight yards concerned were not all “pure” civilian, but as Harland & Wolff (Irish yard of Titanic fame) sharing the bulk of the order with Vickers-Arsmtrong, as well as Stephen & Sons. The other were of mixed experience, but only acustomed to lighter vessels: Cammell Laird, Swan Hunter, Fairfield, Hawthorne Leslie and later HM Dockyard Devonport for the Majestic ships.

HMS Terrible (R93) was thus built at HM Dockyard Devonport, the second in line for the Majestic class, laid down on 19 April 1943. She was launched on 30 September 1944 and it was uncertain if she would be completed on time to take part in WW2. In fact only four of the Colossus did, pressed into the BPF (British Pacific Fleet) and only seeing little action before the end of the war. The colossal effort imagined in 1942 did not delivered the goods in time, essentially. It was attributed to completion delays due to frequent design revisions notabkt to cope with late-war aicraft design, but this was a short-sighted luxury as they contributed little to the BPF efforts in the end.

Part of their original motivation has been indeed to reinforce the presence of the Royal Navy in the Pacific, to regain notably some unfluence lost postwar. This was in part a political decision. Alas, this “emergency” ironically has all these disposable ships making a substantial and in the end, profitable carrier postwar, enabling that new capacity to many nations for the first time, not only the commonwealth but France and the Netherlands, and also South America, India, jumped on the bandwagon. These carriers saw most of the cold war and proved perfectly capable to be modernized, but sure, they had their limitations and were mocked by the USN, which made sure to always demonstrate the free world they were the only ones with “true” aircraft carriers. Jet use was made difficult and only the smallest ones (like a A4 Skyhawk, an inspired move from Douglas) and helicopters would still “fit the bill” ffor auxiliary purposes such as ASW and amphibious assault in the 1980s.

Design of HMAS Sydney

Blueprint of the class (here, FS Arromanches)

Hull and general design

HMS Terrible/HMAS Sydney displaced in standard 15,740 tons. Fully loaded, 19,550 tons. The hull measured 630 feet (190 m) between perpendiculars but reached 698 feet (213 m) at the tip of the deck fore and aft. The beam was quite resonable at 80 feet (24 m), so making for a ratio of 1/9.5 or so, still favrourable to speed. The draught of 25 feet (7.6 m) was not enabling them all open waters.
The “standard” crew amounted to 1,100, living in quite cramped condition still, despite effort put into the Majestic design, but it was increased to 1,300 for wartime deployments, making it worse. But this included a reduced armament crew, air group and mechanics. As transport reduced requirements meant this went down to a core of just 544 supplemented by trainees RAN Reserve personal, which came in handy to reduce operational cost overall.
As for protection, added during completion as an afterthought, it consisted of mantlets around aircraft torpedoes warheads rooms, 10mm thick (0.39 in). There were also longitudinal watertight bulkheads covering the machinery spaces, but not much else. It was not improved during her career.


Propeller from HMAS Sydney at the FAA Museum, February 2015
HMAS Sydney came with the standard two shafts driven by Parsons single reduction steam turbines, fed in turn by the same number of Admiralty 3-drum boilers, for a total output of 40,000 shp (30,000 kW) on two propeller shafts, enabling a top speed of 24.8 knots (45.9 km/h; 28.5 mph). Range was 12,000 nautical miles at 14 knots based on 3,480 tons of oil aboard. This configuration was unchanged for the whole of her career, until 1973. Maintenance of this powerplant proved easier than anticipated as skills and maintained throughout.


Bofors firing in exercizes, 1950
HMS Sydney was completed with a revision of armament: Instead of the original with six 4-barrelled 2 pdr and 16 × twin 20 mm Oerlikon, war lessons had shown the efficience of the Bofors above both. Thus, she came instead with thirty Bofors 40 mm/60 anti-aircraft guns. Six went in twin mount RP.50 Mk V, replacing the former 2-pdr and the remaining eighteen in single mountings Mk VII. Much later as a troop transport in 1963 she had still her six twin 40mm/60 Bofors and fourteen single, and this went down to just four single Bofors in 1968, more symbolic than efficient.
Still as a troop transport, HMAS Sydney carried vehicles on deck, the hangar was used for troop accommodation. In 1969, she had 6 LCPU installed on davits for rapid troop deployment.



The radar suite as completed consisted of two Type 277Q height-finding sets and a Type 293M surface search set, plus a Type 960/281BQ long-range air warning set, and eventually a Type 961 air search set. They stayed the same for all her service, never modernized, despite progresses made in the 1960s.

Another view, rear island.


HMAS Sydney in the 1950s, before conversion. src navypedia
Despite the prevision of upgrades to the aircraft lifts and arrester gear to operate heavier aircraft, the RAN envisioned such upgrade, but the emergency made it applied only to HMS Melbourne in the end, with an angled flight deck and mirror landing aid. This upgrade was cancelled on Sydney on ground of budget, and lack of manpower. She was completed as “stock Majestic” with a straight deck, original lifts and arrester cables.
All in all, her deck had a 5,131m² ha or 2,142m² (23,056 Sqm) surface (size 210.3 x 24.4m). Her single space hangar measured 135.6 (445 ft) long for 15.8 wide (51 ft) and 5.3m in height (17 ft) creating a space 11,355m³ (400,000 Cubic ft). Two lifts were installed in the axis, fore and aft of the island, of equal size, 16.5 x 10.4m (54 x 34 ft) and weighting 6.8t (13.600 Ibs). There was a single catapult BH-III forward port, capable of launching a 6.4t (12.800 Ibs) airplane at 122 km/h (75 mph). Aircraft fuel stowage reporesented a total of 303,000 imperial Gallons. Aircraft capacity, with 1945 piston-engine types, reached 52. On the right was installed a board displaying wind conditions.

Close view of the island and salvage crane, used notably to operate the Sea Otter, and in the 1960s, various trucks and payloads.

Flight trials: As sea fury taking off with the forward lift behind, closed.

Bell Huey UH-1 helicopters being lifted from the hangar, Vung Tau, June 1966
Bell Huey UH-1 helicopters being lifted from the hangar, Vung Tau, June 1966

Air Group

Hawker sea fury fm Mk11 HMAS Sydney 1951
Sea Fury FB Mk.11 of 805 NAS aboard HMAS Sydney, Korea, 1951

Firefly AS.6, 817 NAS, HMAS Sydney 1952
Firefly AS.6, 817 NAS, HMAS Sydney 1952

Early career and Korean war air group: 1950-50

Hawker Sea Fury of 805 Sqn, circa 1951.
HMAS Sydney operated with the RAN Fleet Air Arm’s 20th and 21st Carrier Air Groups (CAGs) assigned alternately, one training on land and the other active aboard. Each CAG comparised two squadrons: 20th CAG: 805 and 816 Squadrons
21th CAG: 808 and 817 Squadrons.
In all, this represented a fraction of her original capacity, twenty-four aircraft, equal number of Hawker Sea Fury fighters and Fairey Firefly attack aircraft, plus two Supermarine Sea Otter amphibians used for SAR (rescue), independently carried as ‘Ship’s Flight’. They were removed as the Korean War started, replaced by a more compact and handy helicopter. At the eight of her engagement in Korea, 21th CAG gained the extra 805 Squadron, so as to reach a total of 38 aicraft aboard for operations.
So in 1950 as the war started she had aboard 12 Sea Fury FB.11 and 12 Firefly AS.4 (22 with adjuction of 805 Sqn.), plus the two Sea Otter.
In 1956 so after the war and at the start of her new schooling duties her air group was reduced to 22 Sea Fury FB.11 and 12 Firefly AS.4. Of course her limited deck, lifts and catapult plus straight deck prevented the use of more modern models.

Fireflies in Korea
Fireflies in Korea (AWM)

As a transport: 1961-72

Westland Wessex MK 31B. 23 ordered, delivered from 1st November 1962, last on 4 November 1963. Src

Her air park was drastically changed when converted in 1963 a transport carrier: Her ability to operate aircraft was removed. Arrestor cables and catapult were disembarked. She only carried four Westland Wessex 31A type helicopters, which were occasionally embarked and this flight was sourced from either 725 or 817 Squadron, and were only used for ASW surveillance, patrolling around her.

Sikorski S-51 UP-28, used occasionally on Melbourne.

Construction and Modifications

Vehicles on deck of HMAS Sydney en route to Vung Tau, Vietnam.
Originally built in Devonport as HMS Terrible, started on 19 April 1943 and baptised by the Viscountess Astor since she was in a ‘royal dockyard’, owned and operated by the Royal Navy, she was launched on 30 September 1944 by Duncan Sandys wife, and completion was stopped in late 1945 when the Admiralty ordered a suspension of all warship construction. The Australian government’s post-war review (Defence Committee) recommended three carriers/task forces (two active, one in reserve) and then due to budgetary constraints, jsut two in June 1947.

The ones selected were HMS Terrible and Majestic at an estimated cost of AU£2.75 million not comprising equipment and fuel. HMS Terrible was fitted out as a flagship and since she was close to completion when suspended, construction resumed to have her pressed into service without modification. The initial schedule of 24 June 1948 could not be met however due to skilled labour shortages, notably delaying the installation and workout of her boilers, and it shifted to October.

For her commissioning crew, the one from HMAS Hobart (Leander class cruiser) departed from Sydney aboard HMAS Kanimbla in June the same year while RN servicement provided the early workout and yard tests of the ship. HMS Terrible was handed over to the RAN on 16 December 1948. The very same day at noon, she became officially HMAS Sydney. The name choice was guided by the loss of the cruiser in 1941 and raising of £426,000 (Australian) for her replacement.

⚙ Sydney 1948 specifications

Displacement 15,740 tons st. 19,550 tons FL (14,380 tons/19,550 tons transport)
Dimensions 630 ft pp, 698 ft oa x 80 ft x 25 ft
Propulsion 2 shafts, 2x Parsons SRG Turbines, 4x Admiralty 3-drum boilers, 40,000 shp (30,000 kW)
Speed 24.8 knots (45.9 km/h; 28.5 mph)
Range Oil 3,480 tons, 12,000 nm at 14 knots
Armament 30 Bofors 40 mm/L60 AA (18×1, 6×2) as completed, see notes
Air group Up to 38: 12 Sea Fury fb.11 fighters, 12-22 Sirefly AS.4, see notes
Sensors 2× 227Q FCS radars, single 293M, 960/281BQ, 961 radars
Crew 1,100 peace, 1,300 wartime, 1,400 ad flagship

Read More

HMAS Sydney as a troop transport in Vietnam, as part of Operation INTERFUSE TWO, 26 octobre 1971. That day she departed Sydney with a cargo consisting of defence aid for Vietnam. During the passage to Vietnam, Sydney was escorted by HMAS Derwent. src – See also a two views rendition by Russel, the


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RAN Ship/Unit Approved Battle Honours PDF
Archive page


The “Vung-To Ferry”, footage.

Model Kits

Apart any kit of the original Colossus or Majestic class would do, released giant kits of each at €1320.51 See also the 1/350 on Facebook.

HMAS Sydney in service

Early service 1949–1951

Post-commission fixes and as Flagship

Arrival in Australia, 1949
Arrival in Australia, 1949

Commissioned in mid-December 1948, HMAS Sydney did not enter service until 5 February 1949, still work out post-completion. Priot to that on 25 December 1948, while Devonport, the very first model to ever grace her flight deck was an helicopter from USS Columbus, carrying Santa Claus. Quite a symbol of the times… Post-commissioning workup saw also the same month a Mosquito from 771 NAS crashing while giving indication to calibrate her radar suite (bot pilots were killed). Later a RAN pilot also crashed on 17 March 1949 during landing qualifications on HMS Illustrious with his Fairey Firefly, smashing four others in the deck park.

Flight Trials 1949

At last she sailed from Devonport on 12 April 1949, carrying with her an Austrlian crew that lived in Britain for nearly five months. She had the 20th CAG (Air group) aboard, and stopped at Jervis Bay on 25 May to offloaded it, transported HMAS Albatross NAS before proceeding to her namesake city, arriving on 2 June accompanied by a wide fleet of boats and immense crowd cheering on the banks. She became de facto Flagship of the Australian Fleet, transferring the flag from HMAS Australia on 25 August 1949. Later 20th CAG reembarked for a first sortie of exercises wth the fleet in Australian and New Guinea waters, lasting until late November.

R17 in 1949, CAG formation

R17 in 1949

These were observed by the whole admiralty and naval staff. After all, this was the first RAN modern task force, US-style. From January to April 1950, training exercises and ports visits went on in south-east Australia and New Zealand. On 7 June 1950 she return for England, this time to embark the 21st CAG, in October, and she was back in December. Already in between there were talks to send her instead in Korean Waters to reliever HMS Theseus which had catapult issues.


On 29 January 1951, HMAS Sydney left the homeland with an eighteen-ship fleet to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Federation befoire joining a multinational training exercise in SE Australian waters, stopping at Hobart, but also seeing her first blunder, when a Sea Fury accidentally fired four practice rockets into HMNZS Bellona, leater leading to an inquiry which proved that certain signal frequencies transmitted by Sydney’s radio aerials was able to trigger the firing circuits (…). Sydney later earned anyway the “Gloucester Cup” in April 1951, as the most efficient RAN ship for that year. The two CAGs alternated (one on land, the other aboard) in April, May, and another Sea Fury crashed during a rocket-assisted take off, pilot killed.

Korean War

HMAS Sydney and allied ships in Korea
HMAS Sydney and allied ships in Korea
In March 1951, the British First Sea Lord requested HMAS Sydney to assist the RN in Korea, relieving HMS Glory just refitted in Australia, for Commonwealth presence. Thus she departed with her two CAGs, 38-strong on 14 May with the adjunction of 805 NAS into the 21st CAG. The 20th had Fireflies, optimized for ASW (no cannons) so RN aircraft were loaned. After pre-departure exercises, loosing several aircraft with sea and deck crashes she departed for good escorted by HMAS Tobruk on 31 August, making demonstration demonstrations over Rabaul on 6 September during the civil unrest there. Upon arrival, she became the first Commonwealth Task Force seeing wartime service.

Sydney in 1951
Sydney in 1951

Sydney was attached to the lead local fleet, the US 7th, as part of Task Element (TE) 95.11, operating off the western coast, providing ten-day patrols followed by the first of many resplenishments at Sasebo, Nagasaki or Kure, Hiroshima, replaced either by USS Rendova or USS Badoeng Strait. Air strikes against North Korean targets and supply lines were completed by reconnaissance and bombardment spotting for the fleet on the coast and air and anti-submarine patrols around the fleet. At some point she operated the USN Sikorsky UP28 Dragonfly “Uncle Peter” for SAR/plane guard, first ever helicopter on an Australian warship, which success convinced the RAN to purchase three Bristol Sycamore in complement, first heli-sqn.

A Damaged sea fury is retired
A Damaged sea fury is retired from a preilous position. There were many crashes, most attributed to bad weather. The Firefly proved sturdier and easier than the Fury.

Sydney’s first patrol went on from 4 October, supporting troops at the Han River and venturing on the east coast, for strike missions near Wonsan. On the 11th she flew a record 89 sorties, having 31 aloft that day. After a supply stop to Sasebo she was away to dodge Typhoon Ruth, but too late: She had a A Firefly, 16-foot motor dinghy, and forklift thrown overboard, plus six other aircraft parked destroyed, trying to present her prow or stern to 68 knots wind gusts and giant waves. Her second patrol started on 18 October, with striked over North Korean units and close air support mission on 21 October for the 1st Commonwealth Division.

She had her first two losses in combat: Two Sea Furies shot down on 25 October but the pilots parachuted. Another was short down during another five RAN aircraft raid against a railway tunnel, but it was 75 miles (121 km) inland so beyond rescue helicopter range. “Uncle Peter” nevertheless volunteered, armed with with the observeir aboard armed with an Aussie Owen submachine gun, covered by four RAN aircraft. This was a success, the RAN aircrew went home with escorting Fireflies but at extreme fuel limits: “Uncle Peter” was rerouted to Kimpo AB in South Korea, the longest helicopter rescue transit of the war so far. The Sikorsky pilot later was awarded the British Distinguished Service Medal and the USN Cross. Eventually HMAS Sydney was relieved by USS Rendova on 27 October and and went to Kure.

HMAS Sydney repleninishing in Kure
HMAS Sydney repleninishing in Kure

She was back for her third patrol on 5 November, west coast of Korea, escorted by RCAN Athabaskan, Cayuga and Sioux, USS Hanna and Collett. A Sea Fury pilot crashed in action, and operations went on despite foul weather, with a 1000th combat sortie flown on 12 November. On the 18th she was in Sasebo and departed to Hŭngnam with HMAS Tobruk, and HMS Belfast to join TF 95.8 on 20–22 November. There was later an accident while refuelling with a large spill and refuelling rig damage. Strikes went on until she returned to the west coast, marred by snow. By December, TE 95.11 fell under UN Command, and the 5th US AF, and her CAGs were in convoys air escort from Japan.
Her fifth patrol commenced on 7 December adn the next day she had another RAN pilot KiA by flak and Four other damaged. Clearer weather until 14 December allowed more sorties until the 18th. In all, she had 5 airraft destroyed and 25 heavily damaged. Her costliest sortie. Her crew spent Xmas in Kure, replaced by USS Badoeng Strait. She made a sixth patrol over Inchon and convoys returning to Japan.

Firefly FR4 817 Sqn off Korea 1951
Firefly FR4 817 Sqn off Korea 1951

In 1952, her CAG helped to repel the North Korean invasion Yongho Do. She he had a 3rd pilot lost on 2 January during a CAP. The Fury literrally entered a strange cloud and never emerged with no wreckage found afterwards; complete and unexplained disparition. The carrier’s CAG went on in suport of units fighting in the Cho Do-Sok To area, but snow storms plagued operations. Her 7th and final patrol from 16 January (escort: HMAS Tobruk, HMCS Sioux, USS Hanson, USS Radford) saw little activity due to foul weather and poor coordination with UN forces. Her CAG targeted North Korean supply line infrastructure and water towers. The last day she had most of her deck park literally encased in frozen sea water due to extreme sub-zero temperatures. On 25 January she was relieved by HMS Glory.

Post-Battle Report for 7 Patrols 1950-52

She returned home after 122-days of operations, 42.8 days flying, 11.7 days lost to poor weather but 1,623 sorties, 802 bombs, 6,359 rockets, 269,249 rounds spent. Three pilots KiA, 13 aircraft lost definitely. AA artillery proved the most deadly, but also bad weather. It was assessed that her air group managed nevertheless to damage or destroy an estimated: 66 bridges, 141 wagons and locomotives, crica 2,000 structures, 469 watercraft, 15 artillery pieces and perhaps 3,100 casualties. It was judged “underclaimed” by ground US personal reporting on the results. Many DSCs were awarded, a DSM, ten Mentions, two US Legions of Merit and the Australian Active Service Medal, Korea Medal, UN Service Medal while the carrier earned the battle honour “Korea 1951–52”. Her support was saluted in the press for allowing more independent operations for Australian soldiers in Korea.

Back from Korea, HMAS Sydney ferried Spitfires and Vampires to bases in Southeast Asia and after a refit she embarked the 20th CAG (June 1952) before a round-Australia training cruise. She also stopped at Manus Island, and witnessed at Montebello Islands the first British atomic bomb test (Operation Hurricane) on 3 October 1952. On 25 March she departed for England to assiste to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II’s naval review on 15 June. She also visited Canada and the US down to the Caribbean, crossed the Panama canal to Hawaii, and was back to New Zealand, arriving in Sydney on 15 August and soon celebrating her 10,000th deck landing while off Pearl Harbor.

Second Korean Deployment (1952–1958)

Winter 1952-53 Operations

She left Fremantle after preparations on 27 October 1953 for Korea, and arrived to support the UN contril of the ceasefire and July 1953 armistice. She stayed there until January 1954, but this was uneventful. Flight operations were limited to patrols along the DMZ. One pilot however died as his Sea Fury crashed into the ocean, another later plus an aircraft handler. She was back to Fremantle on 2 June 1954. Her upgrade like Melbourne was cancelled in 1954 due to budge constraints. Now the new carrier was there, she was prepared instead as a training ship, to provide experience crews to the near-identical Melbourne.

She made her last regular air operation on 22 April 1955 and on 26–29 April a reorganizaton of personal followed. She trained in New Zealand waters in May and was refitted, making her post-fix cruise between Sydney and Adelaide via Melbourne and back to Sydney. She was also visited by Earl Mountbatten of Burma. On 1st May 1956, she was reunited to HMAS Melbourne off Kangaroo Island and both sailed together untin the end of their delivery voyage, via Jervis Bay. On 13 May, she was no longer flagship, Melbourne was. After extra training cruises she was sent with the Far East Strategic Reserve, a SEATO multi-fleet exercise by the end of 1956. She was evaluated in 1957 as a commando carrier, aircraft transport or troopship, and she was in the special reserve on 30 May 1958, surplus to requirements and waiting her fate.

Fast Troop Transport (1958–1965)

HMAS Sydney and USS Valley Forge in 1964
HMAS Sydney and USS Valley Forge in 1964

In 1958 to 1960, Thought to dispose her or reactivate her as a transport saw the latter opinion prevail: She would be converted as such. The admiralty indeed saw a need if a new war broke in the volatile Southeast Asia for rapid deployment of the troops by default of a specialized assault ship. Sealift at a grand scale seemed the best option, including for vehicles. But the cost of convertion and maintenance was hotly debated in parliament. It was the lack of strategic airlift and sealift that eventually sealed the deal.

Her convertion as fast troop transport ship in 1961-1962 saw the removal of her aircraft operating equipment and hangar reconfigured between accommodation quarters and new storage areas, armament reduced. No upgrades were made to her radar suites. Recommissioned as a Fast Troop Transport on 7 March 1962 (A214) she was reassigned to the training squadron and from April 1962 she trained Army personnel for the transport and fast disembarkation of troops and materials. Full service started by August 1963, performinf at Hervey Bay in Queensland (Exercise Carbine), and from 27 September to 4 October, the conveyed the Governor-General of Australia (Viscount De L’Isle) on a tour to Lord Howe Islands.
She started a training cruise to northern Queensland with trainee officers and sailors on tour on her whaleboats around Hayman and Hooke Islands and a search party lauched after 12h when they failed to return. Board of Inquiry was held later and court-martialled the captain and several officers for the missing personal.

HMAS Duchess and HMAS Sydney refuelled while en route to Vung Tau
HMAS Duchess and HMAS Sydney refuelled while en route to Vung Tau

Later she made a new overseas deployment as transport, to Southeast Asia in 1964 from late May, loading supplies and munitions for Malaysian forces engaged against Indonesia: 1,245 personnel (7th Field Squadron, 111th Light Anti-aircraft Battery) plus four UH-1 Iroquois helicopters and N5 Squadron RAAF. She departed Garden Island on 24 May and on high alert in New Guinea waters for the operation, meeting HMAS Yarra and Parramatta off the Philippines on 3 June, proceeding to Kota Kinabalu, disambarking and leaving for Singapore to offload 250 tonnes of ammunition. Then Penang, to offload the troops and more ammunitions (16–17). On 23 June she shadowed an Indonesian submarine for 18 hours and proceeded to Fremantle. In 2010 she would be awarded the “Malaysia 1964” award during a veteran reunion.

Vietnam War (1965–1972)

1st RAR soldiers unloaded into DUKWs at Vung Tau
1st RAR soldiers unloaded into DUKWs at Vung Tau
As a troop carrier she made no less than 25 voyages to South Vietnam, supporting the 1st Australian Task Force (with HMAS Mebourne as flagship) from May 1965 and until November 1972, keeping her busy for the remainder of her carrer. She made the first with the civilian vessels Jeparit and Boonaroo and since the Austrlian base was located at Vũng Tàu she soon earned the “Vung Tau Ferry” moniker. She alternated these with her usual training ship duties, carrying up to 30 midshipmen and 200 trainees over cruises in Oceanian waters.

Operating Mode

Australian soldiers ferried in small crafts to guard Sabah
Australian soldiers ferried in small crafts to guard Sabah (AWM)

Typically she would carry 450 soldiers of the RAR (Regiment) and battalion—level equipment and vehicles, trucks, jeeps, mortars and artillery of various use. Soldiers were accommodated in the sailors mess decks, sailors in the noisy hangar, Vehicles secured on the flight deck, cargo packed onto pallets in the hangar and flight deck. Saigon was the initial planned stop, but this was denied by the CO John Crabb, due to the fear of mines, Vũng Tàu being selected as safer. When the ship arrived at anchor, soldiers and equipment were conveyed to shore by helicopters but also landing craft and barges, the original onboard crane fitted to handle seaplanes being used daily. This was a several days process, and each night, she would drop anchor further away from the shore, in deeper waters for safety. After her 1968 refit, she would have three new Favelle Favco-type cargo cranes installed, plus six LCMs on davits (16 built in all) to ease operations and permanently attached troop-carrying helicopters, so a single day was needed afterwards. Chinese submarines could still ambush her while en route, and close to the shore, Viet Cong swimmers could intervene with limpet mines so she always had an escort and small boats patrols during the operation. Divers also regularly inspected her hull, propellers, and anchor chain. She had a park of four Westland Wessex for ASW (817 Sqn).

Detailed operations

A CH-37 lifts a Cessna 180 from her deck
A CH-37 lifts a Cessna 180 from her deck

After her May 1965 refit at Garden Island, she departed on the 23th under strict media silence.
-Fir this 1st voyage, she carried the 1st Battalion RAR and Prince of Wales’s Light Horse armoured regiment for support, logistics unit and for concession to the ban, a group of journalists to cover the operation. She stayed in Vũng Tàu on 8-11 June, back to Fremantle on 26 June, escorted by HMAS Duchess, but also Parramatta, Melbourne, and Vampire part-way.
-Her second voyage was on 14 September with Duchess and Vendetta. However while back she stopped in Subic Bay underway to home port Sydney. She reaned the Gloucester Cup for efficience for 1966.
-The 3rd voyage started on 24 April 1966, with the 5 and 6 RAR aboard, escorted by HMAS Vampire, Yarra, and Melbourne. She disembarked troops and personal on 4-6 May while Melbourne was detached for air support in Vietnam. Her escort went to Hong Kong but she was back to Sydney on 18 May.
-4th voyage: On the 25th, she departed with the rest of 5-6 RAR and No. 9 Sqn RAAF, escorted by Yarra, Melbourne, Derwent, and Vendetta. Underway back she also assisted USS Tiru running aground on Frederick Reef. On 1 March 1967 her ensign was changed with the Australian White, but still flew also the old one.
-For the 5th voyage, she carried the 7 RAR with Westland Wessex aboard due to the fear of Chinese subs.
-She left Singapore for her 6th voyage, this time with the 5 RAR aboard, to carry them back home on 12 May 1967.
-Her 7th started on 19 May from Brisbane with 2 RAR and a 1st Battalion RZNR company for their first deployment in Vietnam, escorted by HMAS Stuart. Operations went quick with her park of Chinook helicopters.

Huey helicopter brought on deck via the lift
Huey helicopter brought on deck via the lift, Vung Tau.

-Her 8th voyage was with 3 RAR from Adelaide.
-Her 9th voyage started on 17 January 1968, meetinh HMAS Stuart off Singapore and stopping at Sattahip (Thailand) on 31 January en route to Vũng Tàu.
-Her 10th voyage (27 March-26 April) was with with 1 RAR, escort HMAS Parramatta.
-Her 11th voyage with HMAS Anzac escorting (21 May-13 June) was with 4 RAR. It was followed by an extensive refit to ease operations between cranes and LCMs from davits. In September-October she was flagship again for the amphibious warfare exercise “Coral Sands”, followed by a training cruise to New Zealand.
-Her 12th voyage with 9 RAR (13-28 November) escorted by HMAS Duchess. She returned with 3 RAR and a damaged de Havilland Caribou. In 1969 she earned the new pennant P214 according to US-NATO-SEATO regulations.
-Her 13th voyage (8 February 1969-25 February) with 5 RAR, escorted by HMAS Derwent saw her visiting when back New Zealand and Fiji.
-Her 14th voyage was with 6 RAR, returning with 4 RAR (8-30 May) escorted by HMAS Vampire.
-Her 15th (17 November-5 Nov.) was with HMAS Duchess and 8 RAR aboard, returning with 9 RAR to Fremantle
-The 16th (16 February-5 March 1970) wuth the 7 TAR escorted by HMAS Yarra. However n 16 April, she took part in a 45 vessels review for the Australian Bicentenary in Sydney. She also visited Portland, Victoria for the Bicentenary Royal Tour of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh.

8th RAR dismembarked onto landing crafts.
8th RAR dismembarked onto landing crafts.

-Her 17th (21 October-12 November) with HMAS Vendetta and 2 RAR, 8 RAR embarked. In February 1971, she visited Hobart as flagship for the Royal Hobart Regatta.
-Her 18th started in Adelaide, ambarking 3 RAR (15 February-2 March) with HMAS Yarra, returning with 7 RAR and the ashes of Rear Admiral Harold Farncomb scattered underway.
-In July 1971 she went to the US, collecting ten A-4G Skyhawks for the Fleet Air Arm and Melbourne. That’s the only time she saw jets on her flight deck. They were craned down, not flown of course.
-Her 19th voyage started also from Adelaide (26 March-? April) with cargo and foreign aid supplies for the Khmer Republic, escorted by HMAS Duchess. She had some recreational leave in Hong Kong before departing to Australia.[
-The 20th voyage from Townsville (13 May-1 June) and back was with 4 RAR, escorted by HMAS Duchess and Parramatta, carrying back 2 RAR.
-In July 1971 she however departed to Esquimalt in British Columbia for Canada’s centennial naval assembly. She cruised to San Diego, collecting ten new A-4G Skyhawk for Melbourne and was back in Austrlian by mid-August.

Signallers comes ashore from HMAS Sydney

-Her 21th (20 September-16 October) HMAS Sydney was to Singapore with the ANZUK force, escorted by HMAS Swan and 3 RAR, heli-lifted to her deck bore departing. Sydney for return to Australia, with the troopship arriving in Adelaide on 16 October.
-Her 22th (23 October-22? November) voyage show her carrying a cargo of Defence Aid stores, escorted by HMAS Derwent and came back with Australian personnel and equipment
-Her 23th (24 November-17 Dec.) voyage had her empty, escorted by HMAS Swan off Subic Bay and embarking 4 RAR, 104th Battalion, Royal Australian Artillery, No.9 Squadron, visited by President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu before departing. She arrived at Townsville on 17 December.
-Her 24th (14 February-9 Marcg 1972) trip saw her escorted by HMAS Torrens to recuperate 457 Australian soldiers from various units and she was back in Townsville.
Three days later she was back in Sydney, to close the RAN invovement in the Vietnam War. A refit followed (22 May-20 October).
-25th voyage (1st Nov.-?) she carried defence equipment and foreign aid supplies for South Vietnam and the Khmer Republic, escorted by HMAS Vampire, still in Vũng Tàu and came back with misc. Australian equipment, assisting en route the disabled merchant ship Kaiwing, towing her for repairs in Hong Kong. This was her last trip. Back home it was time for a report and statistics:

3rd RAR soliders awaits helicopters on deck, start of withdrawal, October 1971

They showed she transported 16,902 soldiers, 5,753 tons of cargo, 2,375 vehicles, 14 aircraft. There were no awards at the time, albeit later in 1986, the Government created a “Returned from Active Service” Badge for all these personnel, enabling military service pensions, followed by the “Vietnam Logistic and Support Medal” in 1992. A battle honour for her transportation service was confirmed in March 2010.

Decommission and Disposal (1973-75)

Maritime Museum Model

In 1973, the carrier was given her last pennant, L134, marked for another deployment to Mururoa atoll, supporting a RNZN frigate protesting French nuclear testing there. The former carrier was able to replenish a small fleet, and was selected as replacement when HMAS Supply was undergoing refits. However the Australian government delayed to not pushed futher tensions, and the oiler was refitted when a decision could be made anyway, so Sydney was not deployed, the oiler went instead. Sydney made another cruise to Singapore in March 1973 and back to Australia, the, she was off New Zealand in April for training exercises and another joint warfare exercise in Jervis Bay by May 1973.

On 20 July 1973, decommission was decided by the Government. The planned refit was cancelled. On 12 November 1973 she was paid off, maked for disposal after logging some 711,549 nautical miles (1,317,789 km; 818,836 mi) total in her two careers. The Geelong Regional Tourist Authority at the time suggested she could be turned as a museum at Corio Bay, doubling as a convention centre and floating casino, while the Naval History Society of Australia wanted to save at least the island superstructure, send on the Rocks maritime museum. The Sydney Opera House proposed to turn her as floating car park, after splitting her hangar in two storeys. On 7 October 1975 none had the finances for their project and she was sold for BU on 30 October to Dongkuk Steel Mill, Seoul, for A$673,516 (best bid). She was towed by a Japanese tugboat from 23 December 1975 and scrapping started upon arrival.

Her replacement, planned already in the 1960s, had speculations from the press, of an Iwo Jima class vessel or HMS Hermes be purchased. Instead the latter was considered to replace onstead HMAS Melbourne. The Australian Defence Force however lacked a long-range troop transportation ship and had to wait for the Round Table-class HMAS Tobruk, commissioned in 1981. HMAS Sydney’s chapel and bell are now at HMAS Moreton base from 1974n then in the Australian National Maritime Museum, anchors and propeleller are also in display, the first at the FAA Museum (HMAS Albatross). The name was given next to FFG 03, an Adelaide-class guided missile frigate (launched 1980, decomm. 2015) and now is carried by DDG 42, an AEGIS capable Hobart-class destroyer (2020).

Forrest Sherman class destroyers (1955)

forrest sherman BG

Forrest Sherman class destroyers (1955)

US Navy Flag 18 destroyers 1953-1959

Forrest Sherman, John Paul Jones, Barry, Decatur, Davis, Jonas Ingram, Manley, Du Pont, Bigelow, Blandy, Mullinnix, Hull, Edson, Somers, Morton, Parsons, Richard S. Edwards, Turner Joy

Cold War US DDs:

Fletcher DDE class | Gearing DDE class | Gearing FRAM I class | Sumner FRAM II class | Forrest Sherman class | Mitscher class | Norfolk class | Charles F. Adams class | Spruance class

The “last gunships”, first postwar US destroyers

The 18 Forrest Sherman-class destroyers were many things: The first post-war US destroyers, successors of the legendary Gearing class, and the last conventional (all-gun-armed). They were commissioned from 1955, saw the Vietnam war aznd middle east crisis, some staying active until the 1980s. Armed with the 5-inch/54 caliber Mk42, they experienced dozens of modifications, four being converted to guided-missile destroyers (DDG) (prototypes for the Charles F. Adams-class), and eight as ASW vessels. Two are now preserved as museum ships, including the largely unmodified USS Edson, declared a national historic landmark in 1990.

The admiralty had the luxury to look for innovations to add incrementally, and ASW Frigates were attributed the role of ASW warfare, destroyers being still assigned to multirole task force escort, but now on a two-tiered echelon: Large AA “ocean escorts” between cruisers and destroyers (to be upgraded to long range missile defence ships) and smaller, “classic” multirole destroyers, still conventional, that can make up with numbers.
Basically they were looking for a “mobilization” version of the complex and costly Mitscher class, itself a degraded version of USS Norfolk. Gibbs & Cox son realized that following the original requirements of a cheaper, simpler Mitcher would still result on a 5,000 tonnes ship, so accent was placed on AA on detriment to ASW capabilities, sacrifices conducting to the final approved design in 1952. The disposition of a single gun forward and two aft was for dryness concerns. It followed the suggestion of Capt. P. W. Snyder (Bureau of Ships) after observing Exercise Mariner, North Atlantic 1953, advicating a rise of three feet at the bow, then hull lines tapering down to the original sheer line at about the forward gun. This was ported on the last batch of the class, and magnified on the following Charles F. Adams class.

Caracteristics for the new destroyers were written down by the newly formed Ships Caracteristics Board (SCB) and the Bureau of Ships (BuShips). Their role in that genesis, which started in 1949, is well documented in “Friedman, U.S. Destroyers” (245–49). He does not mentioned Gibbs & Cox, naval architects in NyC, which took charge of the design (confirmed by several sources including Conways), but the latter collaborated with BuShips for decades, and had a drawing-room model of DD 931 clearly indicating their participation in the design.
The basic specifications were simple and basically a repeat of the Gearing class, but integrating new weaponry and electronics: They needed to be as swift and maneuverable as their precedessors to perform equally anti-aircraft and anti-submarine warfare.

Steel hulls designed to make the best of available output, reduced topside weight for improved stability (which led to the choice of aluminum superstructures).
It was established from the start they would have two geared turbine sets mated on two shaft propellers. They would be fed by four boilers (working at 1,200 psi), two per turbine, for a total of 70,000 shaft horsepower (shp), 33 knots designed speed. In practice they went further, up to 35 kts for USS Decatur.

The armament was a no-brainer: Its centerpiece was to be the brand new 5-in/54 Mark 42 in development to replace the legendary 5-in/38 in the USN. Its goal was to fire thrice as fast with a fully automated loading system, so that a single gun could replace a twin turret, and thus, like the Gearings, three turrets were kept, but with a single barrel (more later) and two OMC stations for either AA and antiship duties. This was completed with the equally new 3-in/50 Mk.22 replacing the 40mm Bofors, the new Mark 25 ASW TTs, Mark 32 TTs, ahd Hegdehogs, plus evolved sonars with for the first time a fixed bow sonar bulge.

Design Genesis

gearing class cutaway

Although the Gearing class destroyers were completed for some as far as 1949 like USS Robert A. Owens, the search for a replacement destroyer started in 1947 already, with larger “ocean escorts” such as the USS Norfolk and the simplified Mitscher class seeing as potential lead vessels. But the first real replacement destroyers were designed more for larger production, at a cheaper cost. With more than three hundred WW2 destroyers pending successive waves of modernizations, there was no urge for a mass of new hulls, even with the new threat of a possible war with USSR.

USS Turner Joy (DD-951) outboad profile as preserved in 2011.

The way was long from fast “torpedo-boat destroyers” developed at the end of the XIXth Century. Used for raiding, screening, patrol, their multi-purpose flexibility made them ubiquitous in all navies and unthinkable to dispense from. At the start of WW2 they prioritize ship-to-ship/ASW warfare and pivileged speed, endurance and sea-keeping above all else. Combat experience soon however helped to realize than anti-aircraft capabilities needed to be increased several fold. Since a cohort of specialized ASW vessels were built, a swap was operated with task force defence experience towards far more versatile vessels.

Priority on AAW/ASW

Rear Adm. Mahlon S. Tisdale which commanded destroyers in the Pacific called this evolution to the Gearing class “the nearest approach to the ‘all purpose’ vessel of any combatant type.”
After the war, the great number of available hulls were deemed more than sufficient to protect merchant convoys and task forces, even with much more evolved submarines, the new generation derived from the Type XXI design in the postwar years. Amidst cancellations in 1945, the only ones that escaped were the destroyers, since for all analysts, ASW and AAW would remain primary strategic concerns, not so the traditional ship-to ship engagement. A radical shift in vision since 1939. With the rapid expansion of the Soviet Navy this proved this to be spot on, and destroyers were modernized in both directions of ASW and AAW, sacrificing their traditional ship-to-ship assets, main guns and torpedoes. To these roles were also soon added shore bombardment and radar picket duties or air-sea rescue among others.

The Mitscher class laid down in 1949, were to be larger to carry a greater variety of ASW wapons and sensors, and essentially testbeds of this new AAS/W capability with much expanded size by default made them “destroyer leaders” and created to incorporate and test the fruits of wartime research. So they were both expensive and not impressive in service. The Navy perceived soon the need of a smaller, cheaper general-purpose destroyer design, yet focusing solely on ASW/AAW capabilities. This led to the the very unique Forrest Sherman class.

Design SBC 85 (1951)

In 1951, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) dismissed the Mitscher class for any mass production and asked the Ship Characteristics Board (SCB) for specifications, which in turn soon realized some impossibilities of keeping the tonnage low on new AAW/ASW specs, taking instead of a blank page, the Gearing class, and later having the ASW weakened to match original specs. This became SCB 85, based on the following specs:
-Maximum standard displacement of 2,500 long tons.
-Three 5″/54-caliber single-mount guns
-Four twin 3″/50-caliber AA guns
-Four fixed torpedo tubes (with guided large ASW torpedoes)
-Two fixed Hedgehog anti-submarine projectors
-traditional Depth charges racks and projectors.
-Maximum speed 32 knots
-Endurance 4,500 miles.
Discussions with Bureau of Ships, which wrote its own specifications between December 1950 and March 1951 led the SCB to propose a revised arrangement with a standard displacement ported to 2,800 tons relocated armament with one forward and two aft main guns, plus two twin 3″/50 guns. Thus, stability was preserved (as well as all-almunium superstructures).

Library of Congress, Drawings from Survey HAER WA-210.

Detailed Design

The design of these vessels, approved in 1952, was not that straightforward. Some old school officers highly criticized their apparent lack of firepower, with just three main guns, not grasping the full potential of a radar-guided, fuses equipped, stabilized gun on three axles provided with a fully automated loading. It was well complemented by the two twin 3-in mounts which performances in speed and range outclassed the 40 mm with ease, having a real potential against early jets. But in addition to be the first vessels concentrating more firepower aft than forward, which showcased AAW and shore-bombardment capabilities over surface-attack (notably with fixed torpedo tubes) were also looked at with suspicion.

Nevertheless, discussions about their relevance went on in 1953 when the first were laid down, and through 1954. At the time, the state of destroyer and escort concepts were sufficiently complex and blurry to urge the naval staff to command a dedicated analysis whereas was created the Committee of the Long Range Shipbuilding and Conversion Plan. The latter proposed a radical approach: To abandon the construciton of general-purpose destroyers, of which the Sherman were a cornerstone.

Instead, they advocated by either fast task forces escort, dubbed “ocean escorts” larger than usual destroyers and with the range of cruisers, and mainly tasked of AA defence, completed by ASW Corvetes and conversion of older vessels. Thus became the solution of using the large Farragut class, successors of the Mitscher class, converted Bensons, and austere escorts such as the Dealey class. In addition, they recommended to stop construction of the Sherman for a missile-armed replacement, the Charles F. Adams class (DDG).

wow’s rendition


Nine ships were constructed by Bath Iron Works of Bath in Maine, Five were attributed to Bethlehem Steel, Fore River Shipyard (Quincy, Massachusetts), two at Ingalls Shipbuilding, Pascagoula (Mississippi) two at Puget Sound, Seattle (Washington) with hull numbers 931 to 951, with DD-934 skipped for the ex-Japanese ex-Hanazuki as a war prize, and the ex-German DD-935 (T35), DD-939 (Z39). The last ones, DD-927 to DD-930 were completed as destroyer leaders. From Decatur onwards (DD 936) the hulls had an increased freeboard forward, and the last seven from DD 945 onwards had redesigned bows. Unitary construction cost was $26 million, the cost spread on four fiscal years for the whole class. Interestingly, USS Turner Joy (DD 951) was launched in May 1958, one month later in June was launched DDG-2, USS Charles F. Adams.

Hull & general design

Comparison between a Gearing and a Sherman. Woth all discourses.
At the time they entered service, these ships were the largest US destroyers with 418 feet (127 m) long giving a 2,800 tonnes (2,800 long tons) displacement standard. Their hull still was the trademark flush-deck model of WW2, with a bit more flare, higher freeboard (further extended with sub-classes). At first glance, the general sihouette was very close, with low superstructures, two raked funnels, but longer forward and aft decks helped by the more compact turrets, and crucially, two solid tripods to support brand new, heavier radars, whereas the Gearings only has a single pole behind the bridge. Not built with extra simplification in mind, details were more refined and the covered bridge was provided with traditional windows instead of portholes and three-faceted for a better panoramic view.

Another particular of the hull was the adjunction of a hull-mounted sonar dome, and they all received updated sonar systems during their careers. USS Barry was the first to feature a bow dome, brand new in the U.S. Navy. Port and starboard anchors had to be eliminated because of this new feature, and a stem anchor adopted instead.

A 3D rendition of the USS Forrest Sherman as built, with the addition of a new enclosed bridge in front of the original bridge structure, soon after completion. Note the classic side anchors. To avoid problems with the underbelly sonar radome, later vessels were completed with an axial bow anchor instead (and the prow was raised also for better seakeeping). Click for HD.

Internal Arrangements

The Shermans were designed to accept accommodations for 315 rating and 22 officers and for this, the Bureau of Ships hired Lippincott and Margulies to study crew requirements, making design recommendations: Habitability was careful studied with arrangements and color schemes studied and detailed with a greater care ever paid for a destroyer design. There simply was more individual living area, better noise cushion as well as heat and vibration isolation.

Outside wartime, sleep quality was an important parameter for sailors to express their full potential during quarters. Each living space also has a small recreational area, separated from berthing, area, well provided with tables and chairs, crew bunks equipped with individual bunk lights and canvas containers for personal effects. Also for the first time, air-conditioning became mandatory. The messing space doubled as recreational space thanks to ingenious folding furnitures and strappings.

The galley and scullery were in a compact space onf the main deck amidships and the garbage disposal unit was conveniently located, with direct access to the sea. Accommodations in general were equally divided forward and aft with washroom and water closet spaces in separate compartments and in sufficient numbers and locations. Towel drying facilities, individual drawers for stowage of toilet articles were now available for the entire crew. The washroom inaugurated for the first time washstand with elbow operated spray heads, thermostatically controlled water. All these “delicacies” were seen by new ratings as a bonanza worthy of an hotel, and were seen with contempt (and envy!) by the old salt vets of WW2.

Powerplant & Performances

The Forrest Sherman class was no different than previous destroyers in terms of powerplant. It was virtually a repeat of the previous Gearing/Sumner, with two propeller shafts, driven by however two new General Electric steam turbines (to the exception of DD-931 which had Westinghouse turbines) fed by four Foster-Wheeler boilers (DD-937, DD-943, DD-944, DD-945, DD-946 and DD-948 had Babcock & Wilcox models) working at 1,200 psi (8.3 MPa), for a total of 70,000 shp (52 MW). This was 10,000 shp more than the Gearing class. DD931 and 932 had two Westinghouse steam turbines plus 4 Babcock & Wilcox boilers, DD933, 938, 943, 951 had two GE turbines, four B & W boilers, DD936, 937 two Westinghouse turbines, four Foster Wheeler (FW) boilers, DD940, 941, 942 two GE turbines, four FW boilers.

Top speed was 32.5 knots (60.2 km/h; 37.4 mph) however (Gearing 36.8) although one, Decatur, reached 35 kts on trials, and Range was 4,500 nautical miles (8,300 km) at 20 knots (37 km/h), the same as the previous class. Top speed was no longer a priority as defined in the 1951 specifications. The Farragut class would also be capped to 32 kts but the Charles F Adams would be rated at 33 kts. It should be noted that their 1970s modernizations included a partial overhaul of their machinery, upgraded to run on JP5 (jet fuel) rather than the traditional “bunker C” oil. This enabled for boost in performances, but degraded their machinery as well and contributed to their premature retirement.


WoW’s rendition of the Forrest Sherman: Aft deck: Nice view of the two 5-in/54 showing notably their two firing posts, one for anti-shio and one for AA targeting. Behind on the quarterdeck is located the aft 5-in/54 mount.
Project SCB 85 included three 5-inch (127 mm)/54 caliber guns, single turrets, two twin 3-inch (76 mm)/50 AA, two hedgehogs forwars, and fixed 21-in torpedo tubes, plus a single rack at the stern for depht charges. Compared to the arsenal of a Gearing class in 1945, it appeared superficially weak: six 5-in/38, 3×4 and 2×2 40mm/60 Bofors, eleven 20mm/70, a quintuple 21-in TT bank, 6 DCR and 2 DCT (56 grenades). It was not the case. Whereas the 20 mm appeared useless against Kamikaze, Bofors were soon no longer adequate against the last generation of 700 kph piston engine models or early jets, and only four 3-in/50 AA could do the job quite well. The new 5-in/54 were infinitely superior to the twin mounts 38 caliber in velocity, rate of fire and accuracy. Great hopes were placed on new acousting torpedoes, negating the use of old-style traversing banks, and depht charges were well completed by hedgehog systems, more efficient.

Three 5-in/54 (127 mm) DP

The Mark 42 5″/54 really was a cold war game changer for NATO. Not only it equipped cruisers, destroyers, frigates or the USN, but also was used by Australia, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Japan, Mexico, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand and Turkey, but it stayed in service amazingly well past the 1990s, staying relevant as long as the radar based firing control stayed relevant.
-Shell 127 x 835mm .R Conventional 31.75 kg (70.0 lb)
-Recoil 18.75 inches (476.2 mm)
-Elevation -15°/+85° at 25°/sec
-Traverse 150° at 40°/sec
-Rate of fire 40 rpm automatic (28 in 1968)
-Muzzle velocity 2,650 ft/s (807.7 m/s)
-Max range 25,909 yd (23,691.2 m) at +45° elevation
-Ceiling 51,600 ft (15,727.7 m) at +85° elevation

Two twin 3-in/50 AA

Designed to replace both the Oerlikon 20 mm and Bofors 40 mm guns to face kamikaze attack at short ranges the last ireration of the old 3-in in service since before WWI was fitted on a Mark 22 mount. Semiautomatic, with power-driven automatic loader, it was excellent but heavier than expected. Full traverse was done in 30° sec. elevation from 15 to 85° at 24°/s. The feed was assisted by two loaders.
-Shell 12.13 in (30.8 cm)
-Weight Mark 31 Mod 1: 24 lbs. (10.9 kg)
-Elevation -15°/+85° at 30°/sec
-Traverse 360° at 24°/sec
-Rate of fire 40 rpm automatic (28 in 1968)
-Muzzle velocity 2,700 fps (823 mps)
-Antiship range (45°): 14,600 yards (13,350 m)
-AA ceiling (85°): 30,400 feet (9,266 m)

Two Mark 10/11 and later Mark 15 Hedgehogs

Mark 15 Hedgehog
Mark 15 Hedgehog
Two Mark 10/11 early US Hedgehogs were mounted on the upper structure aft of the forward main turret, at the foot of the bridge. The Mark 10 and Mark 11 launched a pattern of twenty four Mark 6, 7.2-inch projector charges ahead. It equipped not only the Sherman class but also rearmed all active SUMNERs, GEARINGs, and FLETCHERs, either with the MK 10 or MK 11.
Not different from WW2 models it possessed a base frame, a blast shield, cradles and spigots, plus a roll correction gear assembly. The firing mechanism was located behind the blast shield. The carrying frame consisted in four longitudinal tilting cradles, each carrying six fixed spigots, all mounted with firing pins. They had charges fitted over the spigot, seating on the retaining nut of the firing pin. The charges made an elliptical pattern when entering the water, setup by changing their tilt angle, and fired electrically in pairs with 0.10 second intervals to avoid interference.
The MK 10 and MK 11 only differed in shape and projection distance:
Mk.10: pattern of 140 x 120 out at 200 yards
MK 11: Circular pattern 200 feet in diameter at 188 yards.
The MK 6 projector charge measured 7.2 inches (diameter) by 3.88 feet long and between 50 and 53 pounds.
A single sailor could reload all spigots in about 6 min, hence the need of two such hedgehogs, for 48 in all. Once the sonar had located the submarine with precision, the destroyer would rush forward and “frame” it with explosions, causing untold pressure damage.

It seems they were both replaced by Mk 15 Hedgehogs at a later date (photo). The Mark 15 became the Standard 1950s trainable Hedgehog mount with stabilization, power-trained by a remote fire control system. Total weight of the system was 17,425 lbs and it required a crew of eight, with a five minutes full reload. The pattern was 280 foot wide, delivered after 10.4 sec. flight and it took 18.6 seconds to sink to 200 feet (61 m), which was better than the previous Mark 11. Its mount was more complex and faster in both traverse and elevation than the Mark 10/11 and some destroyers mixed both types. The projectiles were the same, only the pattern changed.
However with time, the speed and depth of new generation submarines would made them obsolete and impose the use of acoustic torpedoes instead, by tubes or launched by missiles, such as the ASROC system of the 1960s.

21-in acoustic fixed TTs

WoW’s rendition of the Forrest Sherman: Top view showing the location of the four fixes 21-in TTs, on the upper deck behind the bridge, at the foot of the foremast and funnel and angled 30° forward.
Another particular of this design was the use of new fixed torpedo tubes. Having a traversing mount made no sense with an acoustic torpedo since it’s heading can be modified on the way. Any tube angle could do therefore, allowing more leeway in placement on the ship and gain of space. The reloading was an issue however. On the Forrest Sherman class, they were located in two pairs forward, on the upper deck, apparently without reload.
There were also a one-off torpedo type, specifically designed for ASW warfare, unusual at this caliber as the standard would be later the 324 mm triple bank found on virtually all ships of the USN.

21″ (53.3 cm) Mark 35: This was likely the standard used on the Forrest Sherman class.
It was Design from 1946, entered service in 1949. It Weighted 1,770 lbs. (803 kg) for 13 ft 5 in (4.089 m) long, carrying an xplosive Charge of 270 lbs. (122.5 kg) HBX at 15,000 yards (13,710 m) at 27 knots using an electric-Battery cooled by seawater and guided by Active and passive acoustic spiral search. It could be used against ships as well.
With about 400 produced between 1949-1952 it was replaced from 1960 by the Mark 37. Settings came from a fire control system through a 1″ (25 mm) diameter umbilical cable, cut away with the expulsion from the tube. It can use either a pre-enable run-out course and distance, or various searching patterns in all directions.


Radar SPS-6

The AN/SPS-6 was a 2D radar from Bendix and Westinghouse Electric, used by the US Navy as a first-generation air-search radar after the war. It was also widely exported to allies and NATO in the 1950s. The AN/SPS-12 was a derivative types made in other countries. The SPS-6 (entering service in 1948) used a L Band Frequency, had a 130 – 260 km (70 – 140 nmi) range, and was powered by 500 Kw. It was replaced by the SPS-10, SPG-53A and Mk 35 radars with the DDG conversion.

Sonar SQS-4

The AN/SQS-4 was a long-range active/passive, search and attack sonar. It was the first of such types designed after the war, and the basis for all following US sonars. It had an operating frequency of 14 KHz with selectable pulse lengths from 6 to 30 and 80 milliseconds based on outputs of 50, 30, 10 kW, with range scales from 1,000, 2,500, 5,000, 10,000, to 15,000 yards (corresponding to 914, 2,286, 4,572, 9,144, and 13,716 m). It was physiaclly traduced by a radome built under the hull, located at the position of the forward 3-in AA gun. Dedicated ASW conversions had brand new SQS-23 and 35 Sonars.

Mark 56 Fire Control System

The standard FCS coupled with the 5-in AA guns. This gun fire-control system combined the AN/SPG-35 radar tracker and Mark 42 ballistic computer. It has a classic dish-like antenna and small cabin for the operator. The Forrest Sherman had two of them, installed on top of the bridge and aft the second funnel. The radar associated worked on X band with a PRF of 3,000 pps, Beamwidth of 2, Pulsewidth of 0.1-0.15 μs, 27 km (14.6 nmi) range with a 9m precision (10 yd), and working on 50 kW. It was introduced in 1954 and installed nearly on all USN gun-armed ships, in service also during the Vietnam war. The Mk.68 GFCS was the standard associated with the Mark 42 5″/54 cal gun, using a secondary directional board.

Modernization & Evolution

Jet aircraft development in the 1950s however soon made this a main anti-aircraft armament ineffective against airborne nuclear attacks and new supersonic jets, plus missiles. The AAW package was completely obsolete in the early 1960s.
Already edgehogs and 3-inch (76 mm) guns were removed in the sixties and up to the early 1970s as the fixed torpedo whereas two triple 12.75 inches (324 mm) Mark 32 torpedo tube mounts replaced them for ASW warfare. This was just a “basic” upgrade, but complete reconstruction planes were also drafted to prolongate their service until the 1980s.

As attention shifted in 1955 to development of effective surface-to-air (SAM) systems the Forrest Sherman were already replaced by DDGs, new frigates were studied as the ten Farragut class as Ocean escorts or destroyer leaders, true predecessors of missile cruisers. The Charles. F. Adams were essentially enlarged Forrest Sherman and the admiralty wanted the Forrest Shermans gradually converted by mid 1960s to either guided-missile destroyers (with Tartar SAM/ASROC) and for budget concerns, eight additional as ASW vessels with updated weaponry between 1967 and 1971. They were updated to stay active until the end of the cold war in 1990 but were retried in 1982-83 more because of their high-pressure engine than obvious obsolescence, compared to the Spruance class in particular.


The original design with the armament described above.


Hedgehogs, 3-inch AA guns, fixed torpedo tubes removed. 2×3 12.75 inches (324 mm) Mark 32 torpedo tube mounted. This was done as construction proceeded for the last batches, and fire control directors were reversed from the SCB 85 configuration while a new B&W Bailey Meter automatic boiler combustion control system was installed, modified hurricane bow/anchor. Some authors had them sub-classed a “Hull-class destroyers”.

SCB 240 (DDG conversion):

USS Decatur after conversion as DDG-31
USS Decatur after conversion as DDG-31. Being the first converted, as a prototype, the SBC 240 is also called “Decatur class” in most publications.

USS Parsons in the 19740s after her overhaul and DDG conversion
The most important upgrade, performed in 1966-67: USS John Paul Jones, Parsons, Decatur, and Somers became guided-missile destroyers with Tartar missiles, new radars and FCS, new derrick masts. This upgrade diverged in small details: USS Decatur and John Paul Jones had in standard a single Tartar SAM (40 RIM-24), an octuple ASROC ASuR (16 RUR-5), single 127mm/54 Mk 42 turret left forward, two triple 324mm Mk 32 TT, and the SPS-29, SPS-40, SPS-48, SPS-10, SPG-51C, and SPG-53B radars. They made the swap to the SQS-23 sonar and in complement gained the WLR-1, WLR-3, ULQ-6 ECM suites. Same for USS Parsons with the exception of a SPS-48 radar instead of 40. USS Somers combined the SPS-40 and SPS-48, the rest was identical.

SCB 251 (ASW Modernization):

Eight remaining vessels, USS Barry, Davis, Jonas Ingram, Manley, Du Pont, Blandy, Hull, and Morton also known as the “Barry class” were fitted with ASROC launcher and a variable-depth sonar system. Six others were planned but due to the Vietnam War budget constraints had them cancelled. The conversion was made between 1967 and 1971. USS Barry, Davis, Manley were the first converted to ASW destroyers: They were rearmed with an octuple ASROC ASuR (20 RUR-5) in place of their N°2 turret, two remaining, but two triple 324mm Mk 32 TT, two 24x178mm Mk 15 Hedgehog ASWRL remaining forward, One DCR aft. Electronics suite was modernized wit the SPS-37, SPS-10 and SPG-53A radars, but also the SQS-23 and SQS-35 sonars. Countermeasures comprised a WLR-1, WLR-3 and ULQ-6 ECM suites. The second batch converted at the same time concerned USS Jonas Ingram, Du Pont, Blandy, Morton, Richard S. Edwards with the same, but the SPS-40 radar instead of SPS-37.

In a general way, other destroyers were upgraded during the same period: Forrest Sherman and Hull lost a twin 76mm/50 and gained a SPS-40 radar and SQS-23 sonar. USS Turner Joy had the same but kept her two AA 3-in mounts, as USS Bigelow that had a SPS-37 radar instead, like USS Edson (One 3-in mount). USS Mullinix had the SPS-12 radar.

8″/55 Mark 71 gun test:

USS Hull (DD-945) became a test platform with a prototype 8″/55 caliber Mark 71 light-weight gun. This was an attempt to reintroduce naval artillery on US ships with the experience of Vietnam, to dispense from keeping costly conventional vessels. Tese were performed from 1975 to 1978. But performances were disappointing and the program was canceled, the 5-inch mount was restored. USS Hull however became the only destroyer in history to have sported in service a heavy-cruiser 8-inch (203 mm) gun.

Active Service and General Assessment

The 1958 32+ knot Forrest Sherman class destroyer was built at the Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine. She was decommissioned in 1988 and resided at the Intrepid Air/Sea/Space museum in New York in 2003.

The Forrest Sherman–class destroyers entered service between 1955 and 1959 and assigned to all task forces across the globe (Atlantic, Pacific, Indian ocean, Persian Gulf, Mediterranean…). Most made a tour of duty in Vietnam as part of the “gunline”, shelling various shore targets in North Vietnam. USS Turner Joy was there from the start, involved on the Tonkin Gulf Incident, an alleged NVA attack by in August 1964. All named after distinguished servicemen died in WW2, they were christened by their widows and some by descendants. The service routine was always about the same: Initial yard trials, official ones, shakedown cruise and initial training between the Caribbean and South African coast. Service in the Atlantic, North Sea, Mediterranean, and/or Pacific punctuated by fleet training, goodwill and recreational port calls, repair and overhaul and some rescue missions.

The entire class was decommissioned in 1982-1983, despute the upgrades of twelve ships. This was not due to obsolescence but chronic problems with their high-pressure steam engines. Only USS Edson was used for training until 1988. Four were placed in reserve and struck at the end of 1990, nine sunk as targets, five scrapped, three preserved as museums, but Forrest Sherman was eventually scrapped in 2013, leaving only USS Edson in Bay City, Michigan, and USS Turner Joy since 1991 in Bremerton, Washington, east coast.

Author’s profile of the class. A DDG conversion and an ASW conversion profiles are awaited.

⚙ specifications

Displacement 2,800 tons standard, 4,050 tons full load
Dimensions 127 x 14 x 6.7m ( 407wl/418oa x 45 x 22 feets)
Propulsion 2 shafts GE/Westinghouse steam turbines, 4 Foster-Wheeler/B&W boilers 70,000 shp (52 MW)
Speed 32.5 knots (60.2 km/h; 37.4 mph)
Range 4,500 nautical miles (8,300 km) at 20 knots (37 km/h)
Armament 3×5 in/54 Mk42, 4×3 in/50 Mk33, 2×24 Mk10/11 Hedgehogs, 4×21-in TTs
Sensors Radar SPS-6, Sonar SQS-4, Mark 56 FCS
Crew 15 officers, 318 enlisted

Read More

USS Turner Joy
USS Turner Joy, one of the two destroyers of this class that can be visited today. She is berthed in Bremerton, Washington state on the west coast.


The Life and Ships of William Francis Gibbs, 1886–1967 (New York: Gibbs & Cox, 1968), 183
Fahey, James C. (1965). The Ships and Aircraft of the United States Fleet, 8th Edition. NIP.
Friedman, Norman (1982). U.S. Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History. USNI


The Mark 10/11 “Hedgehog” Projector

Model Kits

Since they were cold war destroyers, not much, but the quirky old 1:319 Revell kit dating from the time these ships were just introduced. Revell also made USS decatur and John Paul Jones. Full list. Apart Revell, Iron Shipwrights 1:350, JAG 1:700, others were below 1:1200 scale. We still find for fans of hyper-detail USS John Paul Jones and Morton by The Scale Shipyard at 1:96… But they are old and hard to find. Model Monkey also developed 3D printed parts, in 1:350 and 1:700, or the main guns, Mk.56 FCS and even USS Hull’s 8-in/55 Mk.71. Happy modelling !

Career of the Forrest Sherman class

Of the 18 completed, nine were disposed of in fleet training exercises (as target ships), seven were sold by the new Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service (DRMS) agency to be recycled and scrapped, and two became museums.

US Navy ww2 Forrest Sherman (DD-931)

USS_Forrest_Sherman_DD-931 1978
USS Forrest Sherman in 1978, after modernization
USS Forrest Sherman was baptised at Bath Iron Works (Bath, Maine) on 5 February 1955 by Mrs. Forrest P. Sherman, widow of Admiral Sherman. She was commissioned on 9 November 1955 and needed a year of initial training and fitting out plus shakedown cruise and fixes. She arrived at her first home port, NAS Newport in Rhode Island o, 15 January 1957. She sailed to Washington, D.C., opened for a week of public visits during the visit of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Next she took part in fleet exercises along the east coast and Caribbean and midshipman cruise to South America plus the Naval Review in Hampton Roads on 12 June.
On 3 September 1957, she took part in NATO Operation Strikeback screening a carrier striking group off Norway. She also stopped in Plymouth and Copenhagen, back home on 22 October. She covered amphibious exercizes off Puerto Rico in July 1958, and proceeded to Gibraltar on 10 August, patrolling the eastern Mediterranean and through Suez joined the 7th Fleet off Taiwan due to the Quemoy and Matsu crisis. She went on eastwards and arrived on the Califirnian coast, through Panama, closing her first world cruise when arriving in Newport on 11 November.

The summer of 1959 saw her in Operation Inland Seas in the Great Lakes, and celebrating the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway. She also escorted the Royal Yacht HMY Britannia with President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth II aboard, touring the Great Lakes ports. She took part in more coastal exercises with the Atlantic Fleet and went in maintenance at the Boston Naval Shipyard.
1960, 21 March saw her taking on a 7-month cruise and duty tour to the Mediterranean with the 6th Fleet. While back home in October, she recued a badly injured sailor of Liberian freighter Allen Christensen. After this she entered Boston Naval Shipyard for a major overhaul until late 1961. The rest of her career is being reconstructed from logs (not accessible) by DANFS fopr Stay tune for updates. She was further modernized in 1966 and took part in Vietnam Operations.

Forrest Sherman was decommissioned on 5 November 1982, stricken on 27 July 1990, sold for scrap to Fore River Shipyard (Quincy, Massachusetts) on 11 December 1992 but as the latter went bankrupt, to N. R. Acquisition Incorporated NYC. She was berthed by the Navy in the Inactive Ship Facility at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard then listed for museum donation. In 2006, it was authorized by Congress to a Foundation planning to have her moved to Indian River Inlet in Delaware for restoration. But it never secured the funds and the ship was expelled from the donation hold in 2011, cannibalized by volunteers in June 2011 and resold sold (3rd time !) on 15 December 2014, to the Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services.

US Navy ww2 John Paul Jones (DD-932)

John Paul Jones underway USS John Paul Jones (DD-932 ) underway at high speed while running sea trials off the New England Coast, 25 March 1956. She was commisioned on 5 April 1956 at Boston. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.[/caption]
USS John Paul Jones, second of the initial class destroyers of post-war design, conducted exhaustive shakedown training out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after which she departed for a cruise to Northern Europe and the British Isles. During this voyage Commander Hayler and members of the crew visited the birthplace of John Paul and presented the ship’s emblem to the people of Kirkcudbright. She returned to her home port, Newport, 8 October 1956.
The new destroyer departed for her first cruise with Sixth Fleet 25 March 1957. In May she took part in an operation in support of King Hussein of Jordan. After successfully averting his overthrow, John Paul Jones sailed for Newport once more, arriving 6 June 1957. NATO maneuvers in the North Atlantic followed in October. After another brief cruise to the Mediterranean, she arrived Fall River 27 November and in January 1958 she took part in fleet exercises in the Caribbean.

In the spring of 1958 John Paul Jones operated with Canadian ships on training maneuvers in the Atlantic. After further training off the East Coast and in the Caribbean, she sailed again for the Mediterranean 17 March 1959. This tour with the 6th Fleet on its peace-keeping mission ended 24 July when the ship arrived Boston.
The year 1960 began with 2nd Fleet operations out of Newport, and in June the destroyer embarked midshipmen for a training cruise. She then departed 22 August for a cruise to South America. As part of Operation Unitas, she circumnavigated the continent, visiting many of America’s southern allies and taking part in joint exercises with their navies.

After transiting the Straits of Magellan and the Panama Canal, John Paul Jones returned to Newport 13 December 1960. During 1961 and 1962 the ship carried out antisubmarine exercises in the Caribbean and out of Newport. In April 1962 she took part in a fleet review and weapons demonstration for President John F. Kennedy, and in July she again embarked midshipmen for training. In October 1962 the ship was on station with the Atlantic Recovery Forces during the orbital flight of Commander Wally Schirra, and soon afterward moved off the coast of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The following year saw the veteran ship embark on another Mediterranean cruise 6 February to 1 July; the remainder of 1963 was spent on antisubmarine exercises in the Atlantic.

Operations along the Atlantic Coast continued until John Paul Jones began another 6th Fleet deployment 20 June 1964. She operated primarily in the western Mediterranean, on ASW assignments until returning home 3 September 1964. Early in 1965 she participated in Operation “Spring board” in the Caribbean. In March the destroyer received a Gemini-recovery crane and on the 19th sailed for her recovery station some 200 miles south of Bermuda. She was to pick up astronauts Major Virgil Grissom and Lt. Cmdr. John W. Young and their space craft in the event that they ended their flight after two rather than the three scheduled orbits. However, all went well so she returned to Norfolk 27 March without headlines.
John Paul Jones headed back to the Mediterranean 18 June for NATO exercises with units of the French, Greek and British navies. John Paul Jones was converted to a guided missile destroyer at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard between 20 December 1965 and 15 March 1967 and designated DDG-32. Her story after this is still documented from original logs (work in progress). She was stricken on 30 November 1985.

US Navy ww2 Barry (DD-933)

USS Barry in 1960
USS Barry was built in Bath, Maine, was launched on 1 October 1955 and sponsored by Mrs. Francis Rogers, great-grandniece of Commodore Barry, commissioned at the Boston Naval Shipyard in Charlestown on 7 September 1956 with Commander Isaac C. Kidd, Jr.,in command. After fitting out and first trials and tests up to November-December she made a short cruise in Narragansett Bay, and on 3 January 1957 started her shakedown cruise for Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, stopping in Kingston, Culebra, Santa Marta, and Colón in Panama to transit for the Pacific on the 26th.

After a stop at Salinas in Ecuador, she made three goodwill visits and arrived on 5 Match to Callao, Peru, hosting the US Ambassador and City Prefect, heading afterwards to Valparaíso, before being called by the CiC of the Chilean Navy, Vice Almirante Francisco O’Ryan, hosting him and the consul and Commandant of the First Naval Zone. After refueling she left Valparaíso on 17 March for Panama, crossing on 23 March, and arrived in Boston on the 29th for post-shakedown fixes.

Overseas service 1957-64
On 15 May she left for exercises off New England and departed for Rosslare in Ireland, visiting also St. Nazaire, Lisbon, Gibraltar (16 July) to join the 6th Fleet as a carrier escort and plane guard, ASW barrier patrols. She was back in Rhode Island in August 1957 and on 24 September, after upkeep, she assisted the Norwegian freighter Belleville, aground off Seal Rock, Narragansett Bay. She escorted the SSN USS Seawolf, hoting President Dwight D. Eisenhower off Newport. After ASW exercises, plane guard operations with USS Forrestal and Leyte, she was prepared for the Mediterranean in May 1958, sailing out in June and crossing Gibraltar for Rhodes. With the 6th Fleet she took part in ASW exercises but on 14 July a coup in Baghdad led to a republic in Iraq and Lebanese government fearing a Pan-Arab insurgency requested troops to stabilize the situation. President Eisenhower honored it and sent the Marines in Lebanon.

USS Barry was thus sent in Salonika, Greece on 15 July with USS Saratoga in support, patrolling the Lebanese coast and assisting the Marines ashore. After a stop in İzmir, and Augusta Bay in Sicily, she departed for hom on 17 September, Boston for alterations and installation of a bow-mounted SQS-23 sonar. She spent the rest of the year in ASW tests and tactical trials. In January-May she was back to East Coast operations. In 1960 she made a summer goodwill tour in Northern Europe, with sonar demonstrations, calling Portsmouth and Kiel but also the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Belgium, training with NATO submarines, ending with French and Portuguese SSNs. After a stop in Montreal she trained off the Virginia Capes from 9 January 1961, integrated into a hunter-killer exercise. Se took part in amphibious exercises, returned to Boston for upkeep and made a new 1962 TOD in the Mediterranean with USS Randolph when recalled for the Cuban Missile Crisis.

In October 1962, Barry left Newport to take part in Cuba’s quarantine with USS Blandy, Charles S. Sperry and Keppler as part of TF Essex, detached for ASW surveillance and tracking Soviet (Foxtrot-class) sub C-19, surfaced and submerged, and went on patrolling until 8 November. She refuelled to Essex, and embarked by highline transfer a photographic and interpreter group to investigate a Soviet merchantman on the 9th. This was the Soviet-registry Metallurg Anosov. She photographed her deck cargo and went back to Essex to refuel and briefing.
She left the area for upkeep on 15 Nov. and resumed training down south to Santo Domingo and San Juan. She trained in ASW warfare for the next six months and from June 1963, an overhaul. She was back to the eastern seaboard with midshipmen brought to New York and Halifax, and meeting a hurricane off Bermuda.

1964 was the similar routine but she rescued the ship Antares, which erupted in flames, managing to extinguish it after a 18-hour battle. Next she was in a NATO exercise with the Bundesmarine in the Atlantic. After preparations in 1964 she was back in the Med. for 3.5 months. She also headed for the Norwegian Sea and crossed the Arctic Circle in September. She stopped in Valencia and Barcelona, Palma, Marseilles, Toulon, Naples, and took part in NATO Ops “Teamwork”, “Masterstroke”, and “Steel Pike I”. The next year after her spring training exercises she took part in the search for Gemini 4. This summer she also won her first Battle Efficiency awar (“E”) for ASW and was prepared for her first Western Pacific deployment as flagship DesRon 24. It was the first Atlantic group to be deployed in Vietnam, with USS Samuel B. Roberts, Charles S. Sperry, Hawkins, Vesole, and Ingraham in September, escorted by USS Harold J. Ellison and Bache.

USS Barry (DD-933) underway at sea circa September-December 1966, while fitted with a Mark 86 fire control system for evaluation purposes. Visible components of the Mark 86 are a radome atop Barry’s pilothouse. Courtesy of Stephen S. Roberts, 1978. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Vietnam War 1965-67
After a stop in Hawaii and Midway, Yokosuka and Sasebo, she reached Subic Bay as operating base, on 17 November 1964, commencing training at the Tabones Naval Gunfire Support Range. She later joined TG 77.7 (USS Enterprise, the missile cruiser USS Bainbridge, and destroyer USS Samuel B. Roberts, for “Point Dixie”, South Vietnam. She covered airstrikes on Bien Hoa. Barry was also detached for gunfire support and steamed up the Saigon River near Vũng Tàu on 7 December, deleting supply points and entrenchments and went on the Mekong Delta area for more off Cho Phuoc Hai, eventually spending 1,500 main guns rounds.

TG 7.77 then moved off Da Nang at “Point Yankee” for more strikes. After a short Xmas thruce, operations resumed on January 1966 until the force retired at Subic Bay foir upkeep and resplenishment.
She was after a crew’s leave recalled for “special operations” in South Vietnam, attached to III Marine Amphibious Force, providing naval gunfire coverage for these 5,000 Marines around Duc Pho on 28 January. It was the largest combat assault since Inchon. Operation “Double Eagle” was a success, well assisted by Barry, and USS Oklahoma City.
On 5 February, she covered the 1st Cavalry and ARVN units for Operation “Masher-White Wing”, spending 700 rounds before leaving for a rest in Hong Kong. She would eanr two battle stars for her Vietnam service. After being reunited with DesRon 24, she sailed for Penang in Malaysia, refueling, stopping in Singapore, Cochin in India, Aden, Suez, Naples, Barcelona, Gibraltar, Ponta del Gada and back to Newport for a first “globnav” on 8 April 1966.

ASW Overhaul and 1970s service
She trained in the Atlantic with DesRon 24 and was prepared in Boston Naval for her main overhaul but testing MK-86 GFCS with its AN/SPQ-9 radar. The latter was a brand new experimental optical pulse-compression radar, assorted with a new gun platform. She also received an upgraded SQS-23 and spent two months off Newport testings, going to the Carribean and NAS Florida, then off Jacksonville. She returned to Boston on 4 January 1967 for her main overhaul, full ASW conversion, with a VDS ASROC, new CIC and enclosed bridge, new propulsion and electrical systems, fully Recommissioned 19 April 1968 with Thomas H. Sherman in command.

On 26 May 1969, she made a six-week Caribbean cruise for tests and weapon calibration, refresher training up to Maine. She was asigtned to Yorktown ASW Group for European waters, North Atlantic’s NATO exercises and Arctic Circle operations, stopping at Antwerp, Oslo, Bergen, Le Havre. She also rescued the crew of a disabled helicopter. For two years apart a run to Greece in October 1970 (Jordanian-PLO conflict) she was in exercizes routine. Her home port was changed to Athens, Greece for the next decade. She joined the 6th Fleet at Rota in Spain and was in Athens on 1 September, DESRON 12 (USS Sampson, Richard Byrd, William Wood, Manley, Vreeland). NATO exercises with the Greek Navy and Turkish navy plus goodwill visits she tracked a surface Soviet Foxtrot-class on 11 January 1972.

In 1973 she had her AN/SQS-23 updated in Athens. She was prepared for an ASW screening of the Marine Landing Battalion answering a Soviet naval buildup as the 1973 Arab–Israeli war started. A Marine CH-46 helicopter in a routine flight crashed into her ASROC deck. Damage was light and there was no injuries, but the helicopter’s crew, two being rescued. Her carrier escort mission went on until the end of the year.

She assisted the Greek fleet during the Cyprus Crisis, evacuating 50 military personnel from Athens to Naples and was back to the Aegean, tracking Turkish moves under command of Admiral James L. Holloway, later taking part in NATO Exercise “Sardinia 75”, later leaving Athens as the naval station agreement was revoked. She later stopped in Villefranche-sur-Mer, Palma de Mallorca and Rota before reaching Philadelphia on 20 August, later receiving the Arleigh Burke award fom Admiral Isaac Kidd her first CO. In 1976 she made a three-week ASW training off Rhode Island before a major overhaul in Philadelphia since 1968.

She left drydock on 9 February 1977 for sea trials and was assigned to NAS Mayport in Florida in March, making afterwards a 5th deployment to the Mediterranean with CAG USS America by September 6th Fleet. On 10 November she assisted the rescue of two ditched airmen from USS America. She visited Dubrovnik, and Naples, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and answered a new crisis when the Soviet Black Sea Fleet arrived in the area shadowing (24 January – 3 February 1978) Kiev and Moskva in the Levantine Basin. She later took part in NATO “Exercise Sardinia 78”, and was back at NAS Florida on 14 April. Back in the Med she took part in Exercise “Common Effort” and Operation “Northern Wedding” by early September, stopping at Copenhagen, then “BALTOP’s 78” in the Skagerrak and Baltic, stopping in Helsinki, Bremen, Amsterdam, Middlesbrough and the Azores to refuel.

She made another Mediterranean deployment with Battle Group 2, assorted with port visits an a “show the flag” cruise and taking part in the Italian National Week XXV. In June 1979, with USS Sampson she transited the Suez Canal for Djibouti, then Karachi for a port visit,becoming flagship for Rear Admiral Samuel H. Packer II (Middle East Forces Cdr) and returned to the Persian Gulf with the Islamic revolution in Iran. She conducted counter-terrorism patrols in the Straits of Hormuz, stopping in Muscat, Sitrah, and back to Djibouti. After the Seychelles she met USS Sampson and Elmer Montgomery in August before being back to the Mediterranean and back in Mayport by 21 September. She was overhaul in 1980.

Late service (1980s)
On 17 January 1980 she was moved to Boston homeport. After hull maintenance and overhaul she departed on 31 March 1981 for her shakedown and retrained in Narragansett Bay, making a refresher training cruise in the Bahamas and Cuban waters, and returned for another Middle East deployment from November 1981, transiting the Suez Canal on 26–27 November to join the Amphibious Readiness Group around USS Saipan, Raleigh, and USS Barnstable County stopping at Djibouti and joining USS Coral Sea on 1 December. She took part in Operation “Bright Star ’82”. In December she was in Kenya, Mombasa and in January 1982 back to the Persian Gulf, before heading for home. When the destroyer replacement program was announced on 1 September she was prepared for final decommissioning in Newport, which happened on 5 November 1982 later towed to the Facility at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.

A short museum life and scrapping
After this, Admiral Arleigh Burke (ret.) advocated a ship to be moored at the Washington Navy Yard, Anacostia River (Washington, D.C.) and the Navy agreed to chose Barry, towed on her barthing on 18 November 1983 for restoration, starting with a new paint and installation of museum displays. She opened to the public on 1984. She had proved an attractive destination since. In 1990 alone, she hosted 500,000 visitors and frequently hosts retirement ceremonies or television programs. However by 2015 visits went down to 10,000 yearly and the $2 million required for renovations, unaffordable due to the low visits. The construction of a fixed span bridge also by the the District of Columbia trapped her in the Anacostia River.
The U.S. Navy closed her, and she was towed away for scrapping, later stripped from artifacts and on 7 May 2016, her masts cut down and she was towed to the Potomac River, then Delaware Canal and River to the inactive ship facility at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, mothballed, sold for scrapping, completed by 11 February 2022.

US Navy ww2 Decatur (DD-936)

USS Decatur after DDG conversion
USS Decatur was built at the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, Quincy (Massachusetts), commissioned on 7 December 1956, making her shakedown cruise the next year in the Caribbean and steamed to northern Europe for her first overseas deployment, crossing the Atlantic again in 1958 to join the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean. She made several deployments until the end of the 1950s and early 1960s, also acting a spacecraft recovery ship in September 1961. She also took part in the Cuban Quarantine (blockade) in November-December 1962. On 6 May 1964, she collided with the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Lake Champlain (CVS-39), her superstructure completely devastated. Unrepaired whe was placed “in commission, in reserve” and stayed as so until her planned modernization, formally decommissioned on 15 June 1965 to join the drydock.

Her conversion as a missile destroyer (DDG) was performed over tio years in Boston Naval Shipyard and she was ready for service from September 1966 as DDG-31, fully recommissioned by April 1967 with Captain Lee Baggett Jr. in command. In September 1967 she made her first tour of duty in Vietnam. Transferred to the Pacific Fleet with the Seventh Fleet deployment (Western Pacific) she was sent as task force missile defence on the frontline between July 1968 and February 1969.

She also made two Far Eastern tours in 1970 and 1971–72, interleaved with further Vietnam War operations. She also visitd the southern Pacific. She returned for a “WestPac” tour again in 1973, 1974–75, 1976–77 and 1978–1979, ending her service in the Indian Ocean and event went awry in the Persian Gulf.

In 1981-1982, USS Decatur made two more Pacific deplymnets with the 7th Fleet. In 1983she was sent in suppiort of the 6th fleet in the Persian Gulf. By late June 1983, she was decommissioned, placed in the Pacific Reserve Fleet. Stricken in March 1988, pending demolition. But this will not happen.

Self Defense Test Ship (SDTS) 1994-2003

Decatur as the U.S. Navy’s Self Defense Test Ship, 2003.

Despite her name was retired, freed for another ship, she started a new, long career converted in 1989-92 as “E31” as a test ship of a new kind. From 1994 to 2003 she was sent to the Pacific Coast, for trialling new anti-shipping cruise missiles or antiship missiles decoy and ECM tets vessel, testing many new systems later installed on other vessels. As SDTS she was replaced by her sister-ship USS Paul F. Foster (DD-964) and disposed of, as target ship for a Fleet training exercise on 22 July 2004, sunk that day.

US Navy ww2 Davis (DD-937)

Underway at sea in 1957

DD-937 was completed at Quincy, Massachusetts (Bethlehem Steel Co.) honoring WW2 Commander George Fleming Davis, commissioned on 6 March 1957. After fitting out she made her sea trials from 23 April 1957 off Brenton Reef and joined NS Newport home port in May, making her shakedown in Cuban waters with a stop at Washington Navy Yard for Armed Forces Day celebrations, then NS Norfolk and reached Guantanamo Bay, stopping in Kingston, and Ciudad Trujillo, the in July, started a northern European waters tour via the Azores.

After Ponta Delgada she visited Rotterdam, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, in August and back to Boston for post-shakedown availability. In November she was back to Newport now as flagship, Capt. Harry G. Moore, ComDesRon 12. She started her first Mediterranean tour with the Sixth Fleet from 29 November 1957. Shhe stopped in Cannes, France, in December where she spent Xmas and the new year. She took part in NATO combined ASW warfare and AAW exercises, plane guard for USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, ans the Essex-class Saratoga, Essex and Randolph making many port calls before reaching Gibraltar in April and back to Newport.

After 1958 east coast exercizes she carried midshipmen to northern Europe, taking part in Kiel Week (25-30 June) and visiting Bergen and Rotterdam in July, then back to Boston in August. During a short overhaul she had her aluminum deckhouses strenghtened, and fitted with new expansion joints. From October 1958, calling for Newport, she was underway for Atlantic fleet large ASW drills. She was in Norfolk for her crew to atend the ASW Tactical School and back at sea in December. From 7 January 1959, she took part in Operation Springboard in the Caribbean, also stopping in San Juan, Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, Ciudad Trujillo, San Juan, Saint Thomas (Virgin Islands). In February she visited Washington, D.C. and Mayport in Florida in March, Charleston and Norfolk, followed by a new overhault at Boston from 17 March.
Leaving on 17 June 1959, she took part in Independence Day observances on 3-5 July. After a Cuban waters refresher cruise, she patrol the western and southern coasts of Haiti, stopping at Port au Prince, then Cuban waters in August followed by “special operations.” Next after her annual competitive exercises she took part in Operation Tralex 4-59, testing convoy procedures and amphibious assault operations.

In 1960 she took part in Operation Skyhook measuring cosmic radiations over the Caribbean area, and the usual ASW operations with DesRon 12 soon nicknamed the “Dragon Killers” as they played hide and seek with USS Seadragon. She took part in the North Atlantic ASW Ready Group in March 1960 for intense “hunter-killer” operations, earning seven gunnery “E” awards and joining the Second Fleet for Operation LantFlex 2-60, ending as winner of Battle Efficiency “E”. By August, DesRon 12 departed for the Mediterranean, 6th Fleet, USS David being detached for the Black Sea “on a special assignment”, assorted with a vigorous Soviet Union protest.
DesRon 12 departed for Rota in Spain on 13 February 1961, then back to Boston for her overhaul. In August she took part in an exercise featuring a “simulated Atomic underwater burst” and served with the Fleet Sonar School.

In October 1961, she took part in Task Force 22, 2n Fleet exercizes off the Virginia capes. In Nov-Dec. she served woth TF-140 deployed for Mercury-Atlas 5 space mission. She also assisted the Swedish oil tanker Seven Skies, treating an injured crewman. By February 1962, DesRon 12 was deployed in the Mediterranean (with USS Harlan R. Dickson, Gainard, Hyman, Beatty and Purdy), Sixth Fleet, relieving DesRon 22, USS Davis as flagship. She earned her third consecutive Battle Efficiency “E” and participated in Operation Full Swing, MidLandEx and RegEx 62.
She was back home on 30 August.
In late 1962 she was detached as part of the Quarantine of Cuba, later stopping at Santo Domingo, hosting President Raphael Bonnelly, the back to Newport, joning an ASW task group supporting USS Wasp. By January 1963 and DesRon 12 she took part in Task Group Bravo at the ASW Tactical School, hosting at some point President John F. Kennedy, brought to Costa Rica. It was followed by annual Springboard operations. She also took part in the Mercury-Atlas 9 space flight (Gordon Cooper) recovery. In 1963 she was back to the Task Group Bravo cruise routine.
In August she made a weapons demonstration for students at the Naval War College with USS Bainbridge and in October a “combined demonstration”.

1964 saw a repeat of this patter, with a regular overhaul and assignation of DesRon 12 to CruDesFlot 10, 2ns Fleet Gold Group in October this year. She sailed for the Mediterranean, 6th Fleet on 8 November and was back on 14 March 1965, but was soon at sea for a watch of the Dominican Civil War with USS Myles C. Fox. On 15 July, she conducted a Naval gunfire support practice followed by ASW exercises with TG 83.3. From 3 January 1966 she was prepared for her first deployment in the western Pacific. She transited Panama for San Diego in February, the headed for Hawaii and joined DesDiv 121, Subic Bay on 28 February.

USS Davis’s Vietnam War
On 4 March 1966, USS Davi joined USS Ticonderoga in March 1965 at the southernmost region of South Vietnam. She was detached for shore gunfire on 8-14 March, later alternating Task Group defence duty and these gunnery sweeps. She also served with USS Hancock (1-10 April). She saw the landing on her deck of a Kaman SH-2 Seasprite helicopter for the first time. She was resplenished and maintained at Sasebo, Japan by April 1966, then Subic Bay for tender availability, later eanring the Arleigh Burke Fleet Trophy for 1965. She was in Hong Kong by May, before returning to South Vietnam on northernmost region, shelling targets in the Quảng Ngãi province in support of the 2nd Division ARVN, US Second Advisory Group and Marine at Chu Lai and Da Nang. She left on10 June 1966 for Kaohsiung and returned to the first line, spending 5,000 rounds and even 1,000 of 3”/50 guns. She was back home from 6 July after stopping in Cochin, Aden, Suez, Pireaus, Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca, ending her world tour with a 4th Battle Efficiency “E”.
She took part in LantFlEx 66 and was back for her routine ASW operations in January 1967 and departed for the Mediterranean on 2 May, for the Six-Day War and the USS Liberty incident.
She operated with TG 60.2, 6th Fleet during the Arab-Israeli war and increased Soviet naval presence from the Dardanelles. Davis escorted the USS America and Saratoga, with the cruisers USS Little Rock and Galveston. They were called to assist the attacked technical research ship Liberty by Israeli jets and MTBs 15 miles (24 km) north of Arish.

USS Davis eventually departed Malta on 19 June 1967 for ASW operations in the waters of Crete, and started her summer training, making many port calls and a sonar contact on 24 August with a Soviet submarine, soon joined by USS Fred T. Berry joined Davis. More vessels joined the chase and eventually the Soviet Foxtrot-class F.966 surfaced. She was still in the Mediterranean on 5 September but was soon back to Newport. Captain Leahy later received a Navy Commendation Medal for his role in the Soviet 105 hours sub chase last August 1967. She operated with the Royal Canadian Navy in Operation CanUS SilEx, followed by an overhaul in Boston. Back at sea in February 1968, she took part in Operation Springboard, combininh ASW/AAW exercises and shore bombardment drills. From 30 March she departed for classified “special operations” where she spied on a Soviet-built Komar-class missile boat out of Havana, followed by ASW exercises with TG 83.1, USS Wasp. By July 1968, she was assigned to DesRon 20 as flagship. Transiting Panama in 28 August 1968 for Long Beach Naval Shipyard, she reached Pearl Harbor and Midway, then Subic Bay for her second deployment.

She served with ComDesRon 36 detached for gunfire support at Da Mang and Dong Ha by October 1968 just below the DMZ, supporting the 1st Air Cavalry Division, 3rd Marine Division and acting as Gunline Commander for CTU 70.8.9, shelling positons south of Ben Hao for a joint 3rd Marines Div.-ARVN operation; helping geatly the operation against solid objectives.
However she was fired at by Vietnames guns from Hòn Gió island (Tiger island), which landed 25-30 rounds in ten minutes. The third ended dangerously close astern. In reply she sent 160 rounds and silence the PAVN battery. On 28-29 October she received 22 rounds in her direction from Cape Lay, as well as on 1 November. She was unscathed each time and departed for upkeep in Sasebo.
After visiting Pusan and Hong Kong she reported on station by 16 December, supporting the 1st Marine Division and taking part in Operation Victory Dragon VI, then Operation Valiant Hunt amphibious landing south of Danang.
From January 1969, she departed for rest and recreational visits to Kaohsiung and Cebu, then Subic Bay for upkeep before returning to the gun line. She provided support for the 27th Marine Regiment and ROK’s 2nd Marine Brigade in Quảng Nam province and went on until 15 February before resupplying at Subic and departing for home with DesRon 36, making the voyage with USS DuPont, Power and Hugh Purvis. They visited Sydney and Wellington, the American Samoa and Pearl Harbor and transited Panama in April for Newport retuning to the usual ASW exercize routine.

The seventies
On 17 October 1970 after fitting-out in Boston and InSurv trials she was reassigned to Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla 10 and DesRon 12. She conducted tests for the Fleet Operational Readiness Accuracy Checks (FORACS) off Cape Cod by December, load ammunition (over 200 projectiles were however rejected for “improper gas check seals”) and was reassigned to DesRon 20 in 1971. She made a srie of drills and weapons test in the Carribean, and joined ComASWForLant with USS Charles P. Cecil and Calcaterra for barrier patrol, relived by her sister USS Mullinnix on 19 February.
She tested her AN/SQS-26 sonar against USS Amberjack in March and made a second surveillance operation for ComASWForLant. In May she was back in European waters, Azores, Netherlands, Hamburg, Copenhagen, before being recalled for “special operations” spying on a new Soviet guided missile destroyer and shadowing her while transiting the English Channel.
Back to Boston she started her long ASW modernization and was back to Newport in October 1971 for a serie of weapons and systems testings with USS Charles F. Adams and Fiske, targeting the GUPPY class USS Clamagore. She later took part in Exercise Snowtime 72-3. By early 1971 she was called for another “special operation” off Cuba and escorted the merchantman Omar Express to Port au Prince in Haiti, then Lincoln Express to the Caicos Passage. She took part in ComPTuEx 72-8 and conducted ASW exercises with USS Skipjack, then LantReadEx 4-72 and a new deployment in the Mediterranean. Bt she was soon prepared for the Pacific again.

Davis’ Last Vietnam deployment
USS Davis and USS Dewey departed Newport on 4 June 1972 for the Philippines under orders of CNO Admiral Elmo Zumwalt assigning them to Yankee Station, assisted by the oiler Waccamaw. They rounded the Cape of Good Hope and arrived at Subic on 6 July 1972 after a 13,000 mile transit, being deployed off Quảng Trị province for gunfire support routine. On 19 July 1972, her AA fire hit by mistake an F-4D Phantom II (7th Tactical Fighter Squadron) which pilot ejected. She was detached on 23 July 1972 to join TU 70.8.2, for supporting ARVN troops near Bồng Sơn and as flagship. On 10 August, one of her gun suffered an in-bore explosion, injuring four. She was repaired at Subic, received a low-pressure modification for 20 rpm instead of 40 and better reliabilit and repair a flooding in compartment 3-44-4-E and damage to the sonar equipment. She was back on the frontline on 25 August.

She relieved USS Eversole as plane guard for USS Midway and then TU 75.9.1 in after a typhoon, to the gunline on 4-11 September and Operation Linebacker, but being so close to the shore she was fired at at several occasion, one round splashing 50 yards (46 m) of her. She was detached on 26 September 1972 for Sasebo via Subic and returned with TU 77.1.1 by October. From 15 October, she started a serie of “PysOps” missions, launching air-filled plastic bags containing “mini-radios” for North Vietnamese to hear non-Communist radio programming.
With ComDesRon 20 aboard as flagship, TU 77.1.1 from 17 October she made the final strike with the light cruiser USS Providence, DDG Hoel and James E. Kyes off Thanh Hóa. Davis later leaft the area, joining USS Joseph Hewes to detect and destroy Vietnamese batteries on Hon Gio, spending the last of 8,315 rounds fired. She stopped in Hong Kong for rest, returned to Subic and embarked Capt. Claiborne S. Bradley (ComDesRon 20) for Singapore with USS Dewey and Joseph Hewes as TU 27.8.4, then heading for home.

USS Davis in the Indian Ocean, 1979
USS Davis in the Indian Ocean, 1979

Post Vietnam Service (1973-82)
They stopped in Bahrain by November 1972 to take later part of exercize Midlink XV, and the crew had a leave at Bandar Abbas, Iran. They stopped in Kenya on their way to Recife, Brazil, then north to Port of Spain, Roosevelt Roads and Newport. Her upkeep done she departed on 26 March 1973 for Charleston and back, the training off Guantanamo. By January 1974 she joined the 6th Fleet at Rota and became flagship, ComDesRon 24 with USS Donald B. Beary and Voge via Gibraltar, making several port called followed by “special operations” in the Gulf of Hammamat and NATO Week exercises. Thereafter she joined the Amphibious Task Force 503 for operation Dark Image in the Adriatic, and exercise Flaming Lance in June, before heading home via Rota.
She took part in ComPTUEx 3-75 in October 1974 and entered the Charleston Naval Shipyard on 19 December 1974 for her regular overhaul. By January 1976, she made a serie of drills and her routine of ASW exervizes, also joined ComDesRon 14, partticipating in UNITAS XVII with the Brazilian, Uruguayan and Argentine navies. She made a first rounding of the Magellan strait to train wit the Chilean, Peruvian, Colombian and Venezuelan navies.
In 1977, she took part in CaribREx 1-77, earning the “Top Gun” award for surface, antiaircraft and naval gunfire support and “Top Hunter” for her ASW work. She would operate under ComDesRon 14, sailing along the coast of W Africa before entering the Mediterranean. She joined the Middle East Force (MidEastFor) operating from Djibouti and later proceeded for Mombasa with Rear Admiral Samuel H. Packer (ComMidEastFor) aboard to return in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. She then left for home via Rota in April 1978 and the Azores.

From her new home port of Charleston she sailed with ComDesRon 34 (Naval Reserve Force) aboard touring east coast cities. They entered the great lakes from Montreal and stopped in Detroit, Michigan and Cleveland, Ohio, before heading for Buffalo. Here, Captain Billy B. Traweek was relieved by Captain Daniels (ComDesRon 34) and they ledt the Great Lakes via Toronto and Oswego, then back to Montreal, and Halifax, Davis arriving in Charleston on 17 September for restricted availability, engineering repairs and maintenance. From January 1979, she returned in the Mediterranean, participating in National Week exercises and heading for the Middle East via Port Said and Suez, enterering the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden in March, 6th, fleet and now the 7th Fleet carrier force in April, based in Djibouti. On 15 May 1979, she was ordered back for Berbera, Somalia to hosted the U.S. Ambassador and military attaches from China, Egypt and Italy.

When back home she started her long overhaul from 8 November to 10 December 1980, followed by trials, weapons tests and refresher training in the Carribean and Virgin Islands. Later she joined the Nimitz Battle Group for ComPTUEx 2-81, and back to Charleston, to be redeployed in the Mediterranean on 13 August 1981, 6th Fleet. In September she joined the Nimitz Battle Group, making a halt in Djibouti to join the USS America Battle Group in the Arabian Sea for exercises with the RAN and the ‘Gonzo Regatta’.
In the Persian Gulf she was commended by Rear Admiral Charles E. Gurney, III (MidEastFor). Back ion the Med, she carried out exercises off the coast of Libya and sailed for home with ComDesRon 20 embarked. From 25 January 1982 she resumed her training routing, taking part in Ocean Venture 82, landing at Vieques, and later United Effort/Northern Wedding-82 with NATO, the largest peacetime exercise, before joining America Battle Group off the Virginia capes training across and to the English Channel, stopping at Southampton, then Brest, France, and recalled for the eastern Mediterranean and the crisis in Lebanon. She also took part in NATO’s Display Determination 82.
Back in October 1982 decommissioning process started with ammunition offload at Charleston, and moved to the Inactive Ships Maintenance Facility, formal decommissioned on 20 December 1982, stricken on 27 July 1990, sold for scrap to Fore River Shipyard in December 1992, resold to N. R. Acquisition Inc. NYC, same, and Wilmington Resources, North Carolina.

US Navy ww2 Jonas Ingram (DD-938)

After her shakedown cruise in the Caribbean and down South American’s west shores, USS Jonas Ingram was back in Boston and from 26 February 1958 patroled the West Indies, based to Newport in September and making her first Mediterranean tour of duty (MED TOD) with the 6th Fleet, taking part in NATO exercises.
She was reasigned to Mayport NS in Florida and tasked of recovery ship duties for Project Mercury on 25 June. She became flagship, RADM E. C. Stephen at the head of South Atlantic Forces, starting a training cruise in August and training with the French and South African navies, back in November.

She provided an air-sea rescue cover for President Eisenhower’s flights to the Paris Summit Conference (May 1960) and another one for Project Mercury before a TOD off the African coast to support the UN in Congo. On 18 October she took part in NATO exercises in Northern European waters. The next years she alternated between the Mediterranean deployments and Mayport-based cruisers. In September 1964 she took part in Malta’s Independence ceremonies. Back home she was a recovery ship for the Gemini program. By Feb. she made a combined North Atlantic ASW exercise, then Operation “Springboard” in the Caribbean, then cruised Middle Eastern waters, stopping at Djibouti, Berbera, Aden, Karachi, and Beirut.

After taking part of the recovery fleet for Gemini 6, Atlantic and Caribbean deplyments in 1966, she returned with the 6th Fleet and on September with USS Stribling went to Port Said in Egypt.
The last months she took part Exercise “Lantflex 66-2.”, until late December. She started for another MED TOD on 17 July 1967 via Gibraltar.

However later this year she was taken in hands for a decommissioned and ASW modernization at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. She recommissioned in Philadelphia in 1970 and returned to Mayport, later ast sea for a rescue of the freighter Saudi’s crew off Somalia, saving 58 and earning a Meritous Unit Citation. On 4 October 1976 she made anotehr rescue for a Finnish motor craft in the Baltic.
The next part of her career has not been published to my knowledge. She was decommissioned on 03/04/1983 and stricken 06/15/1983, but not scrapped. She was retained for tests. When performing first live fire test of the Mark 48 ADCAP torpedo on 23 July 1988 (“Disposed of in support of Fleet training exercise”), she sank, creating an artificial reef.

US Navy ww2 Manley (DD-940)

USS Manley in 1970
USS Manley in 1970
USS Manley after completion, trials, post trials fixes, departed Newport in Rhode Island, on 11 April for her shakedown cruise in the Caribbean. On 7 June she stopped in San Juan, Puerto Rico and went on her goodwill tour to Lisbon, Amsterdam, Kiel, and Copenhagen and back to Boston for post-shakedown alterations. On 22 August 1957 she escorted the attack carrier strike force during NATO Exercise “Strike Back. off Scotland, and later the coast of Norway north of the Arctic Circle. Back to Norfolk in October 1957 she became flagship, DesRon 4 for DesDiv 41.

On 4 December 1957, she made he first MED TOD with the 6th Fleet with USS Gearing, McCard, Vogelsang. ASW mock attacks was stopped on 11 December by heavy in the Azores. On 12 December, the she took a rogue wave by her side, killing two and injuring several sailors, having her galley mushed, her radio and radar rooms flooded. Battling 80 knots winds and rain squalls she limped back to Lisbon for repairs, and headed for Gibraltar, Royal Dockyard for repairs until 4 January 1958 before leaving for Norfolk via Bermuda, Philadelphia yard for final repairs. She was back later as flagship, DesRon 4.

Mediterranean and Atlantic Service
On 6 June 1958, she sailed with the Atlantic Fleet and toured Europe (Kiel, Copenhagen, Antwerp) with USS Lake Champlain (CV-39). Next she sailed with USS Intrepid, for 2nd Fleet maneuvers off Puerto Rico. Next she was assigned to USS Franklin D. Roosevelt on the eastern seaboard. In 1959 she was seen off Guantanamo Bay in ASW practice, and moved to Homeport Charleston after upkeep and maintenance. Back in the Mediterranean she took part in joined exercizes, British “Long Haul,” and French “Boomerang.” After an overhaul in Charleston she trained off Culebra Island, Caribbean (live fire). On 27 July she was in station 5, Atlantic Missile Range for the Mercury program. Next she was in an experimental ASW exercize off Cardiff, Wales. She also trained Majorca ad joined USS Forrestal (CVA-59) task force off Beirut for 6th fleet manoeuvers.
She covered USS Franklin D. Roosevelt south of Hispaniola and by 1962, was a recovery ship for Project Mercury, North Atlantic. On 28 September she made a refresher training, rescuing a downed helicopter pilot and stayed in Cuban waters for the Cuban Missile Crisis. Back home she recued the crew of the yacht Avian in the Atlantic.

Late January 1963, she took part in “Springboard ’63” and screened USS Essex for joint Canadian-US ASW exercises from Halifax. Later that year she departed for her MED TOD eve becoming the provisional 6th fleet flagship during at Tunis. In December she went with the Middle East Force, her XO Lt. Cdr Joseph E. Murray, Jr. negotiating with armed rebels in Zanzibar and departing with 91 American citizens held hostages. After upkeep in Charleston she made another 1965 MED TOD, representing the US at CENTO in Turkey. After the collision of Kaskaskia and SS World Bond near St. Helena she rescued 23 passengers and crew while her teams combating fires and flooding saved the ship.

Vietnam Tours of Duty 1966-68
On 9 August she was in recovery station for Gemini V. She was prepared for upcoming operations in Southeast Asia and departed Charleston on 5 October 1966 for DesRon 20 based in Gitmo, heading for Vietnam. Underay she assisted the Greek merchant ship Marcetta. On 21 November she replaced USS Hull off Da Nang, as part of TU 70.8.9 for gunfire support with the 7th Fleet. She had a powder case igniting in her forward gun mount and the explosion was followed by a control avoiding more damage, no death, but casualties evacuated by helicopter. In Da Nang she disembark her visiting observer, Senator Henry M. Jackson. Repaired in Subic Bay repairs, she assisted USS Enterprise and USS Bainbridge in the Gulf of Tonkin, then joined TG 77.4 with USS Bennington, being awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for sustained service, before heading back home in May 1967. She was back in the Western Pacific by September, and stayed there more than 8 month, back to her homeport in June 1968.

Modernization and Late service 1971-83
She was decommissioned on 31 January 1970 for her ASW modernization at Philadelphia. When recommissioned she was assigned to CruDesFlot 4 based in Norfolk. After a shakedown cruise in the sprin og 1972, she joined DesRon 12 for a new local homeport, Athens in Greece, taking effect on 1 September 1972. For 30 months she was called for many exercises and as an observer on the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war and Cyprus crisis of 1974. After upkeep back home in Philadelphia by December 1976, she moved to Mayport in Florida and by March 1977, joined the 2th fleet and later 6th Fleet (November 1977 – July 1978) ending with a goodwill tour and exercizes in Northern Europe. On 8 April 1979 in Mayport her fwd boiler room erupted in flames while udner repair, and she had 12 men were burned, one later dying. After repairs she was underway in October 1979 for an exercize beyond the Arctic Circle.
Later she was back in the Caribbean Sea, touting islands and moved to Boston for a refit and sea trials in 1980-81, returned to Newport, and trained in Narragansett followed by exercises in Guantanamo Bay. Until 3 May, she conducted more ASW drills of Puerto Rico and by June 1982, made her last cruise, a “farewell goodwill tour” in the Mediterranean. She assisted evacuations from Beirut during a new crisis and via Suez and the Indian Ocean stopped in Karachi, Pakistan, followed by MidEastFor exercises. She was back in her last homeport in december, and decommissioning, stricken on 4 March 1983. After the two companies in charge of her demolition were bankrupt she ended at Wilmington Resources in North Carolina.

US Navy ww2 Du Pont (DD-941)

USS Du pont off Lebanon in 1982

Until 31 July 1958 after her sea trials, short shakedown in the Carribean and fixes, USS DuPont served as a midshipman schoolship, undertaling ASW exercises in the Atlantic and a stop in New York. On 2 September she started her first 6th Fleet MED TOD, back in Norfolk on 12 March 1959, followed by Operation “Inland Seas”, a sortie into the Great Lakes through Saint Lawrence and escorting HMY Britannia with Queen Elizabeth II aboard for ceremonies on 26 June. By August-September 1959 she visited Southampton and acted as plane guard for President Dwight D. Eisenhower flight to Paris. On 28 January 1960 she started her 2nd MED TOD, back on 31 August for an overhaul.

After exercises and drills in 1961-62 she took part in the quarantine, part of the Cuban Missile Crisis, also acting as command ship when looking for the submarine USS Thresher lost off Boston on 10 April. She piled up three excellency “E” awards in Engineering, followed by a 5th MED TOD until mid-1964. Her 6th deployment was interrupted by a role in the Gemini 5 program recovery. She recovered not the crew, but a booster section carried back to Norfolk. She also acted during the Dominican Republic crisis, earning a golden “E” and resumed operations with the 6th Fleet in 1966, and a Caribbean cruise, plus a 7th Engineering ‘E’, making USS DuPont the most decorated destroyer in peacetime so far.

DuPont’s Vietnam War
Her first deployment with the 7th fleet started in August 1967, on the “gun line” direct support to the Marines on the DMZ. Shore batteries fired at her several times and she always replied accurately, silencing them, day and night. On 28 August USS Robison between Du Pont and the beach was hit, maneuvered to seaward, replaced by DuPont which was soon framed by twenty 130 mm (5 in) rounds. One of her main 5-in/52 gun mount was hit, shrapnel going through and in the after deckhouse, killing FN Frank L. Ballant, wounding 8.

She stayed there for two more weeks and headed to resupply and repairs at Subic Bay, then resume action at the gun line on 10 October. On 10 November she was back for a last deployment there, being awarded later for continuous 65 days in combat, furing a total of 20,000 rounds. Eight men received purple harts. Back to Norfolk in January 1968, she was in drydock repairs before taking part in the Apollo recovery force. It was follwed by a Caribbean refresher and training midshipman while her engineering department won its 9th excellence award.

Her second Vietnam TOD started on 10 October 1968 for 36 days on the gun line, in close support for the SEAL and ARVN operating in the Mekong Delta. She also fired on an Island in the Gulf of Siam and fire support for the Ist Corps in Da Nang, then an amphibious landing in December. In 1969 after a supply run to Subic, she was back to support the 1st Marine Division at Da Nang and massive amphibious landing in the south, also supporting Mekong River Delta operations. She spent 30,000 rounds, claimed 730 military structures, 131 small craft when back to Norfolk, and entering the Boston Naval Shipyard to be decommissioned on 23 May 1969 and converted to an ASW vessel.

Later service 1972-83
After recommission on 9 May 1970, she headed for Norfolk and departed for ASW workout and drills from April 1971, also departing for the Caribbean and Mediterranean. In 1972, she won the Marjorie Sterrett Battleship Fund Award for her Atlantic Fleet servce and in 1979, moved to to the Bethlehem Steel Works in Hoboken, for yet another major refit. In 1980, she was attached to Comdesron 2 (Cmdr. Harlan K. Ullman) and returne to Norfolk and then left for Cuban waters and two weeks of refresher training. She received 3 Battle “E’s” in complement of her 9 engineering “E”.
In 1981 she departed for her last MED TOD and Persian Gulf operations, notably “Mail Call flight” in the Red Sea as part of the Nimitz battle group. She stayed in patrol until after the American hostages held in Iran escaped. She watched as the fleet was approached and spied daily by Iranian P-3 Orions. In 1982 she assisted Israel, fighting PLO operations in Lebanon and remained off Beirut for 100 days, providing on demand fire support. Eventually after this last gasp of the “last gunflighter”, she went for home and decommission on 4 March 1983, sold on 11 December 1992 to the Fore River Shipyard.

US Navy ww2 Bigelow (DD-942)

USS Bigelow (DD-942) Underway on 30 January 1967. Photographer: PH1 F.R. Childre. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

USS Bigelow (DD-942) named after Elmer Charles Bigelow (1920-1945) KiA while extinguishing a magazine fire in USS Fletcher at Corregidor in February 1945, MoH recipient, was completed at Bath Iron Works in 8 November 1957, and soon part of the Combined Task Group CTG 136.1.1 blockading Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis and later awared the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for her action during the quarantine. After a yearly routine of Mediterranean TOD with the 6th fleet, back home, she also acted as a NASA recovery ship during both the Mercury and Gemini III programs.
In 1966 she was sent in Vietnam with the 7th fleet, alternating between direct support on the fire line and screening the carriers. On 20 April 1967 she suffered a gun mount explosion, injuring six and killing one crew. Sge also became a test platform for the new Phalanx CIWS hyperfast minigun in 1977, installed aft of the aft radar gun director. She was not modrnized, and thus, decommissioned earlier than others, on 5 November 1982. Sold for BU at Fore River Shipyard (bankrupt), then N. R. Acquisition Inc. but ended as target ship, stricken 1 June 1990 and sunk on 2 April 2003.

US Navy ww2 Blandy (DD-943)

uss blandy 1970s
USS Blandy after her ASW modernization underway in the 1970s
USS Blandy was completed at Bethlehem Steel Corp. Quincy on 26 November 1957. After the usual trials and shakedown in 1958, she carried the US Unknown Soldier (European theater) from Naples to Virginia Capes, to meet Boston (CAG-1) doing the same from the Pacific and Canberra (CAG-2) for the Korean war. The latter caskets were transfered to Blandy which headed for Washington, D.C. to be transferred in the Capitol Rotunda and Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery.
In 1961, she won the Marjorie Sterrett Battleship Fund Award, Atlantic Fleet for excellence and on 30 October 1962 while on ASW patrol she tracked the Soviet submarine B-130 too close to the US vessels and trying to force the Qyanratine at Cuba. Blandy dropped warning charges and tried to force her to the surface, which after 7h of relentless chase, Captain Nikolai Shumkov did, due to tje lack of oxygen.
Bandy did not made a tour of duty in Vietnam unlike most of her sisters. She spent most of her service days bnetween the Atlantic and Mediterranean, 2nd and 6th fleets.
In 1968 she was awarded the Arleigh Burke fleet trophy award for her Atlantic Fleet servoce, complemented the Sterrettt award. In 1972 she underwent her ASW Modernization, SCB 251 program. She was eventually decommissioned on 5 November 1982, stricken on 27 July 1990, sold for scrap but resold, and ended at Wilmington Resources, Wilmington (North Carolina) in 1996.

US Navy ww2 Mullinnix (DD-944)

USS Mullinix in the Mediterranean, 1970
USS Mullinnix (DD-944) (named Admiral Henry M. Mullinnix USN, 1892–1943, KiA in WW2 on USS Liscome Bay, 24 November 1943) was completed at the Bethlehem Steel Corporation’s Fore River Shipyard in February 1958 and commissioned on 7 March 1958. After her sea trials, shakedown and fixes, she started her career of early routine on the east coast, cruising between Halifax and the Carribean, Atlantic exercizes, and patrolling Cuban water during the Missile Crisis of 1962. This was alternated with recovery ship task during the Gemini program (March 1966). She was soon sent to the Vietnam theater, acting as plane guard for the aircraft carriers of Yankee Station, Tonkin Gulf. She also took part in Operation Sea Dragon patrolling North Vietnamese waters, and perform search and rescue missions or support naval gunfire missions.
Back from Vietnam, after her usual peactime service in the Atlantic, and European, MED TOD, she was taken in hands for modernization in 1971, SCB 251 ASW conversion program.
She was deployed for an additional decade of service in the Atlantic without notable events, eventually decommissioned on 11 August 1983, stricken on 26 July 1990 and sunk as a target on 22 August 1992.

US Navy ww2 Hull (DD-945)

USS Hull was built at Bath Iron Works, and commissioned on 3 July 1958. After her trials and shakedown cruise in the Carribean, she was assigned to the Pacific fleet and transited the Panama canal.
Between April and August 1959 she made fifteen deployments with the 7th Fleet, Western Pacific, and 1960, 1961–1962, 1963–1964.
In October-November 1962 she escorted the Pacific amphibious forces to Panama, made ready to land in Cuba of needed as an option during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1965 USS Hull was back in the Pacific and took part in the Vietnam War, making six deployments. She was part of the “gun line”, firing more than 80,000 rounds in various occasions, supporting Marines and later ARVN forces ashore. She also recued several pilots and alternated as plane guard fo Yankee Station carriers in the Tonkin Gulf She also took part in Operation Sea Dragon operations.

Her 11th WestPac cruise was done in 1973, when direct US involvement ended. Back home she was installed the new USN 8 inch/55 MCLW gun for weapons trials, off San Clemente Island (California), on September 17, 1975. Indeed as she had a major overhaul in 1974–75 like her sisters (ASW conversion) she also received at this occasion the Major Caliber Lightweight Gun (“MCLWG”) in place of her forward 5-in turret. The project was a direct result of Vietnam operation when it was realized that heavy gunfire support for amphibious operations could not be sustain by the reducing fleet of WW2 heavy cruisers veterans. The USN planned a big gun fir for destroyer-size. The prototype gun was already tested ashore in the early 1970s and installed on USS Hull for seagoing trials. It was hoped an adoption on the new Spruance class.
The tests went on until April 1976, reportedly successful and she kept it in her 1976-77 and 1978 deployments to the Western Pacific, testing it time and again. However, the MCLWG project was terminated in 1978 due to budget cut, and it was removed from USS Hull during her 1979-80 overhaul. By February–September 1981 she was in the pacific, and again in 1982 and 1982, September, for her final WestPac all the way north to Alaska. There, she rescued five deriving Vietnamese refugees in October. She made her ultimate cruise by sailing to the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, assigned to the USS Enteprise battle group for Middle East Operations, notably the crisis in Lebanon.
Back home in April 1983, she was inactivated, decommissioned on 11 July 1983, stricken on 15 October 1983, but not scrapped. Instead she was expended as tactical test target, sunk on 7 April 1998.

US Navy ww2 Edson (DD-946)

USS Edson after commissioning, in sea trials
USS Edson after commissioning, in sea trials.
USS Edson was named after Major General Merritt “Red Mike” Edson, USMC (1897–1955) awarded the MoH for his action in the First Marine Raider Battalion on Guadalcanal, also awarded the Navy Cross and Silver Star. She was commissioned at Bath Iron Works Corp. on 7 November 1958. After sea trials, she made her shakedown cruise in Caribbean ports and down to Peru. Jer home port became Long Beach in California on 2 March 1959. She was deployed on the Far East, Taiwan Straits and took part in amphibious operations off Okinawa plus exercises off Japan. After an overhaul until Octobe she trained off San Diego.
Soon she resumed her yearly WESTPAC deployments, from June 1961 with DESDIV 231. She served in 1962 with USS Ranger and Ticonderoga, alsways on patrol duties off Taiwan. From March 1964 she served alongside the Taiwan Patrol Force CTF 72. She made Gunfire Support Training in the Philippines and took part in NATO LICTAS joint SEATO operation off the Philippines. She was soon sent in the Gulf of Tonkin for “special operations” awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for her actions on 2–5 August 1964. In 1967, she was hit by a North Vietnamese shore battery while in gunfire support.
She also acted as plane guard in Yankee Station and took part in Sea Dragon. On 17 June 1968 she apparently took friendly fire (courtesy of US Air Force).
Back from her Vietnam service she resumed her peacetime routine with the 7th fleet.
Nothing notable (she was not modernized) but on 12 December 1974 she suffered a fire in her after fireroom while guarding USS Coral Sea. The oil from a ruptured lube oil gauge line was to blame. The was no casualties. In January 1975 she made another WESTPAC and took part in Operation Eagle Pull, the evacuation of Phnom Penh in Cambodia, then Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of Saigon (eanring two Unit Commendations).

After another decade (1976-86) of service in the Pacific she was eventually placed in reserve but only decommissioned on 15 December 1988, quite a feat for an unmodified Forrest Sherman. She was towed to the Philadelphia Inactive Ships Maintenance Facility for storage, but as the last all-gun destroyer she was saved and converted as a museum ship, berthed as the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum, New York City from 30 June 1989 to 14 June 2004, declared a National Historic Landmark in 1990.

However funding was lacking. On 2004 she was towed to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, repaired and back to the Philadelphia Inactive Ships Maintenance Facility. She was to be acquired either by the Saginaw Valley Naval Ship Museum at Bay City or the Wisconsin Naval Ship Association at Sheboygan and the Bay City proposal won, and as the ship was seaworthy on 17 July 2012 she arrived at museum site on 7 August 2012 and moved to her permanent mooring site in May 2013 at Bangor Township in Michigan where she can be visited today.

US Navy ww2 Somers (DD-947)

USS Somers as DDG-34 in the 1980s
Sixth ship of the nae in the USN (going back to the very early days of the service) USS Somers was built at Bath Iron Works Corp in Maine, commissioned on 3 April 1959 with Edward J. Cummings, Jr., in command as first captain.
She departed, her trials barely completed, on 1 June 1959 from Boston to her new provisional homeport Newport in Rhode Island and made her first cruise, to Argentia in Newfoundland and from there, northern Europe (Copenhagen, Stockholm, Portsmouth, Kiel), present at the “Kiel Week”. Back home she transited via Bermuda and arrived in Cuban waters before proceeding via the Panama Canal on 19 July to San Diego, completed her shakedown training for six weeks and made her final acceptance trials on 17 September followed by an overhaul until 8 November.

The next six years, from San Diego she made near-yearly deployments with the 7th Fleet, western Pacific. She only stayed on the west coast in 1962 and 1964. That same year however she arrived in the Tonkin Gulf for plane guard dueites assisting USS Coral Sea, Hancock, and Ranger already attacking North Vietnam. On 30 July 1965 based at Yokosuka she went home for upkeep, and by April 1966 had her DDG conversion in San Francisco Shipyard. From 16 May 1968 she headed for Long Beach, and in 1969 trained from Mexico to Washington.
On 18 November 1969, was back in Vietnam, based in Subic Bay. She acted as SAM cover for the carries in the Gulf of Tonkin, and plane guard for Hancock. She later took part in SEATO “Sea Rover.” She was assigned later USS Constellation. Back to Long Beach on 8 May 1970 she took part in PACMIDTRARON 70 cruise. She made another Vietnam deployment (December 1970 – 4 May 1971) as plane guard alternated with naval gunfire and in between visited Keelung, Hong Kong, Singapore, Penang, plus her usual upkeep stays at Subic Bay.

On 9 August she was overhauled in Long Beach Shipyard until 3 December and refresher until March 1972 then back to 7th Fleet, Gulf of Tonkin until October. She was also at south Talos station and PIRAZ station. She was back in Long Beach on 9 November 1972. On 9 October 1973 she was back in the western Pacific from Pearl Harbor and Subic Bay. Thuis last Vietnam TOD ended by mid-May 1974. By November 1978 she made her 10th WestPac. By early 1981 she participated in READIEX 5-81 and FLEETEX 1-81, then Battle Group Delta (USS CONSTELLATION, CV-64). Her 11th WESTPac was mostly spent in the Indian Ocean. She stopped in Diego Garcia, Bunbury, Maldives and Singapore. After READIEX 2-82 and was decommissioned on November 19, 1982. She entered the Inactivation Ship Facility at Pearl Harbor until 1988. She was an experimental hull at Port Hueneme, California. Later she was towed at sea and sunk by USAF B-52 Stratofortresses’s AGM-142 missiles 30 nm northwest of Kauai, Hawaii (Pacific 1998 exercise).

US Navy ww2 Morton (DD-948)

uss morton 1959
USS Morton in October 1959 off Aruba, Carribean.
USS Morton was built at Ingalls, commissioned on 26 May 1959, named after Sub captain Dudley “Mush” Morton of USS Wahoo. After her training cruise in the Caribbean she was attached to NS San Diego, from 20 October 1959. Her first WestPac followed in January 1960 and joint Operation Blue Star with the Marine and Air Force by March 1960. She visited Bombay. Her second deployment saw her deployed in the Formosa Patrol, and relief Operation Handclasp for Taiwan. Her thord WestPac started in November 1962, again the Formosa Patrol and training off Japan. Her 4th deployment was in the South China Sea, off South Vietnam.

On 11 September 1964 (soon after the Gulf of Tonkin Incident) an intercept team SIGAD USN-467P was formed aboard USS Morton for a DESOTO patrol (Operation 34A), screening aircraft carriers and bacl home on 6 February 1965. She was back in Vietnam in April 1966 for shore gunnery missions for 4 months and Sea Dragon operations off North Vietnam from May 1967. She also covered the 12th Marine Regiment near the DMZ. She was back on the gun line on October 1968. Back home she was overhauled at Long Beach Naval Shipyard from September 1969 to 15 August 1970, for ASW conversion.

USS Morton stayed on the west coast for months of training. She was back for a WestPac from 9 September 1971, two gun-line tours and by March 1972 was in Australia. She was back home and resumed Vietnam Ops in October, making two more gunline tours and taking part in the Linebacker raid by December. After the ceasefire of 28 January 1973 she went home. Her next WestPac provided screen and escort for the carrier task forces, cut by intensive ASW exercises. However in 1974 she underwent serious boiler issues while in the Philippines and was overhauled in Pearl Harbor in 1975-76.

She started another deployment from February 1977 and sailed to the Indian Ocean patrolling off Iran, depliyed again on 11 September 1978 between Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. From 3 May 1980, she was overhauled and back to normal service in the summer of 1981, making her last deployment by February 1982. She also rescued Vietnamese refugees, later receiving the Humanitarian Service Medal. She was eventually decommissioned at Pearl Harbor on 22 November 1982. Sold to Southwest Recycling, Inc. (Calif.) for scrapping and recycling in 1992.

US Navy ww2 Parsons (DD-949)

USS Parsons, named after a rear admiral which took part in the Manhattan project, was built at Ingalls and commissioned 29 October 1959 after a training cruise in the Caribbean. Based in NS San Diego she made her first western Pacific deployment in February 1960. By October 1961 she was overhaul at Long Beach for communications and ASW upgrades, then training with the 1st Fleet until November 1962 and a 2nd WestPac, back in July 1963. Under command of Cdr. Jack Jester she made several AAW and ASW operations off California and escorted USS Midway (CVA-41) and Hancock (CVA-19) to the Western Pacific, then back to San Diego.

She was selected for conversion as DDG (Decatur class) with John Paul Jones and Somers as DDG-33, starting in 15 March and ending on 3 November 1967, the fastest conversion of all of these vessels. She joined the Cruiser-Destroyer Force of the Pacific Fleet and became flagship of DesRon 31, with the 7th Fleet off Vietnam, Yankee Station plane guard and on-station training, ASW training coordinator, ComDesRon 31. She also visited Kaohsiung, Yokosuka, Hong Kong, Singapore and Sasebo. She also served with DesRon 15 from Yokosuka. From December 1971 to December 1972 she acrtively take part in late Vietnam War operations between naval gunfire support (I and IV Corps areas) and Marines close to DMZ, SAR operations North South stations, northern Tonkin Gulf. And finally carrier escort/plane guard on Yankee Station. She left Vietnam definively on 19 December 1974 but returned to save Vietnamese refugees in October 1980 off Saigon.

In the 1980s she performed a great range of AAW, ASW and SUW plus Naval Gunfire Support (NFGS) missioned and some Electronic Warfare until decommission on 19 November 1982, stricken on 1 December 1984, sunk as target on 25 April 1989.

US Navy ww2 Richard S. Edwards (DD-950)

USS Richard S. Edwards underway in the Pacific, 1962
USS Richard S. Edwards underway in the Pacific, 1962
Richard S. Edwards, named after Admiral Richard Stanislaus Edwards USN (1885–1956) was completed in January 1959 at Puget Sound Bridge and Dredging Company and commissioned on 5 February. She made her shakedown cruise to Mazatlan, Mexico, and transited the Panama Canal, sailing souht to Valparaiso in Chile. However her newly installed boilers were leaking so much she had to limp back to Seattle with just one shaft running. On 11 August she was refuelling from USS Bennington, when the latter lost control and veered to the left and sideswiped Edwards, causing extensive damage on her port side, but there were no injuries. That was notably due to the anticipation on Boatswains Mate Lionel Sepulveda which ordered all personal to clear the port side. She ended oin long repairs at the Naval Shipyard of Long Beach before proceeding to NS San Diego.

Her first WestPac deployment via Pearl Harbor and she rescued underway the crew from a tug, in the midst of a typhoon for 21 days, with Air Force Cadets onboard as she listed to 47° and shook violently. Later she operated with the 7th Fleet and took part in the Taiwan Patrol Force. Her next WestPac started in February 1961, fast carrier group, South China Sea. Her 3rd started on 13 November 1962, fast carrier operations and 4th from August 1964, this time engaging North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Tonkin Gulf (18 September).

Her 5th deployment, this time as part of her Vietnam TOD, started on 1 March 1966, until 26 August, providing naval gunfire and plane guard duties in the Tonkin Gulf. By August 19647 she made another Vietnam TOD, based in Da Nang, South Vietnam from November. She was back only in late January 1969. Decommissioned at Long Beach on 27 February 1970 she entered the Shipyard for her ASW conversion, ending in December, followed by sea trials and intensive training until January 1971. In march she was back in Pearl Harbor, until April 1972.

She made another Vietnamese TOD and by 9 May 1972, led a gunfire mission before Operation Pocket Money, the minelaying of North Vietnam Haiphong Harbor. This was alternated with plane-guard duties until November 1972. For her service here she received six battle stars. The rest of her service in Pearl Harbor ended when she was decommissioned on 15 December 1982, but sunk as a target ship off Kauai on 10 April or May 1997.

US Navy ww2 Turner Joy (DD-951)

USS Turner Joy on 9 May 1964 in VietnamUSS Turner Joy on 9 May 1964 in Vietnam
Early Service 1959-63
USS Turner Joy (named after Admiral Charles Turner Joy 1895–1956) was built by Puget Sound, Seattle, commissioned in Bremerton on 3 August 1959. She made a pre-shakedown goodwill cruise to Central and South America, proper shakedown off San Diego and flagship of DesRon 13, DesDiv 131 based at NS Long Beach. She started a serie of ASW exercises around USS Hornet until 17 May 1960, departing for the western Pacific via Pearl Harbor and Apra in Guam.

She was posted as plane guard in the Marianas as President Dwight D. Eisenhower flew in Asia. She stopped in Bangkok, Thailand and was present during the Chinese shelling of Quemoy and Matsu in Taiwan Strait, as part of the patrol. In August 1960 she operated with the 7th Fleet off Japan as part of her 1st WestPacific, resupplying at Yokosuka.
From November 1960 she was overhauled over 18 months before training with the 1st Fleet. From October 1961 she was assigned to DesRon 19 as flagship. On 2 June 1962, she trained with USS Hornet and took part in exercises with Amphibious Squadron 5 off Hawaii and screened USS Hancock off Honshū.
Her 2nd WestPac alternated operations in the Sea of Japan, east of Japan, South China Sea with notably USS Bon Homme Richard. After back home in June she spent the next 14 months in overhaul and returned with the 1st Fleet exercises until 1964.

USS Turner Joy in Vietnam
On 13 March 1964, she started her first tour of duty in Vietnam. She screened USS Kitty Hawk in the Philippine Sea, went into the South China Sea but by late July 1964, she was attached to TG USS Ticonderoga, for “watch dog” patrols off Vietnam. On 2 August 1964 USS Maddox, in a DESOTO patrol was attacked by three P 4-class torpedo boats from the NVA’s 135th Torpedo Squadron, and engaged them with her main guns, spending circa 280 rounds until contact was broken. The TBs were later spotted and attacked by F-8 Crusader from Ticonderoga by rockets and cannon fire. USS Turner Joy soon joined Maddox but the incident that opened the war was over.

On 3 August she took part in the DESOTO mission and the following day, picked up by radar a number of high-speed surface craft. They called Ticonderoga for air support. By nightfall and it was later confirmed the VPN torpedo boats were closing from the west and south. Turner Joy reported torpedo wakes and rushed at full speed, maneuvered and fired on the contacts, spending 220 shells, whereas aicraft were on the scene. The vessels retired, two sunk. However the aftermath was that radar and sonar were controversial to say the least on 4 August and after the war, this was confirmed by the absence of any attack from the Vietnamese that day. Admiral Sharpe notified “Freak weather effects on radar” at the time. The whole “incident” that trigerred the longest war of US history apparenty started with bogus radar blips and acute patranoia.

On 1- 2 July 1966, however VPN Torpedo Squadron 135’s T-333, T-336, and T-339 had indeed attacked USS Maddox and targeted more US destroyers but were deterred by the aviation of USS Constellation and Hancock. One that sunk had 19 sailors taken as POWs, demonstrated further the absence of attack on the 4th. USS Constellation soon joined USS Ticonderoga in Operation Pierce Arrow. Motor torpedo boat bases at Quang Khe and Phuc Loi and oil storage were flattened. The US Congress passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution resulting in open warfare, and Turner Joy went on her deployment until back to Long Beach on 2 October. After a three-month overhaul, refresher training she departed with DesRon 19 and joined USS Coral Sea, acting as escort and detached as radar picket.

From 23 September, she took part of the gunline in the Gulf of Thailand, followed by upkeep at Subic Bay, then back, operating between Cape St. Jacques and Chu Lai. On 25 September however at the end of her mission a 5-inch round misfired but while trying to clear the chamber it detonated, killing three, wounding three. She was repaired in Subic Bay and returned to duty alongside USS Ticonderoga. In January 1966 she served at Yankee Station. In March-May back home she was overhauled and training and back to the Pacific on 11 June. On the west coast she participated in “Baseline II” and made her 3rd and then 4th deployments in Vietnam, between plaene guard duties and shore bombardment missions.

From March 1967 she shelled positons in North Vietnam and interdicted logistical efforts (Operation Sea Dragon). On 7 April off Cap Mui Ron she was targeted by a North Vietnamese shore battery, hit on her fantail and near-missed close to the forward mast, one round devastating her supply office and penetrated her ammunition stowage while wounding a member of the repair party, disabling her air-search radar. She however remained on station, replaced by HMAS Hobart on 16 April. After repairs in Subic Base, she sailed to Melbourne, stopping at Manus Island and Brisbane. Later she visited New Zealand and took part in the Coral Sea Battle celebration. Back home she went into upkeep at Puget Sound.

From March 1968 and for five months she was back in Vietnam, between naval gunfire support, “Sea Dragon” patrols. She was bac at Long Beach on 26 September and overhauled until February 1969. After 1st Fleet ASW/AAW exercises and her summer training cruise she departed in November for Vietnam, stopping at Midway and Guam. She operated from Danang in gunfire support and plane guard at Yankee Station with TF 77. In April 1969 she served with USS Shangri-La. The next year was near identical and she served as escort for PIRAZ (positive identification and radar advisory zone), later evading a typhoon in April. She made another PIRAZ in June and served with USS Kitty Hawk. She visited Australia and New Zealand and by late July rreturned home until late 1971.

Her 6th month overhaul followed, in which she receiced new 5 inch/54 gun mounts, overhauled propulsion to burn Navy distillate fuel and renovations from top to bottom. After arefresher training by December she returned at Subic Bay and returned to her last gunline mission, spending 10,000 in South Vietnam and North Vietnam until 28 January 1973, before the ceasefire. She practically was in Vietnam for the entire war, year after year, the longest and most intense Vietnam career of any US destroyer.

Post Vietnam career
She later took part in Operation End Sweep (minesweeping of Haiphong harbor) ASW and carrier operations and port visits (Hong Kong, Kaohsiung, Sasebo, Yokosuka) until back to Long Beach on 22 June, followed by upkeep and sailing to her new home port, NS San Diego.
From April 1974 she returned to her new WestPac, with USS Ranger off Oahu and visiting Surabaya until back to San Diego. 1975 was spent in overhaul and training off California followed by a tour in the western Pacific and the Indian Ocean with USS Midway, Fanning, Sacramento, reaching Bandar Abbas in Iran via Singapore and Sri Lanka. She took part in CENTO exercise “Midlink” with British, Iranian and Pakistani navies until 25 November. She was back in Subic Bay in December adn returned in the South China Sea later weatering a typhoon. On 17 March 1976 she departed for San Diego. She failed at her Operational Propulsion Plant Examination and spent 1976 in repairs.

By mid-1979 she returned to a Westpac/South Pac goodwill cruise between the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, & New Zealand. 1982 saw her retirement announced and she was decommissioned on 22 November 1982, stricken on 13 February 1990 but acquired by the Bremerton Historic Ships Association. She was reopened to the public in 1992 in Bremerton as a museum ship. A second historical ship of the early cold war era to visit.

USS Enterprise (1960)

USS Enterprise (1960)

US Navy FlagNuclear-powered Fleet Aircraft carrier

The Nuclear aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (1960), probably the most famous ship of the contemporary US Navy, was also in her time the largest ship in the world, exceeded only by the Super-tankers born from the first oil crisis. She remains the largest warship afloat ever built before USS Gerald Ford (launched 2013) displacing 100,000 versus 94,000 long tons Full Load.
She followed the footsteps of USS nautilus (1957), for nuclear propulsion, with the USS Long Beach cruiser (1959), becoming therefore the world’s first nuclear aircraft carrier.

Technically, she followed the logical and evolutionary sequence after the Kitty Hawk and Forrestal classes, but was also equipped with a double ballast hull containing aviation fuel and sea water, with larger dimensions accommodating the largest and most modern air park and its future evolution, and the impressive SPS 32 array. USS Enteprise saw the vietnam war and all the USN operations until deactivation in 2012. Sadly she is still not preserved, like her equally famous forebear, CV-6, but lays in Hampton Roads pending a decision. Enormous for her day, she was still scarcely heavier than the 1945 IJN Shinano.
Happy XMas to all ! #coldwar #USNavy #vietnamwar

Design Development

Forrest P Sherman In 1952, prospects for a small, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier were in the air as work on first generation reactors were well underway. Notably under Admiral Rickover’s leadership, and Admiral Forrest Sherman‘s incentive, the first unit to receive a marine reactor would be USS Nautilus. It was not long before another variant was proposed for surface ships. At first, small ones: A serie of escort destroyers, and small aircraft carriers of the kind permanently at sea in one of the several large fleets the US wanted to post around the globe.

In mid-1954, as work progressed on both destroyers and small carriers at BuShips, cost estimations reports of 150 billions completely changed this perceptions and optimistic plans. This cost simply caused the abandonment of the SNAC (Small Nuclear Aircraft Carrier) whereas the “destroyer” became a cruiser, the future USS Long Beach. Research resumed after a suspension in August 1954 and this time the aircraft carrier project was to be derived from the Forrestal. The reactor worked out by Westinghouse was to be tested on land as the A1W with an expected unitary output of 35,000hp.

In 1954, the Congress authorized the construction of the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, this time in parallel to the new Kitty Hawk class in construction, to be powered by eight nuclear reactors, two dedicated to each of its four propeller shafts as initially thought. This was quite a daring undertaking, since if recent experience was gained into coupling a nuclear reactor to a steam turbine, never two nuclear reactors ever been harnessed together. Engineers started planning the propulsion system long in advance and would be uncertain how it would work or even of it would work according to plans.

One man was instrumental in this: Admiral Hyman G. Rickover. Already the “father or US Nuclear Submarines” thought of applying this new power source to surface ships use. In December 1945, already Rickover was the Inspector General of the 19th Fleet (west coast) working with General Electric at Schenectady in New York to develop a nuclear propulsion plant, but for destroyers. In 1946, he collaborated with the Manhattan Project’s Clinton Laboratory (Oak Ridge now) around a nuclear electric generating plant. He closely worked with Rear Admiral Earle Mills later named at the heaf of the Bureau of Ships. His difficult relationships with hierarchy however forced him to advocate Nuclear marine propulsion directly to CNO Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, a former submariner who soon understood the concept. Its his connection which enabled Secretary of the Navy, John L. Sullivan to order USS Nautilus in 1951, the latter being built in 1952-54, and proving the concept for this propulsion.

In between, the STR nuclear reactor (later redesignated S2W) was seen as reliable enough so that another project, which became the A2W (“W” standing for Westinghouse), A related to the ship’s nature, an aircraft carrier, S for a submarine. Rockover, now Director of the Naval Reactors Branch in the Bureau of Ships until 1982 would also direct studies for surface ships using multiple reactors, which was another radical step forward. USS Nautilus only had a single reactor. For a cruiser, or an aircraft carrier, two to four or even eight woud be necessary, a daunting engineering task. But many in the navy already in 1952 saw the use of a nuclear-powered aicraft carriers, both for longer operational stays, unlimited range and shorter upkeep periods. Enthusiasm over a simple draft from BuShips, based on a Forrestal type “super-carrier” soon drew the prospect of a full class of six ships.

SBC-127 and 160: The nuclear and the conventional backup programs

This came however in apparent conflict with a parallel line of development: The Kitty hawk class conventional carriers. Project SCB 127 was in fact seen as the “sixth and seventh” Forrestals, only improved. The 1953 new nuclear-powered class, soon designated project SBC 160 was to be their logical, natural succession. Design innovations of SBC-127 would help in the meantime securing the basic design, with modifications, of SBC-160. Notably instead of 5-in guns, the first three of the new class authorized in 1954 (CV-63 was laid down in 1955) would be constructed with a Terrier surface-to-air missile system, and so were the SBC-160. The latter also had to test a new radar setup in project.
So that year of 1954, both designs, the conventional SBC-127 and the nuclear SBC-160 were authorized, with the idea the first could serve as a backup while providing to the fleet’s future needs in case SBC-160 proved unfeasible. That was quite a bold move for the USN, and soon the cream of engineers went into SBC-160’s program, which was estimated to take longer, with reason.

The proposal of late 1953 was approved in 1954, but it took time before assignation to the very experienced Newport News Shipbuilding yard in Virginia. Nearly four years (1958 when she was laid down) were needed to generate miles of blueprints and sold on paper many engineering issues. USS Long Beach (CGN-9) built in parallel, laid down earlier on 2 December 1957, also helped to solve may engineering issues related to the coupling of multiple reactors. She still used “only” C1W nuclear reactors (W for Westinghouse, “C” for cruisers”) which were a derivative version of USS Nautilus’ S2W. The main differene between Long Beach and CVN-65 was that each C1W nuclear reactors was coupled with a single General Electric turbines for a total of 80,000 shp (60 MW). Ths system was basically just a duplication of Nautilus’ powerplant.
On CVN-65 case, two reactors were to be coupled to a single turbine, which including quite extensive gearbox, reduction, control and electrical specificities. It dragged on the development time for two years.

Consolidation of SCB 160 design

Project SCB 160 was intended as the first of six carriers at first. However over the years, the massive construction cost overruns led to a cancellation of CV-66 and 67, which instead were completed as the last two Kitty-Hawk class.
USS Enterprise’s eight-reactor propulsion design, with these coupled A2W reactors replacing conventional boilers in previous designs still helped keeping as much of the previous designs as possible. But the coupling and its control was a dunting task. Due to her large size and displacement, engineers tried to improve her agility, and she was the only carrier fitted with four rudders for redundancy, two more than previous ships, but also her hydraulic profile was much refined, to the point of fitting her with a cruiser-like hull.

As for SCB 127C (USS John F. Kennedy, CV-67) she was originally scheduled as a fourth Kitty Hawk-class carrier but received ton of extra modifications and ultimately formed her own class, including a proposal to retrofit her as a second nuclear powered carrier, project SCB 211A. Congress at the time however, “warmed up” by reports of massive costs overruns for the SBC-160 did not authorize it. In reality, CV-67 ended more as a prototype for the Nimitz class (which were nuclear-powered), as a blend between the two designs, the costly Enteprise and more reasonable Kennedy.

Final Design

USS Enterprise being the first US nuclear carrier, her size was dictated by this particular power plant, not much heavier than for a conventional ship, but imposing special protection measures for the crew and which needed a liquid load for underwater protection, greatly increasing her displacement, and mainly used for aviation gasoline, allowing her to operate a very large large air group.
This aviation fuel stowage was initially dictated by concerns of underwater protection, not operating a larger air group and earlier this storage was balanced with the ship’s overall endurance and more reasonable (like in the Kitty Hawk class). But it was so generous that it was proposed that ship auxiliary boilers would be modified to inject aviation fuel (JP-5) and boost the burn rate. The increase of ordnance was also significant, from 2,000 to 2,520t.

These advantages meant she was capable to operate in high-intensity for 12 days days without replenishment. Other innovations were on the electronics side, with the brand new electronically scanned main radars SPS-32 and SPS-33 and their caracteristic final shape, also shared by the nuclear-powered USS Long beach, escort missile cruiser. There was still a conventional radar as backup.

Another amazing fact was that CVN-65 was planned to be armed like other conventional carriers, and engineers secured sponson’s space to accomodate the Terrier missile fitted on CVA 63, 64 and 66 but she was never fitted fitted with the installation to reduce costs. Total trust was instead transferred to the couple SPS-32/33 and greater aior group to intercept any incoming threat at long range.


Keel Laying ceremony in 1958
All in all, the design of CVN-65 required 915 designers, which produced together 16,100, later summup into some 2,400 blueprints. The Original Cost was calculated to $451.3 million, including the construction, making her the costier warship in US history. Materials gathered used by the shipyard included 60,923 tons of steel but also 1,507 tons of aluminum mostly for the superstructures, internal and upper parts, plus some 230 miles of pipe and tubing as well as 1,700 tons of one-quarter-inch welding rods. They were supplied from more than 800 companies. In addition to the design staff, 900 shipyard engineers assisted designers to pass the millions of blueprints created (the equivalent of 2,400 miles of chained paper from Miami to Los Angeles) in the three years and nine months needed total at Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company until her launch a Saturday morning, Sept. 24, 1960. Mrs. William B. Franke, wife of former Secretary of the Navy, launched the usual Champaign bottle and christened the eighth USS ENTERPRISE.
She was unveiled to the world as “The First, The Finest” super carrier. Capt. Vincent P. de Poix, which assisted the completion was her first commander.
When commissioned, Secretary of the Navy John B. Connally Jr. called it a worthy successor to WW2’s USS Enterprise, “The fighting Gray Lady”, and added “The new Enterprise will reign a long, long time as queen of the seas.” She soon became a tour of NATO allies, as the “free world’s best asset”. She was also soon called simply the “Big E”.

CVAN-65 during construction
CVAN-65 during construction

The paradox was that in the meantime, the fourth Kitty-Hawk class carrier, USS J.F Kennedy, freshly renamed after the president’s assassination, was to be originally a sister-ship of USS Enteprise, but ended as a conventional super carrier, the last ever completed, on 7 September 1968 as CV-67. CV-65 was also completed before another Kitty Hawk, CV-66 USS America (23 January 1965). Both were started in 1960 and 1964 and benefited from an influx of design innovations from USS Enteprise, especially USS F.J. Kennedy.

About her name:

She was the 8th ship to bear this name, after CV-6 USS Enteprise, which WW2 career was nothing short of amazing and which after her removal from the lists in 1959 freed the name. The choice was obvious, but “enterprise” (also bore by British vessels), was originally asociated to celebrate capitalism in sense of the pre-industrial era, in the United Kingdom. The first first US ship was indeed a British one, captured from by Benedict Arnold in 1775 (and burn to avoid recapture). The name was later bore by a privateerlater purchased by the Continental Navy in 1776. The 3rd was a schooner built in 1799 which patrolled the Caribbean, protecting American interests from French privateers during the “quasi-war”. Later, she joined the Constitution off Barbary Coast, famously part of the battle of Tripoli. Next followed a NyC schooner in service 1832-44, then a barque-rigged screw sloop-of-war of 1876, and a… 66-footer motor patrol boat in service WWI. Nothing really prestigious. Until it was chosen for the Yorktown-class fleet carriers, more as a rememberance of the revolutionary war.
CVN-65 Motto was “READY ON ARRIVAL”. A space shuttle was also named that way, inspired by Star Trek’s flagship, itself inspired by CVN-65 based on its innovative flavour and scale.

Detailed design of CVN-65


The CVN-65 hull borrowed a lot to previous designs, with a fully encased “hurricane bow”, reinforced prow, and prominent bulbous bow, instead of a straight line. The most caracteristic was the hull lines which were refined into a so-called “cruiser hull” design. The prow showed openings for all three anchor lines. The stern was squarish, something started with USS Forrestal. All in all, she could have finer shapes at the waterline, but above it fuller shapes in order to support a wider flight deck. Indeed her beam went from 132.8 ft (40.5 m) at waterline level, versus 130 ft (40 m) waterline for the Kitty Hawk class, yet this figure rose to 257.2 ft (78.4 m) extreme width at flight deck level, versus for JF Kennedy 252 ft (77 m) at the extreme. This made, with a hull 1,088 ft (332 m) long originally versus 1,052 ft (321 m) overall for a roomier flight deck surface.

Ship protection:

Armour protection was way more limited than a Midway class and more in line with the Forrestal: She had four protected decks, plus a distributed vertical armour comprising STS side armour and longitudinal bulkheads. The was a belt 8 in (20 cm) thick in aluminum, equivalent to 4 in (10 cm) rolled homogeneous steel armor, and an armored flight deck, hangar, magazines and reactor.
There was a solid compartimentation under the waterline with a compression zone, filled with “liquid” and replaced mostly with aviation gazoline. There was however a box-shaped protection of the magazines and vital zones, like over the steering room, while all the regular avgas tanks were buried dep within, box-protected. The Underwater protection total included five longitudinal bulkheads, with a fourth bulkheads 76 mm-thick (3-in). This sandwich alternating filled and void comparments was supposed to dissipate a warhead explosion. The double Bottom was also protected by thicker plating. The usual safe fuel lines were used, developed from the Essex class, with seawater fill when not in use and safety valves. There were also flash doors for the ordnance lifts. All lifts were external.

CVN/CVAN-65 in 1968 and 1983

Among safety measures, the same recipes applied to previous ships were reused. CVN-65 had 17 flight deck outlets 7 hangar deck outlest, four flight deck with 5 w/2 and 2 w/3 Hoses per outlet (2.5-inch hose), two hangar deck (1 w/3), and 100 Defueling capacity per outlet/portable hose, 25 gpm. Originally, CVN-65 was designed to operate both Jets and piston aircraft, fueled with aviation gasoline, which very similar to motor gasoline and quite hazardous. JP-4 was used for jets, analong to commercial Jet B, as standard for the USAAF and USNAF. The Air Force converted to JP-8 later, but the Navy only followed for shore-based aircraft. JP-8 is identical to commercial aircraft, “Jet-A1”, which has a flashpoint of 100°F minimum, reducing risks.

This transition was never made despite some pressure in the 1990s. No JP-8 compatible US Jet is allowed on an aicraft carrier, and instead the Navy restricts carrier operations to the use of JP-5, which has a 140° F minimal ignition point, so much safer. Special features prevent self-ignition risks on the flight deck while in hot climates and around the catapults, which temp. can reach 200°F.

Especially after the great 1969 fire onboard USS Enteprise a list of ignition origin was listed to be under scrutiny at all times by dedicated safety personal, such as hot engines, exhaust from engines, yellow gear (aviation support equipment), exhaust from starting carts (its one of these that caused the initial fire on USS Enterprise). But inside the ship, electrical arcing and
sparking potential is there, revealed notably via cutting and welding, as well as static discharges and electromagnetic radiation, the catapult steam lines. Plus the exceptional, such as aircraft crashes and (accidental) firing of ordnance.

When USS Enterprise was just being built, a serie of Firefighting agents were tested in US labs. The most prevalent one was AFFF, called “Light Water” when introduced in the Navy in the 1960s. It caused an aqueous film to float on the top surface of fuel and due to specific gravity differences, water settles to the bottom, the fuel floats on top, caused by surface-tension effects created by the fluorocarbon surfactants. Although introduced on NAS first, it came to Aicraft carriers in the 1970s, so after the great fire. Using protein foam, and pn a gallon-for-gallon basis, AFFF is able to put the fire out three times as fast with only one-third as much agent. For more portable systems, Dry chemicals were used such as the standardized potassium bicarbonat PKP in Halon 1211 for portable extinguishers and used by the P-25 crash truck aboard, essentially a fire fighting vehicle. All this was completed by seawater hose stations around the flight deck, plus extra ones carried in portable extinguishers in the “crash and smash locker” in the island.


Port bow view of the US Navy (USN) ENTERPRISE CLASS: Aircraft Carrier, USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65), underway at sea at high speed. (Exact date shot unknown)

Work on nuclear marine propulsion in the US started in 1946-47, with the first operational reactor operational by 1953 and aside Hyman Rickover, Admiral Forrest P. Sherman CNO in 1949 proposed a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier which was later to be translated as CVN-65. Technology was setup already from 1951 but Oak Ridge tests were halted in 1953 by a national security council order and resumed in late 1954 with the “large ship reactor project” (LSRP). Compared to land installation it needed compact construction but can be limited to only 200 MW and more stable, for lighter control and staff. The pressurized water type reactor which resulted of this had both a smaller core in a tighter space, with highly enriched fuel, less extensive shielding. The Mark 1 reactor culd deliver 60 MW (from Shippingport in Pennsylvania), operational in 1957.
But it’s Westinghouse which designed a 250 MW model, Yankee Rowe, starting operations in 1960, at the same time as the Argonne National Laboratory boiling water reactor (BWR).

Naval Nuclear Powerplant A2W

The C1W reactor was chosen for USS Long Beach and its development, simpler than for CVN-65 was led by the Westinghouse Electric Corp. Arco facility, in operation from October 1958.
The A1W plant was the land-based prototype for the new carrier’s plants. It was built at the Naval Reactors Facility in Idaho, and this land-based prototype comprised two units, designated A and B, built within a portion of a steel hull to replicate the ship’s engine room, powering a shaft through a single geared turbine propulsion unit. It derived from the 1955’s S1W. The navy wanted for a single shaft and output of around 70,000 SHP, a quarter of the cenventional propulsion of USS Forrestal. This prototyping meant there was no transition to “real” construction and the original A1W could stay on land for training personel. Both A1W and A2W designs had their coolant kept at 525-545 °F (274-285 °C) and in the steam generators, a pressure of 600 Psi at 535 °F (279 °C) was expected.

In CV-65 the final A2W combined a single A1W-A and a A1W-B units operating in tandem, on one turbine. This A3W reactor was also to be fitted on USS John F. kennedy until further refined into the A4W installed on USS Nimitz (CVN-68). The amazing fact was that the keel was laid down well before A1W reached its initial criticality and tests were still ongoing when she was launched. But the final combined A2W unit was ready to be shipped afterwards for completion. The whole process denoted great trust from the project’s proponents and the Navy as no delays were encountered during the completion phase, or during trials. Eventually by having eight Westinghouse A2W pressurized water reactors (PWR) in their four separate engine rooms, plus their own confinement cells, duplicated controls and safety backups, ensure long term operations even in a war zone, which was the case during USS Enterprise’s early career.

Finalized Powerplant

Four shafts, connected to four Westinghouse geared steam turbines, fed in turn by four Westinghouse A2W (acronym: A for Aircraft Carrier, 2 for second generation, W for Westinghouse) nuclear reactors, for a total of 280,000 shp (210 MW). The Westinghouse Turbines were connected to each a pair of reactors (1A – 1B, 2A – 2B, 3A – 3B, 4A – 4B), each rated for circa 150 MWt. The core life diverged, Cores 1 & 2 operated for 3 years, Cores 3 & 4 for an average 18.9 year. The steam power also fed many sub-systems, such as the four catapults, pretty hungry as jet aicraft grew in size considerably over time. But long stury short, these installation proved costly but safe. No nuclear incident was ever reported. The 280,000 MW were a dependable source of power at all times, which implied unlike classic boilers, which needed time to be heated up, these reactors were “heated” already when the ship was at anchor and technically “cold”. This power was there for all inboard systems in addition to the usual diesel generators used as APU rto supply electric current to the also power-hungry electronics suite.

Top Speed of USS Enteprise was 33.6 knots (38.7 mph; 62.2 km/h) as specified. Sea trials remains classified to this day, some authors affirming they would have no problem reaching 38+ knots of needed. Of course range was also unlimited, with a 20–25 years before the core change. Importantly, compared to previous designs, CV-65 had four 4-bladed propellers, 32 tons each and four rudders weighted 35 tons each, less in fact than her two anchors, 30 tons each.

A first in life end’s as well

Another aspect which was brand new in 2017 when USS Enteprise was decommissioned, was its “denuclearization”. Although major critical components were made of corrosion resistant nickel iron alloys, none really had an idea of the scale of degradation over so many years since she was commissioned. Replacing the core did not meant a full, torough inspection of all components. Thus in 2017, when sent at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility to prepare the reactor compartments for disposal, this was uncharted territory. The standards that were required, also for recycling of components wrote the book concerning the fate of all Nimitz class aicraft carriers.

Auxiliary Power

USS Enteprise was equipped with diesel emergency generators to provide onboard electrical systems, in case the nuclear reactor were not able to provide the electricity aboard, through a derivation. See also. Details are unknown but they were overhauled and replaced in 1980.


The cost of construction consicted the radical decision of not equipping CVAN-65 with the interned RIM-2 Terrier missile launchers, leaving there “unprotected”. In reality she was under the tripple bubble of long-range and short range missiles of escorts, plus her own air group. However late in 1967, she received a prototype Basic Point Defense Missile System (BPDMS) installation. It consisted in two eight-round box launchers, each with a short range Sea Sparrow missile. A third BPDMS was fitted during also in 1970–1971.
Next these were updated with the new NATO Sea Sparrow (NSSM) and in the 1980s, three Mk 15 Phalanx CIWS mounts were installed for anti-missile defence, one later removed, replaced by two 21-cell RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) launchers, the armament with which she ended her carrer.


The RIM-7 Sea Sparrow was a derivative of the well-known air-to-air missile developed in the 1960s. The AIM-7E from the F-4 Phantom was adapted to shipboard use with surprising speed. The Basic point defense missile system was developed to procure any ship in the USN with limited space with a simple short range point defence SAM. It consisted in a single mount with two pairs of four canister launchers which had traverse and elevation. It was assited by a Mark 115 manned direction systems using illumination.
Each missile weighted 510 lb (230 kg), measured 12 ft (3.7 m) by 8 in (20 cm) in diameter, wingspan when deployed 3 ft 4 in (1.02 m). It carried a proximity fuzed, expanding rod warhead (27 ft (8.2 m) kill radius). It was propelled by an Hercules MK-58 solid-propellant rocket motor to 10 nmi (19 km) at 4,256 km/h (2,645 mph) and guided by semi-active radar homing.

RIM-166 RAM:

The last system installed on CVN-65, it was designed to replace the BPDMS, also as short-range. However the launcher had more vectors. It was developed by Raytheon, Diehl BGT Defence by the 1980s and entered service in 1992. Thesystem fired guided rockets 73.5 kg (162 lb)2.79 m (9 ft 2 in) long, 127 mm (5.0 in) in diameter, with a fin span of 434 mm (1 ft 5.1 in)/ Each was capable of Mach 2.0+, carrying a 11.3 kg (24.9 lb) blast fragmentation warhead and had a 10 km range (6.2 mi). Each of these used three guidance modes, passive radio frequency or infrared homing or infrared/radio dual-mode. The missile is basically a derivative of the famous AIM-9 Sidewinder. Each launcher had 21 tubes (so 21 missiles).


For armament in September 1966 she received two octuple Sea Sparrow SAM (16 RIM-7) and in 1982, three more Sea Sparrow SAM (Mk 57) and three six-tubes 20mm/76 Mk 15 Phalanx.
By 2005 she received one more Phalanx CIWS and two 21-tubes RAM SAM (42 RIM-116).


In total, the USS Enteprise was fitted with the SPS-10, SPS-32, SPS-33, SPN-6, SPN-10, SPN-12 radars and the ULQ-6 ECM suite.
But when she entered service, she had one of the most ambitious system ever developed by the USN and arguably -by any nation to that point. CVN-65 was the second ship (after USS Long Beach) equipped with SCANFAR.

SCANFAR (1960)

SCANFAR was in short, an early ancestor of AEGIS. It was a multiple airborne targets tracking systm, whereas conventional rotating antenna radars of the time could only track one. SCANFAR comprised two radars, the AN/SPS-32 and the AN/SPS-33. The first was the Hugues long-range air search and target acquisition radar, completed by AN/SPS-32, the large square array used for 3D tracking, whuch when combined formed a massive “cube” over and under which were installed the bridges on the carrier’s island. This system was not only huge, it was complex, sensible, and took a massive power drain on the electric system. All the AN/SPS-32 vacuum tubes broke often and needed constant replacement, which proved a nightmare on the long run. The SPS-32 had a range of 400 nautical miles (large targets) down to 200 (fighter-size).

EEW Andrew Alford AA-8200:
In addition there bridge was topped by a caracteristic dome containing a new tailored electronic warfare suite Andrew Alford AA-8200 dipole antennas, six rows of antennae around, the upper rows being encased in fragile piping radomes. This other complex and costly system, which never received a navy designation, was latter eliminated.

The whole system was deemed obsolete and replaced around 1980, the island being completely modified under the lines of the Nimitz class. Although SCANFAR was ahead of its time, its electrical beam steering mechanism was problematic and USS Enteprise was the only ship, apart long Beach to use it. These humble beginnings into the “phased array” type radar would evolved and mature many years later as the Aegis AN/SPY-1, far more reliable and practical.

Electronics Upgrades

CVN-65 Island in 1990
In the 1960s she had the SPN-6 radar and ULQ-6 ECM suite but received in addition the SPN-35A radar, and the WLR-1, WLR-3, WLR-11 ECM suite.
In September 1966 to assist her new Sea Sparrow launchers, she receiced two Mk 51 and SPS-58 radars.
In 1968 she received a SPS-12 radar. However the greates updrade was in February 1982:
She had the SPS-32, SPS-33, SPS-10, SPS-58, SPN-10 and SPN-12 radars, but received the LN-66 and six Mk 95 fire control radars, as well as the SPS-48C, SPS-49, SPS-65, SPN-41, SPN-42, SPN-44 radars plus three Mk 90 FCS radars and the new WLR-8 and SLQ-17(v)4 ECM suites (SLQ-29 system), as well for chaff defence, four Mk 36 SRBOC decoy RL systems and the TFCC. For satnav she received an upgraded NTDS and the ASCAC system.

The last modernization phase was in the early 1990s: Sge received the SPS-73, SPS-64(v)9, SPS-67(v)1, SPS-48E, SPS-49(v)5, SPN-43A radars as well as for fire control, two SPN-46, and a Mk 23 TAS radar. For electronic warfare, she had the WLR-1H(v)7, the new SLQ-32(v)4 ECM suite, the upgraded Mk 35 SRBOC decoy launchers and the SLQ-25A SSTDS torpedo decoy system.
The ultimate addition was in 2005 when she received a Mk 90 radar.

Aircraft Facilities

The total operation area represented 20,400 m², or 6,537 m² acres, with a hangar internal volume of 49,680 m³. The Flight deck measured 331.6 by 77.7m in width, greater than any previous class. The The Flight Deck Area represented 4.5 acres (18,211 m2). She had four catapults, two at the forward deck section, two on the angled landing strip section admidships, using the same model. She also a jet blast deflector barrier behind each of the catapult, a fixed crash barrier mid-way aft on the landing deck, two net barriers and four arrestor cables, with hydraulic braking systems.

Flight Deck vehicles:

At sea aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Jan. 27, 2003 — An aircraft tow tractor moves an S-3B “Viking” assigned to the “Scouts” of Sea Control Squadron Two Four (VS-24) into position on the shipÕs flight deck. Roosevelt is conducting training exercises in the Caribbean Sea, while preparing to deploy to the Central Command Area of Responsibility. U.S. Navy photo by PhotographerÕs Mate 1st Class James Foehl. (RELEASED)

A rarely discussed topic. On the WW2 carriers of the Essex class and Midway, “classics” were the Clark tractor 6 introduced on its aircraft carriers since mid 1942, for towing piston-engine aircraft, including the large Avenger. From late 1943 was introduced the BNO-40 Flight Deck Tractor, used up to years after the Korean war. It was still used for piston-engine aicrafts, but with the new jets weight, a more powerful vehicle was required. Thus, the MD-1 Flight Deck Tractor was introduced in the early 1950s, first dedicated jets tractor. MD-1s were notably employed to start up aircraft jet engines prior to takeoff, using gas turbine start units. They were used on the modernized Essex and on the Forrestal class.

At the time of the CVN-65 construction (and the later Kitty Hawk class CV-66-67), the MD-3 Flight Deck Tractor was about to be introduced. It was capable of handling jets that were potentially on the 15 tonnes range, such as the 26,600 lb (12,066 kg) Grumman Tracer, but not the massive North American A-5 Vigilante (63,085 lb (28,615 kg) GRW). This was however the first US purpose-built shipboard tractor, and in standard had the jet aircraft start unit, housing a gas turbine air compressor. It was also adopted for the first US helicopter carriers. Next came the A/S32A-31A Flight Deck Tractor, capable of towing much heavier models, it became the second stanndard for the Kitty Hawk class, USS Enterprise but also the Nimitz class carriers (and is still used today) as the A/S32A-32A Hangar Deck Tractor. As for personal transport plus aircraft towing vehicle, the good old WW2 Willys Jeep was used, and maintained up to the 1950s, before being replaced by dedicated tractors or the CJ3A (G503) starter/towing Jeep. She was also equipped with the A/S 32A-35 Crash crane vehicle.


Hangar view in 1964
The Hangar measured 223.1m x 29.3m x 7.60 m (731 x 95 x 25 ft). The main tranverse aft landing Area was 104,85 meters (344 feet). Internal hangar aircraft Capacity was 75 aicraft, the remainder being parked outside, and the Hangar Bay Area was 3.5 acres (14,165 m2).
Catapults: Four C13 catapults, steam-powered, 286 feet (87,2 meters) long. They were steam-powered, and the largest ever fitted on an aircraft carrier. In theory they could launch a fully loaded 20 tons aicraft, which proved handy when dealing with monsters such as the Skywarrior and the Vigilante.
Elevators: There were four deck-edge elevators, 40t, 21.4/25.9 x 15.9m (70/85 x 52 ft) instead of three on the Kitty Hawk and Forrestal classes.
Aircraft fuel stowage: 363,300 l of petrol and 9,380,000 l of JP-5 jet fuel.
Aviation ordnance stowage: 1,800t (since early 1970s 2,524t).

A view inside the aircraft hangar bay aboard aircraft carrier USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65) as USN sailors perform routine maintenance on various USN aircraft, in preparation for flight operations.

Air Group

As initially defined, it revolved around 90 aircraft. Back in 1960 there were planned to be possibly the following fighters:
-North American FJ Fury, McDonell F2H Banshee, Grumman F9F Panther, McDonnell F3H Demon, Douglas F4D Skyray, Vought F8U Crusader, McDonell F4H Phantom II.
As for attackers, the Douglas AD Skyraider A3D Skywarrior, A4D Skyhawk as well as the reconnaissance versions F2H-P, F9F-P, OE, A3D-P, F8U-P, F4H-P. AD-Q, F3D-Q, A3D-Q ECM planes, AD-W, WF EW planes, S2F ASW planes, TF cargo planes, HRS, HUP, HSS, HUS, HOK, HUK, HUL, HR2S, HSS-2 helicopters. A wide panel, but in reality it was more modern and simpler when completed.

Early Air Group

In 1966 she allegedly carried tenty-four F-4B Phantom II fighters, twenty-four Douglas A-4C Skyhawk, twelve A-6A Intruder, six A-3B Skywarrior and three RA-5C Phantom II, three RA-3B Skywarrior, three EA-3B Skywarrior, four E-2A Tracker and four Kaman UH-2A Seasprite ASW/SAR helicopters.

Author’s rendition of a F8E Crusader superiority fighter from VF33, CVAN 65 (USS Enterise) circa 1962, first certification flights.
F4B Phantom II from VF-143, CVAN-65
F4B Phantom II from VF-143, CVAN-65

Douglas A4C Skyhawk, VA-94, USS Enterprise

Author’s rendition of the North American A5A Vigilante, VAH-7 “Peacemakers”, CVAN-65, 1962

Douglas A1H Skyraider
Douglas A1H Skyraider, VA-65, USS Enterprise 1965

Early air Group, at the time of the Vietnam War, artwork by Artwork by Stéphane Garnaud on navsource.

1970-80s Air Group

From 1975 and for the 1980s, she operated about the same air group, composed of the following:
-twenty-four Grumman F-14A Tomcat Fighters
-Twenty four Grumman A-7E Intruder attackers
-Twelve Vought A-6A Corsair II Attackers
-Three North Am. RA-5C Vigilante reconnaissance aicraft (long range, high speed)
-Four Grumman EA-6B prowler EW aircrafts
-Four Northrop Grumman E-2A Hawkeye long range surveillance aircraft
-Four KA-6D and ten S-3A or eight SH-3H helicopter for ASW/SAR.

Vought A7E Corsair II, VA97
Vought A7E Corsair II, VA97
Grumman E1B Tracer, VAW-111
Grumman E1B Tracer, VAW-111

1990-2000s Air Group

In 1999 she had twenty F-14A completed by no less than 36 F/A-18A/C multirole fighters and still four EA-6B, 4 E-2C and 6 S-3A, 4 SH-60F helicopters.
In 2003 she operated only ten F-14B, twelve F/A-18A+ and twenty-four F/A-18C, in complement were four EA-6B, and four E-2C and for helicopters, eight 8 S-3B, six SH-60F, two HH-60H.
In 2006 her last air group comprised twenty-four F/A-18E/F, and the same of F/A-18A/C (48 Hornet in all), plus four EA-6B, 4E-2C and two C-2A transport planes, plus six SH-60F/HH-60H helicopters.

F-14A deployed in CVAN-65. She was the first carrier to operate these.

Upgrade history

Post overhaul sea trials, off Washinghton, February 1982
Between November 1964 and July 1965 she had a complex overhaul, with her main mast raised and second yardarm added.
By June 1966-September 1966 out of Vietnam TOD, she had her waist catapult bridle catcher removed and two Mk-25 BPDM added.
In January 1969-March 1969 she was Repaired after the explosion and fire damage, but no addition was made.
In January 1979 to February 1982 she had her most complex Overhaul to date, with her mast replaced, ECM dome removed; SPS-32/33 arrays replaced with SPS-48/49 and 3 CIWS added. She was given a forward port sponson while her forward starboard one saw a Mk-29 added and for the aft port BPDM replaced with also with a Mk-29, plus the aft starboard BPDM removed.
In October 1990-September 1994  Second largest overhaul with core refueling and an aft boarding dock added.
In September 2004-October 2005 she saw RAM replacing Mk.29 CIWS at the forward port sponson and aft starboard sponson.

Misc. Facts

-Length of Ventilation: About 37 miles (60 kilometers)
-Length of Electrical Cables: About 625 miles (1005 kilometers)
-Water Distillation Plant Capacity: 350,000 gallons (1325000 liters / 1325 cubic meters) daily
-Number of Compartments: 3,500+
-Daily Meals Served Underway: 20,000+
-Services: General Store, 2 Gyms, 2 Barber Shops, Laundromat, Print Shop, Chapel, Library, Television Station and Studio, Coffee Shop, Daily Newspaper distributed underway 


Coat of arms

USS Enteprise under the Golden Gate bridge News Photo hornet on uss Enteprise News Photo hornet on uss Enteprise

Crewmen prepare food in the galley aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65).
Air Traffic Controlman Third Class (AC3) Jemal Wiley from Catskill, New York and AC2 Bruce Bivins from Reno, Nevada, in the Carrier Air Traffic Control Center (CATCC) aboard USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65).

Evolution of US Carriers. Note the USS Enteprise is the longest, but not the widest (Reddit)

USS Enterprise- Illustration
Author’s illustration of the USS Enterprise

⚙ specifications 1965/82/90

Displacement 71 277t 1965, 93,284 long tons Full Load 1990s
Dimensions 1,088 x 132.8/257.2 x 39 ft (332 x 40.5/78.4 m x 12m)
Dimensions post refit Same but 1,123 ft (342 m) long
Propulsion 4 shafts Westinghouse turbines, eight A2W reactors 280 000 shp.
Speed 33.6 kn (38.7 mph; 62.2 km/h)
Range Unlimited, core change 20-25 yrs
Armament None when commissioned, later Sea Sparrow, CIWS, RAM
Protection 8-in aluminium belt, 4-in STS and later Kevlar, see notes
Sensors Radar SPS-32, 33.
Aviation 90 max, 60 normal Aircraft, see notes
Crew 3325+1891+71 (Ship’ officers & ratings, air crew, Marines)

*Height (Keel to Mast): 250 feet

An exceptional Career 1963-2012

Commissioning and trials

Commissioned on 25 November 1961 under command of Captain Vincent P. de Poix, in command, she prepared for her final sea trials and training, and from 12 January 1962 departed for her maiden voyage and extensive shakedown cruise with many tests and exercises all along to shape up the crew and determine her full capabilities. She was after all a nuclear-powered prototype. On 20 February 1962, she made her first “space mission”, by tracking Friendship 7’s (Project Mercury) space capsule flight, with Lt.Colonel John H. Glenn, Jr aboard in the first US orbital spaceflight. CVAN-65 came back at Naval Station Norfolk on 5 April 1962 for post-shakedown fixes.

A3J-1 Vigilante of VAH-7 and F8U-1 being launched in 1962

On 25 June 1962, the new carrier started her active life, being asigned to 2nd Fleet for a first operational deployment, training off the US East Coast and taking part in LantFlex 2-62, a nuclear strike exercise with USS Forrestal (6–12 July). In August she joined the 6th Fleet for her first Mediterranean Sea deployment and was back in Norfolk, Virginia on 11 October 1962.

1962 Cuban Missile Crisis

President Kennedy aboard USS Enterprise watching maneuvers in April 1962
President Kennedy aboard USS Enterprise watching maneuvers in April 1962
In October 1962, the carrier saw her first international crisis deployment, following the revelations of Soviet nuclear missile launch sites on Cuba. As a response a large naval buildup was ordered by president JF Kennedy, with the Atlantic Fleet deployed in numbers, and from 22 October implementing the “quarantine” (blockade) of Cuba. 2nd Fleet carriers were grouped into Task Force 135, deployed to enforce it: USS Independence, Essex, Lake Champlain, , USS Enteprise and the crisis was defused on 28 October after tough negociations.

Mediterranean Service

Task Force 1, the first nuclear-powered task force. Enterprise, Long Beach and Bainbridge in formation in the Mediterranean, 18 June 1964. Enterprise has Einstein’s mass–energy equivalence formula E=mc² spelled out on its flight deck. Note the distinctive phased array radars in the superstructures of Enterprise and Long Beach.

In 1963–1964, she was under command of Captain Frederick H. Michaelis for a second and third deployments in the Mediterranean. The third saw her taking part in Operation Sea Orbit (photo), the world’s first nuclear-powered task force, with USS Long Beach and Bainbridge. The concept was a replica of the early 1900s great white fleet, but with an all-nuclear task force sailing around the world, reassuring NATO and US allied nations.
On 25 February 1964, the carrier saved a sailor of the Finnish merchant ship Verna Paulin of Souda Bay in Greece, treated by a surgeon transferred by helicopter. In October 1964 she was back in Newport News for her first Refueling and Overhaul: All eight nuclear reactors already with 200,000 nmi (230,000 mi; 370,000 km) under their belt, were refuelled and two propeller shafts replaced. Electronics were also updated adn the process ended on 22 June 1965, in time for a first wartime deployment.

USS Enteprise in Vietnam

In November 1965, the nuclear carrier was transferred to the Pacific 7th Fleet, crossing Panama and reporting to NAS Alameda in California. On 2 December operation commenced against the Viet Cong near Biên Hòa City, as part of Carrier Division Three, operating Carrier Air Wing Nine (CVW-9) and escorted by the nuclear-powered cruiser USS Bainbridge and the missile destroyers USS Barry and Samuel B. Roberts. In total she performed 125 sorties the first day, dropping 167 short tons of ordinance on supply lines. On 3 December, she broke her record with 165 sorties.

1st deployment

USS Enteprise in the Gulf of Tonkin, May 1966
USS Enteprise in the Gulf of Tonkin, May 1966

In January 1966, as part of Task Force 77 deployed in the Gulf of Tonkin she was flagship of Rear Admiral Henry L. Miller, Commander Carrier Division 3 (CarDiv3) and had a new captain, James L. Holloway III, with 350 officers and 4,800 men aborad as the fleet’s HQ. CVW-9 deployed four squadrons under command of F. T. Brown, but also the fighter squadron VF-92 (E. A. Rawsthorne), VF-96, (R. D. Norman), VA-93 (A. J. Monger), VA-94 (O. E. Krueger), the firsts with Phantom II, the latter with A-4C Skyhawks. VA-36 (J. E. Marshall) and VA-76 (J. B. Linder) also depliyed the A-4C Skyhawk but RVAH-7 (K. Enny) deployed the RA-5C Vigilantes for high speed recce. RADM Miller was later relieved by RADM T. J. Walker on 16 February 1966 and he praised the ship’s performance, presenting air medals to 100 personal.

When USS Enteprise departed the Gulf of Tonkin on 20 June 1967 her air group totalled 13,400 battle missions in 132 days, over 67,630 miles. VADM Hyland praised also the ship, saying “the entire Air Wing Nine has earned a resounding ‘Well Done’.” She dropped anchor at Subic Bay on 22 June (Philippines) for resplenishment and crew’s leave. She departed on 25 June back to Alameda, arriving on 6 July.

2nd deployment

There, she started her overhaul as Captain James L. Holloway took command. When completed on 5 September 1967 she made her post-refit sea trials on 7 September, and sailed from San Francisco Bay to San Diego to take aboard CVW-9 and make her refresher training off the California coast before heading back for the Pacific and 7th fleet.

She stopped in Sasebo, Japan in January 1968 at the time USS Pueblo was seized by North Korea. There, she became flagship of TF 71 under Rear Admiral Epes in response to that serious incident, patrolling South Korean waters for a month (Operation Formation Star). Tensions decreased and USS Enterprise returned to Yankee Station on 16 February 1968. After a lighter sorties rythm, she was sent back to NAS Alameda on 18 July (she crancked up during this second Vietnam TOD some 12,246 sorties of which 9,182 were actual combat). She had a short overhaul in Puget Sound until 26 September and was back to Alameda, preparing her third deployment with the 7th Fleet in Vietnam.

USS Enterprise 1969 fire

1969 accident
USS Entreprise 1969 accident
On the morning of 14 January 1969, while under escort of USS Benjamin Stoddert and Rogers, a short and cook off provoked ignition and launch of a MK-32 Zuni rocket, loaded on a parked F-4 Phantom being prepared for a sortie (as later shown by video deduced by the enquiry). The rocket flew straight into more stored ordnance and JP-5 filled tanks under other planes, making an explosion set off multiple fires and additional explosions across the flight deck. The hangar was spared, but it took some time to put the fires under control, much faster than on USS Forrestal in 1967.

In all, 27 sailors were KiA, 314 sailors injured, 15 aircraft had been destroyed, and the flight deck’s upper plating had buckled so much under heat no landong was possible. This force the carrier to sail off for repairs at Pearl Harbor NyD. All the plating was replaced and it was over on 1 March 1969, so she can resume her WESTPAC deployment at Yankee Station, in the Tonkin Gulf, delayed by what happened in the eastern Sea of Japan.

CVAN-65 burning, stern view

Indeed, on 14 April 1969, tensions with North Korea took a new height when a North Korean jet deliverately shot down a Lockheed EC-121 Warning Star patrolling over the eastern Sea of Japan from Atsugi base in Japan. Task Force 71 was reactivated in response, deploying air groups to patrol these international waters. Enterprise joined later USS Ticonderoga, Ranger, and Hornet and their escorts. She arrived by late April and took part in the largest show of force in the area since 1952.

4th-5th Vietnam deployments

In 1969–1970, CVN-65 was back in Newport News Shipbuilding for a long overhaul and refitting, with post-refit sea trials completed by January 1971, having new nuclear reactor cores setup to last 10 years. On 11 June 1971 under command of her new captain, Forrest S. Petersen she received CVW-14 onboard for her fourth deploymeny in Vietnam.
There, she joined USS Oriskany and Midway and together they launched 2,001 strike sorties up to 30 July 1971. They had to leave the area three times to flee the typhoons Harriet, Kim and Jean. These were visual strikes on enemy troop positions combined with helicopter operations. On August–November 1971 Enterprise operated from Yankee Station and by December 1971 changed command with Captain Ernest E. Tissot, while she sailed in the Bay of Bengal as the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 developed. This was a deployment turned against India’s naval blockade on Pakistan from INS Vikrant, complicated by the presence of a Soviet submarine trailing the task force. USS Enterprise then returned to Southeast Asia to avoid escalation in the area. He last leg for this 4th deployment ended on 12 february 1972.

6th Vietnam deployment

She made a 6th deployment, this time in the South China Sea from 12 September 1972 with CVW-14 onboard and on 18 December she resumed bombing sorties beyond the 20th parallel as part of Operation Linebacker II with other carriers on station. They also laid minefields in Haiphong harbor and tried to protect USAF bombers by dealing with SAM and AA sites. They also targeted artillery positions and barracks, but also infrastructure plus the Haiphong naval Bas itself, denying the North Vietnamese Fleet any sortie.

These tactical air attack sorties concentrated moslty on the coastal areas (notably Hanoi and Haiphong) leaving the USAAF dealing with more inland objectives. 705 Navy sorties were performed by USS Enteprise and but operations were hampered by bad weather. By December 1972, Linebacker II was terminated and on January 1973 cease-fire was announced. On 28 January there were only 81 combat sorties over Laos and the Ho-Chi-Minh trail. They were forced to fly in a narrow corridor to get there, between Huế and Da Nang. The Laotian government requested this assistance, not having signed a ceasefire. This went on until 12 June 1973 and the carrier returned home.

CVAN-65 returning from Hanoi, Vietnam 1975.

Back Home (1973-75)

USS Enterprise arrived for a refit and overhaul at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton (Washington, North Pacific coast) most of which was dedicated to the arrival of the latest USN fighter, the Grumman F-14 Tomcat. Two jet blast deflectors were enlarged notably. One shaft was also replaced, bent after a discarded arresting gear cable was caught by the propeller.
On 18 March 1974, Tomcats from VF-1 Wolfpack and VF-2 Bounty Hunters arrived for carrier qualifications and by September she was the first carrier to deploy tomcats for her 7th WESTPAC.
Before arrival, on February 1975 she was detached for humanitarian assistance of Mauritius, badly hit by Typhoon Gervaise, providing disaster relief from Port Louis. Personal from the carrier helped restoring water, power, telephone, clearing roads, provided medical, food and drinkable water.

Operation Frequent Wind (1975)

In April 1975 she departed for a massive deployment with USS Midway, Coral Sea, Hancock and Okinawa off South Vietnam, this time loaded with helicopters to provide evacuation of personal as North Vietnam launched a new, unstoppable invasion. Soon, on 29 April, Saigon was under direct attack, and Operation Frequent Wind was was started, with U.S. Marine Corps helicopters, evacuating American citizens and collaborating Vietnamese personal from Saigon, until the city fell.
This operation was ordered by President Gerald Ford after aviation evacuation from Tan Son Nhut Airport was precluded by North Vietnamese shelling. Helicopters operated under constant fighter cover and they notably landed at the US Embassy and in a DAO Compound, picking up evacuees in such numbers that extra space had to be found when returned. The last helicopter famously left the roof of the embassy at 7:53 am on 30 April, with the rearguard defending 11 Marine Security Guards. VF-1 and VF-2 flew 92 sorties, the first by the F-14 Tomcat.

Post-Vietnam Service

8-9th WESTPAC deployments

In July 1976, USS Enteprise departed home (Alameda) for her 8th deployment in the Pacific, and in October, took part in exercise Kangaroo II with the ANZUS, Australian and New Zealand Navies vessels. She also for the first time visited Hobart in Tasmania in November 1976. By February 1977 there was a new crisis as Idi Amin (Uganda) tool US Citizens as hostages several months after the Israeli raid at Entebbe airport. USS Enterprise called Mombasa back for Asia, and were redirected off the east African coast, staying there to “how the stick” for about a week. The Marine detachment were prepared for a possible rescue mission and evacuation, until Amin released all hostages. She then departed for the Indian Ocean and dropped anchor at NAS Cubi Point, Philippines and steamed back home to NAS Alameda.

USS Enteprise post overhaul service, 1st November 1982

In 1978, she started her 9th WESTPAC deployment, stopping at Hong Kong, Perth, and Singapore. She was back home in December and by January 1979, she was sent into Puget Sound for a major overhault, over 36-month which notabl consisted in removing her SCANFAR radars and cone and making many more modifications. This all ended in 1982.

10th WESTPAC deployment

In 1982, after post-refit sea trials and a refresher crew, receiving her new air group, USS Enteprise departed 10th WESTPAC, without issue. But while back home in April 1983 she ran aground on a sandbar, in San Francisco Bay, being stuck there for several hours. Robert J. Kelly was in command at the time, later a 4-star admiral, CinC U.S. Pacific Fleet, managed the issue quite well at the time. Later in 1983, USS Enterprise was deployed with USS Coral Sea and Midway off Alaska for FLEETEX 83 exercise.

CVN-65 after refit in 1982

11-12th WESTPAC deployments

USS Enteprise in Subic Bay
USS Enteprise in Subic Bay, 1986
In 1985 her 11th Pacific deployment started, until late at night on 2 November 1985 (with Captain Robert L. Leuschner, Jr. in command), she struck Bishop Rock, Cortes Bank, badly damaging the outer hull. The rock created a gash 100 ft long. The repairing cost was $17 million while Leuschner was relieved of command on 27 January 1986, replaced by Captain Robert J. Spane. For the first time she received the FA-18 Hornet in partial replacement of her Tomcats (she kept both for about a decade).

In 1986 she made her 12th WESTPAC from 15 January 1986, leading Battle Group FOXTROT (Truxtun, Arkansas, O’Brien, Reasoner, Lewis B. Puller, McClusky, David R. Ray, Wabash) into the Indian Ocean and stopping at Hawaii in Subic Bay and in Singapore along the way, and by 28 April 1986, USS Enterprise entered the Suez Canal, first nuclear carrier to do so.
She went through the Red Sea and entered the Mediterranean to relieve USS Coral Sea on station off the coast of Libya during a new crisis. She teh took part in Operation El Dorado Canyon, the aerial reprisal bombing of Libya. RADM J.T. Howe replaced during this operation by RADM Paul David Miller.

USS Enterprise, USS Truxtun, USS Arkansas underway in the Pacific Ocean on 17 September 1986
USS Enterprise, USS Truxtun, USS Arkansas underway in the Pacific Ocean on 17 September 1986

3rd MED deployment

In February 1988, she started her 13th deployment and third in the Mediterranean, again fromthe east coast and via the Indian Ocean and Suez Canal, assigned to Operation Earnest Will. The goal was to escorting reflagged Kuwaiti oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, under Iranian threat. On 14 April Samuel B. Roberts struck an Iranian mine in international waters and Operation Praying Mantis followed, with multiple USN strikes against Iranian targets, notably Iranian oil platforms used as support bases for merchant shipping attacks. CVW-11 also destroyed two Iranian frigates, one sink, the other damaged beyond repairs while providing air support and cover.

In September 1989 “Big E” started her 14th deployment, this time an around-the-world cruise supposed to end at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, West Coast. In December 1989, she took part with USS Midway to Operation Classic Resolve under the Bush administration, in response to Philippine President Corazon Aquino’s request for support during a rebel coup attempt. The carrier remained in Manila Bay until the end of the crisis.

The 1990s

In April 1990, USS Enterprise had completed her world-spanning deployment and as planned entered Norfolk in Virginia with 43,000 mi (69,000 km) under her belt. By October, she entered Newport News for refueling her nuclear cores and her largest and complex overhaul to date. It ended on 27 September 1994, and she sailed for sea trials with Captain Richard J. Naughton in command. She proved she can reach the same speed, or even exceed the speed she had during her 1961 sea trials. This refit deprived her of eny participation into the 1991 Gulf War.

SEALs training in close security around USS Enteprise, Mediterranean 24 August 1996.

On 28 June 1996, she departed for a 15th deployment, this time off the Balkans in the Mediterranean: She was to create a no-fly zone in Bosnia (Operation Joint Endeavor) and later, she ws relieved and went to the rea sea to participate in Operation Southern Watch over Iraq, until December 1996. By February 1997 back home, she entered Newport News for her first “selective restrictive availability” over 4.5 months, and skeleton crew.

By November 1998 she made her 16th deployment with CVW-3 onboard. In the night of 8 November, a Northrop Grumman EA-6B Prowler crashed into a Lockheed S-3 Viking when landing during night carrier qualifications. The problem was caused by the S-3 not yet clearing the landing area in time. Only the S-3 could be repaired later. The entire crew of the EA-6B died as it went overboard and crashed on water, while the two pilots of the S-3 ejected in time and only had injuries. The spilled JP-5 caused a major deck fire, quickly extinguished by the crews.

On 23 November 1998, USS Enterprise arrived on station in the Persian Gulf to relieve the Nimitz class USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. She made a call at Jebel Ali in the UAE, and hosted there former President George H. W. Bush (a former USN WW2 aviator) for a live concert by Hootie & the Blowfish.
In December 1998 she “led the pack” for Operation Desert Fox: Her air group struck Iraqi military targets in complement of 300 Tomahawk missiles, delivering 691,000 lb (346 short tons) of ordnance during the 70-hour assault, assisted by her escort USS Gettysburg, Stout, Nicholson and Miami.

She was back off the Balkans and visited Cannes, southern France after the Račak massacre and Rambouillet Peace talks failure. She was back later in the Adriatic. In March 1999 she returned in the Persian Gulf, relieving USS Carl Vinson for Operation Southern Watch and was back in Norfolk by May 1999. During this deployment she covered 50,000 nmi (93,000 km or 58,000 mi) with 151 days at sea and underway. USS Enterprise’s Battle Group inaugurate the IT-21 external and internal communication system using Satellite, Internet, email, and television.

011109-N-0872M-507.Aboard USS Enterprise (CVN 65) Nov 9, 2001– F-14 Tomcats prepare to take off from the flight deck of USS Enterprise a final time. This was the last time the 34 year-old aircraft will be deploying on the carrier. USS Enterprise (CVN 65) is returning to her homeport in Norfolk, Virginia after completing a six-month deployment. U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class, Martin Maddock. (RLEASED)

Byn March 2001, USS Enterprise took part JTFEX 01-2 in the Caribbean Sea, during which the Bundesmarine deployed U24 (Type 206) which famously managed to approach and “sink” USS Enterprise with a photograph through periscope as proof, then surfacing to launch flares. This prompted some reaction after recent developments in diesel submarine acoustic evasion. On 25 April 2001, USS Enterprise made her 17th deployment with CVW-8 on boar and under command of Captain James A. Winnefeld, Jr. On 18–28 June she took part in an exercize with the Royal Navy in the North Sea, off the Hebrides Islands and Scotland.

enteprise and charles de gaulle
The aircraft carrier USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65), the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, steams alongside the smaller French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle (R 91), in the Mediterranean Sea.

Next, she sailed in emergency after hearing news of the September 11 attacks, without orders via Southwest Asia even outrunning her escorts to the Persian Gulf. In October 2001 air attacks started against Al-Qaeda camps and Taliban installations throughout Afghanistan. For three weeks her air group flew close to 700 missions, spending 800,000 lb (360 t) of ordnance. On 10 November, she was back in Norfolk, after hosting a live two-hour broadcast of ABC’s Good Morning America. On Pearl Harbor Day she hosted President George W. Bush which addressed sailors from the flight deck.
In January 2002, she made a year long overhaul in Norfolk Naval Shipyard and Selected Restricted Availability period.

031010-N-6187M-005.At sea aboard USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65) Oct. 10, 2003–.A EA-6B “Prowler” attached to Electronic Attack Squadron One Three Seven (VAQ-137 “Rooks”) prepares to launch from the flight deck of USS ENTERPRISE..ENTERPRISE is currently underway in the Mediterranean Sea..Official U. S. Navy Photo by Photographer’s Mate Third Class Lance H. Mayhew Jr.

030903-N-6187M-003.At sea aboard USS ENTERRPISE (CVN-65) Sept. 3, 2003– .Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) Airman Apprentice Adam M. Fazzio from Mullica Hill, NJ watches a EA-6B “Prowler” attached to VAQ-137 “Rooks” perform a touch and go’s during ENTERPRISE Carrier Qualifications..The ENTERPRISE is currently underway completing its Tailored Ships Training Availability in preparation for a Mediterranean Deployment. .U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer’s Mate Third Class Lance H. Mayhew Jr.

030830-N-6187M-005.At sea aboard USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65) Aug 30, 2003– Chief Warrant Officer Third Class (Air Gunner) Eric E. Richmond from Massillon, OH steadies Aviation Ordnanceman Third Class Michael J. Washa from Omaha, NE during an Ordnance Onload Evolution. ENTERPRISE is currently underway completing its Tailored Ships Training Availability in preparation for a Mediterranean Deployment.. U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer’s Mate Third Class Lance H. Mayhew, Jr.

Iraq War

From September 2003 (Until February 2004), under command of Captain Eric Neidlinger she was deployed to relieve one of the four carriers on station during the invasion, with Admiral James Stavridis commanding the battle group. Her air group reflected her role, to provide air support (mostly air cover) for Operation Iraqi Freedom. She carried only F/A 18 Hornet fighters, no attack plane, escorted by USS Cole. She was also touring with some personalities on board giving talks and performances. She stopped on the way home in Jebel Ali (Bahrain), Naples, and Cartegna.
USS Enterprise Sailors became TV celebrities during the Paramount Television series “Enterprise” presetning the ship in 2003.

E-2C from VAW-123 in 2005

In 2005, she made a short shipyard overhaul at Newport News but while making her yard sea trials she hit a sand bar: All her eight reactors were shut down by the shock and she started to go adrift on emergency power for three hours. Tugs caught her and she was brought back to Norfolk Naval Base while nuclear machinists clearned her condensers. In May 2006, she sailed for another deployment, of six months, in a “world tour”, visiting the 6th, 5th and 7th Fleet, between Operations Iraqi/Enduring Freedom, stopping en route to Dubai and Hong Kong, and back to Norfolk on 18 November 2006. On 19 December 2007, she made a thord deployment, again of six month to the Persian Gulf.

121015-N-ZZ999-017 (Oct. 15, 2012) ARABIAN SEA – Two EA-6B Prowlers assigned to the Rooks of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 137 fly in formation over aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65). Enterprise is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Josh Hammond).

“Big E” last overhaul (2008-2009)

In April 2008, she entered Newport News shipyard (now part of Northrop-Grumman) for her last major overhaul, lasting 18-month and her “Extended Docking Selected Restricted Availability”; It was secheduled to end in September 2009. Maintenance was done but as the number of elements to replace made costs rising fast, well above projections, the Navy place a decommission date to 2014 for the veteran of USN Carriers. On 6 April 2009 CNO Admiral Gary Roughead announced he would obtain a faster decommission through congressional approval, so the overhaul was completed for just a final deployment. Thus, the Navy planned to have “only” ten active aircraft carriers until the Gerald R. Ford was expected to be launched in 2015. In October 2009, Public Committees agreed with the recommendation and the decommission was programmed for 2013, with still made for a symbolic, staggering 51 years of service…

SPS-48 Radar in 2010
SPS-48 Radar in 2010

Last deployment and decommission (2009-2013)

USS Enterprise anchored off Naples on her last deployment
USS Enterprise anchored off Naples on her last deployment

After a cost of $662 million (46% over budget, 8 months more than planned) completion of the overhaul was achieved and she was ready for her last deployment, sailing out the yard on 19 April 2010, making her post-refit sea trials . The Navy announced two yearly six-month deployments before her 2013 decommission. But before the first started in January 2011, she took part in an internal movie by the current XO, Captain Owen Honors, in “XO Movie Night”, that was leaked publicly and caused some stir in the press by its content. On 4 January 2011, Admiral John C. Harvey, Jr. blamed him despite of the crew’s support. Captain Dee Mewbourne became her new XO and in the wake of the scandal some 40 officers ratings were disciplined.
At last on 13 January 2011 she departed with Air Wing One aboard escorted by the Ticonderoga class guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf, and the Burke class USS Barry, Bulkeley, and Mason. In February 2011, she was involved in a rescue of US citizens captured by Somali pirates.

Back to Norfolk on 15 July she retured with 75 Somali pirates aboard, also participating in the bombing raids over Libya. On 17 August 2011, Captain William C. Hamilton, Jr. too command, and she was prepared in March the next year for her last deployment, joining off Norfolk the escorts of her Carrier Group, USS Vicksburg, Porter, Nitze and James E. Williams. On 9 April 2012 this was named Carrier Strike Group 12, assigned to join USS Abraham Lincoln in the Persian Gulf. In October 2012 she crossed the Suez Canal for the last time, and visited Naples on 16–21 October to close a long 50-years loop since her service start. The city was indeed her very first foreign port call.
On 4 November 2012 she was back at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, having cranked up some 81,000 miles, 238-day at sea in the Persian Gulf, 2,000 sorties for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.


Deactivation started on 1 December 2012 at NAS Norfolk at a cost of $857.3 million in depot maintenance FY2013. As the first US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier decommissioned many questions were in the air. Between her name and exceptional service, plus historical significance, it was not long before many asked for her preservation as a museum ship. However it was soon objectd as way too expensive, given she was to be denuclearized first. A petition also called for the next carrier to be named as the USS Enterprise, but it was not to pass. The Gerald Ford class following ship was named JF Kennedy but indeed the third, CVN-80, laid down on 5 April 2022 for an expected launch on November 2025 as scheduled will indeed become the 9th of the name.
In 2013, Enterprise, considerably lightened, without mast, was towed to Newport News for the complex operation of de-fueling her reactors before being properly broken up.

On 8 February 2013, the DoD announced that postponements of several operations, including the planned de-fuelling of USS Enteprise amidst budget sequestration. But this also concerned mid-life overhauls for two Nimitz-class carriers, and the contract was eventually awarded to Huntington Ingalls Industries, by June. By October 2014 the carrier anchors were transferred to the Nimitz-class USS Abraham Lincoln. In early 2017, CVN-65’s material was announced to be reused to built CVN-80, the new USS Enteprise, and this represented 35,000 pounds of steel. Former crewmen and officers also created a time capsule using her steel and wood to preserve her history for USS CVN-80.

CVN-65’s final reactor was defueled in December 2016 and full decommission was acted on 3 February 2017 (there was a ceremony before) and she was stricken from the Naval Vessel Registry. Recycling was delayed as were discussed “environmentally responsible” approaches. On 10 April 2018, Newport News announced the inactivation complete and she was towed to Hampton Roads for disposal.
In 2019 as planned one of her anchors was transferred USS George Washington (CVN-73) while refitting at Newport News.
Current status:
The ship still exists today, and due to limited capcity her recycling still has not been done (and delayed by COVID). By mid-2022 Newport News Shipbuilding won an $11 million contract to store the vessel until September 2024, pending further decision. It seems the wishes of those who wants to preserve her are not completely hopeless, but chances she is converted as a museum ship are very slim to say the least, owing the new policy of recycling ships, and complicated by her nuclear-powered status and contamination. USS Long Beach for example as of May 2018 had her inactivated hull and reactor compartments remaining in long-term storage, whereas USS Nautilus was granted the status of Museum Ship.

Read More


Blackman, Raymond V. B., ed. (1971), Jane’s Fighting Ships 1971–72, Jane’s
Cracknell, W. H. (1972), Warship Profile 15: USS Enterprise (CVAN 65) Nuclear Attack Carrier, Windsor Profile Publications
Friedman, Norman (1983), U.S. Aircraft Carriers: An Illustrated Design History, Anapolis NIP
Gardiner, Robert; Chumbley, Stephen, eds. (1995), Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1947–1995
Polmar, Norman (1981), The Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet (Twelfth ed.) Arms and Armour Press
United States Naval Aviation, 1910–1995, Naval Historical Center
USS Enterprise (CVN 65) public affairs office



Flight Deck Operations USS Enterprise (CVN-65) – Airboyd

Flight operations compilation by Ultimate Military Channel

Visit of USS Enteprise, Pt.1 by Liveboat USA

Model Kits

A well-beloved topic. General Query on scalemates. Amazingly, there was a 1:72 model, by Uschi van der Rosten. The usual scale is 1:350, by Mini Hobby and Tamiya, Trumpeter, but also a 1:390 by Ideal Toy Corporation, 1:400 by ARII, Aurora, CC Lee, LIFE-LIKE Hobby Kits, Nippon Hobby, Monogram, Otaki, Paramount, Revell, and more rare Nichimo 1:500, ITC – Ideal Toy Corporation (ITC) 1:556, ARII/Avademy/Kangnam 1:600 the unique Cyber Hobby 1:700 and Revell 1:720, a few to 1:800 and below at 1:1140, 2000, and tons of accessories, in particular for the 1:350 (vehicles, details, personal, markings etc).
Review on

1:350 kit in detail by Jorge Evandro (Br)

3D Model

Mitscher class destroyers (1952)

Mitscher BG

Mitscher class destroyers (1952)

US Navy cold war USN Destroyer Leaders:

USS Mitscher, John Mc Cain, Willis A. Lee, Wilkinson

Cold War US DDs:

Fletcher DDE class | Gearing DDE class | Gearing FRAM I class | Sumner FRAM II class | Forrest Sherman class | Mitscher class | Norfolk class | Charles F. Adams class | Spruance class

The Mitscher class were four experimental large conventional destroyers, considerably larger than all previous one albeit more reasonable than the previous massive USS Norfolk (DL-1), earliest attempt of “fleet escort, destroyer”, cruiser-size. Due to their reclassifications as destroyers leaders (DL-2 to 5)they were not the first post-war destroyer class when commissioned in 1953-1954. They stayed in service until 1969 and the early 1970s but Mischer and Wilkinson were converted as guided missile destroyers (DDG) for more service years until 1980, in service with the Pacific and Mediterranean 7th and 6th fleets, John Mc Cain making a tour of duty in Vietnam.

Genesis of the Design

The cold war years meant many new developments and ideas emerging from wartime years (missile, radio-guidance, radar assisted gunnery, new ASW weapons, helicopters) called for a redefinition of the role of cruisers and destroyers around the new ocean prince: The Fleet Aircraft Carrier. Designed under project SCB 5, ordered 3 August 1948 and later named after rece,tky passed out WW2 admirals, these vessels displaced 3,331 tons (light) and up to 4,855 tons fully loaded for 494 feet or 151 m which was cruiser-size. Unlike the last destroyer class, the Allen M. Sumner, armed with the same standard and ubiquitous twin 5-in/38 turrets they were to be armed with brand new weapons in development, but not missiles, still in their infancy. In 1948, their main role as defined was to escort the new, very large and precious USS United States, planned and just laid down a year prior, and after its cancellation, the new supercarriers of the Forrestal class.

Fierce debates in the admiralty questioned the validity of the destroyer as a fleet escort, between proponent of a unique, very large and versatile “fleet escort” which was a blend of cruiser and destroyer, practically making both classes obsolete, and those who wanted a clearer separation between cruisers, ussable with their heavy artillery for amphibious assaults, and smaller destroyers in numbers large enough to detach some in “hunter-killer” groups. Eventually the latter task was given to the new frigates developed, and destroyers returned to the escort mission.

Comparison between USS Norfolk
Comparison between USS Norfolk (DL1) and the next four destroyer leaders of the Mitscher class

The SB5 project leaned like Norfolk towards the first option of universal “fleet escort” still, but on a more reasonable scale to be more acceptable in a postwar budget cuts context. Beyond these questions, each ship was to be given a different propulsion arrangement, and tests different weapons and sensors to make comparison and determine the best solutions for future destroyer design.
The Mitscher class ended as winner of internal Navy debates started in 1945 seeing the much larger CL-154 class anti aircraft cruisers canceled and the termination of the Norfolk based both on cost effectiveness grounds.

Eventually, the Mitscher would appear also a bit too large as destroyers, and were reclassed as “DL” for “Destroyer, Leader”, and “Fleet Escort (Destroyer)”. Their example led to the creation of the even larger Farragut serie of similar vessels, but reclassified DLGs since they were missile-armed and as cruisers for the next Leahy class, a better fir for their size, especially compared to the “regular” destroyers (DD) incarnated by the Forrest Sherman class (the first was laid down in 1953).

Design of the class

Ship plans (large ones are sold by among others, apparently they are not open source yet.

Hull and general design

The Mitscher class as the previous USS Norfolk used flush-deck hulls of very large size. They displaced 3,642 tons standard and 4,855 full load, which was unprecedented for a destroyer, although they were quickly reclassified as Destroyers Leaders. They measured 490 ft (150 m) by 47.5 ft (14.5 m) in beam and a 14.7 ft (4.5 m) draft at full load. They were more reasonable than USS Norfolk which reached almost 6,000 tonnes at full load and was 540 feets long, an attempt to create a budget acceptable proposition for a class.
Construction was not revolutionary however as they repeated the same techniques used for Norfolk and previous Gearing-Sumner class destroyers.
The main hull was extensively compartimented, superstructure being made in aluminium to preserve stability, with internal, extensive steel bracing to support the massive arrays.

Armour protection layout & safety

3D schematic of the Mitscher class
A 3D schematic of the Mitscher class (war thunder)
Just like all previous destroyers, it was kept minimal. The Central Operation inherited from WW2 cruisers was deep inside the hull and protected by 0.5 in STS panels. There was a stray of the same thickness over the steering compartment aft and over the ammunition magazines, also deep in the hull. No belt, no armored deck, superstructure in light steel and aluminium (with internal framing reinforcement to support the arrays). The ASW protection was ensured by a dozen compartments separated by bulkheads, plus a double hull on 90% of the lenght. Fire protection was limited to the traditional water pump and fire brigade with hoses. N?o sprinkler system at the time for that category of ships. Aircraft carriers were far more secured on that point.
The crew could evacuate on rubber boats boats mostly, distributed along the superstructure with rapid emergency dump. Two motor cutters for liaison were installed on davits amidships, between funnels on either side.


The Mitscher class were powered all by two shaft geared steam turbines fed by four boilers for a total as designed of 80,000 shp (60,000 kW) and a top speed as required of 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph). Range was to be 4,500 nmi (8,300 km; 5,200 mi) at 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph), just enough for Pacific Operations. To compare, the previous DL-1 USS Norfolk had also 80,000 hp but this was procured by 60 MW diesel generators steam turbines plus 500 kW thanks to two 250 kW generators (later 300 KW and eventually 3 MW with 4×750 kW generators). This was a return to tested and trusted solutions, yet the USN crucially wanted to test different configurations to determine the best approach for a later, larger production. This was later criticized as shortening their active life by a decade.
USS Mitscher: Four 1,200 psi Foster Wheeler boilers, two GE steam propulsion turbines for 60,000 combined shaft horsepower (44.742 MW) and 34 knots (63 km/h; 39 mph).
USS John Mc Cain: Same, but over 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph)
USS Willis A. Lee: Same. Alterations done after FRAM refit.
USS Wilkison: Same, 4 Foster Wheeler boilers, alterations done after DDG refit.
In the early 1960s, the Mitscher class underwent modernization through a Class Improvement Program (CIP), which included the replacement of the boilers on the first two ships of the class.


It was quite different from USS Norfolk, as on the later only twin 3-in (76 mm) guns were used for a dual purpose role, but evidently new, larger calibers were more reassuring to the Navy. However in 1948 the intended new duel purpose 5-in/54 models were not yeat available, still in development. Thus, the Mitscher were planned with these. They received just two turrets, completed by four twin 3-in DP, still a few single Oerlikons, survivance from WW2 and quickly removed, plus a comprehensive ASW suite.

2×5 in (127 mm)/54 Mark 42 guns

In short, this standard turret fired a 127 x 835mm .R Conventional 31.75 kg shell at up to +85° elevation, at 40 rpm to 2,650 ft/s and 25,909 yd (23,691.2 m/+45°) against ships or a 51,600 ft (15,727.7 m) ceiling. Read more

2×2 3 in/70 (76 mm) Mark 37 guns

Same as on the USS Norfolk, these were however not encased in a turret. These rather good guns, but with mediocre mount, unreliable and hard to maintain. So much so they were retired as soon as allowed, having the shortest service span of any USN weapon, with perhaps the infamous 1930 “chicago piano”. In fact only DL-1 (USS Norfolk) retained these for all her career. On the Mitscher, each barrel was supplied by 1,000 rounds. The Mark 37 Mod 0 mounts, protected by weather proof fiberglass gun shields were located fore and aft of the superstructure, superfiring over the 5-in/54 main guns. They were removed at the first occasion during refits. More on these.

Experimental Loki rocket tube on USSJohn S.McCain’s 3-in mount, c1962

8 x 20 mm guns

Seems surprising that the good old 20mm/70 Oerlikon was still part of a destroyer defence. The reasons are obscure, since this weapon was already removed in and replaced by the 40 mm Bofors alone in 1945, but yet it survived on many ships, from auxiliaries to OPVs until recent years and is still used by many navies around the globe. These four twin 20 mm AA guns were placed abaft the main bridge forward, on either side, and aft, but plansh don’t shows these, but likely theywere abaft the second funnel. As shown in a model, it seems only the forward pair survived, and was removed entirely during the 1960s refits.

4 x 21 inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes

Before the introduction of the standard Mark 24 triple banks for Mk.48 acoustic torpedoes, USN ships still had earlier models of torpedoes for both antiship and ASW roles. It was likely the standard (since 1948) 21″ (53.3 cm) Mark 35:
Design started 1946 as a universal model designed to replace all ordnance in service, namely the Marks 24, 32 and 33, with 400 produced between 1949 and 1952 and service until 1960, replaced by the Mark 37. Final settings came from the fire control system via a 1″ (25 mm) diameter umbilical cable cut away during its rube throwing. This was primarily an ASW weapon, and secondary anti-surface weapon. Settings included pre-enable run-out course/distance, search ceiling and floor, right/left circling search pattern, taking all what was explored in WW2. src
It entered in Service by 1949 with the following specs:
Weight: 1,770 lbs. (803 kg)
Overall Length: 13 ft 5 in (4.089 m)
Explosive Charge: 270 lbs. (122.5 kg) HBX
Range/Speed: 15,000 yards (13,710 m) / 27 knots
Power: Electric-Battery with seawater
Guidance: Active and passive acoustic with spiral search

RUR-4 Weapon Alpha

The main early cold war ASW rocket launcher, replacing the Hedgehog and “Mousetrap” systems.
The RUR-4 “Weapon Alpha” or “Weapon Able” when first programmed, was an naval ahead-throwing anti-submarine warfare rocket launcher, which development started in 1946, until 1949, installed on all escort warships from 1951 to 1969. It was a range, guided weapon to compare with the British “Limbo mortar” for example. It was carried by USS Norfolk and two were installed on the Mischer class, one superfiring above the 76mm DP mount and the other, same aft. This made a three-stage disposition reminiscent of the WW2 Atlanta class, but with varied weapons systems.

  • Mass: 525 pounds (238 kg)
  • Length: 8 feet 6 inches (2.6 m)
  • Diameter: 12.75 inches (324 mm)
  • Warhead: High explosive (HE) 250 pounds (110 kg)
  • Detonation mechanism: Depth charge by influence or time pistol
  • Extra guidance: SQG-1 depth-finding sonar setting time fuse
  • Propulsion: 5.25 in (133 mm) rocket, solid fuel
  • Range: 800 yards (730 m) at 190 miles per hour (310 km/h)

USS Wilkinson fires a RUR-4 Weapon Alpha off Newport, Rhode Island 1956

Depth charge rack

Plans shows a single rack aft, on the right poop side, for eight DCs of the standard type of the time, possibly the stock 1945 Mark 14 type (340 lbs./154 kg), 200 lbs. (91 kg) Torpex charge, sink Rate/Terminal Velocity of 23 fps (7.0 mps). A builder model shows two Mark 3 DC racks at the poop. Conways and others sources confirms a single one. It’s likely it was also removed after the 1960s refits and overhauls and considered anyway as a “backup”. There is no info about the quantity of depth charges reloads carried.

Onboard Electronics

USS Willis A Lee’s hull sonar in drydock, Boston Navy Yard 1966

Radar SPS-6: Bendix/Wetsinghouse (1948) 2D L Band 500Kw 130 – 260 km (70 – 140 nmi)
Radar SPS-8: GE (1952) 2D S Band 650 kW 1000 Hz Bwt 3.5° Pwt 2 µs 111 km (60 nmi)
Sonar QHB: USN’s first ‘scanning’ WW2 sonar (Mk37 GFCS) Hull mounted, Active, Max Range: 3.7 km src
Sonar SQG-1: Coupled with the RUR-4 “Weapon Alpha”. 44V, 3 phases, 2 cycles, 45-55 Kcycles 10Kw Pwdt: 5-60 ms src
Sonar SQS-4: Sangamo Electric (1948?) 440V, 3 phases, 60 Cycles, 26 Kcycles, 4000 yds range, 600 full scale, 60Kw, transm. 7-100 ms Pwdt src
—Post DDG conversion——
Radar SPS-37
Radar SPS-48
Radar SPG-15 (DASH conversions)
Sonar SQS-23

⚙ Mitscher as built specifications

Displacement 3,642 tons standard; 4,855 full load
Dimensions 490 x 47.5 x 14.7 ft (150 x 14.5 x4.5 m)
Propulsion 2 shaft geared steam turbines, 4 boilers: 80,000 shp (60,000 kW)
Speed 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph)
Range 4,500 nmi (8,300 km; 5,200 mi) at 20 kn (37 km/h; 23 mph)
Armament 2×5-in, 4×3-in, 4×2 20 mm AA, 4×21-in TTs, 2x Weapon Alpha ASWRL, 1 DCR
Protection Limited (see notes)
Crew 28 officers, 345 ratings

Modernization and Conversions

By the mid-1950s, their electronics were upgraded, with the retention of their QHB, SQG-1 sonars but the addition of the SQS-4 sonar. In 1957 all received tw twin 76mm/70 Mk 37 in replacement for their 76mm/50 as explained above.
By 1960 USS Mitscher, John S. McCain retained a single twin 76mm/70, but received the SPS-6 radar, SPS-29 radar, SQS-23 sonar and a DASH QH-50 helicopter deck and hangar.
Willis A. Lee and Wilkinson meanwhile received a partial FRAM modernization with a single twin 76mm/70 had their SPS-4, SPS-6 radars and SQS-4 sonar removed. They received also a DASH QH-50 helicopter with spot and hangar, and were added the SPS-10, SPS-29 radars and SQS-26 sonar. They also receiced a 324 Mk 108 Weapon Alfa ASWRL.
Mitscher in 1965-66 retained a single twin 76mm/70.

FRAM Conversion (Lee and Wilkinson)

DASH: A platform was installed aft for a Gyrodyne QH-50 Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter Mark II (1962) powered by Porsche YO-95-6 engines and able to send a single Mk 43 homing torpedo on target.
It consisted of an uprade in ASW capabilities, with “helicopter” hangar in place of the aft 3-in twin gun housing a Gyrodyne QH-50 DASH; plus topside antisubmarine torpedo armament, the standard Mk48 acoustic model. “Weapon Alfa” removed, bow-mounted sonar dome installed with new underwater sound-ranging standard. Willis A. Lee pioneered it. For USS Wilkinson it was less extensive. In 1960, for five-month (versus a year for Lee) her overhaul was limited to an enlarged Combat Information Center, addition of a long-range air search radar and DASH system, but no better hull sonar.

Conversion as fleet escort destroyers, missile (DLG)

Reconstruction of USS Mitscher. This was a nearly three years endeavour, and costly for a fairly short career afterwards, moslty due to repeated engine problems, between the turbines and boilers. They should have stayed in service until 1988-89.

This guided missile destroyers, Leader (DLG) reconstruction was intended to keep at least two of these vessels relevant (Mitscher and Mc Cain), but still in part as testbeds. The two others being either modernized to FRAM or austere FRAM, USS Lee and Wilkinson were merely a cost-saving decision. Compared to Forrest Sherman and subdsequent destroyers, these vessels were very costly to maintain and operate.
This 1968-69 reconstruction consisted in:
-1 Tartar SAM (40 RIM-24) aft (in place of the Weapon alpha and 76mm/70)
-1×8 ASROC ASuR (16 RUR-5) forward (same).
-2x 127mm/54 Mk 42 retained fore and aft
-2×3 324mm Mk 32 TT new triple banks either deck side
-Radar SPS-37
-Radar SPS-48
-Radar SPS-10
-2x Mk 25 FCS radars
-2x SPG-51 FCS radars
-SQS-23 sonar (ASROC)
-WLR-1, WLR-3, ULQ-6 ECM suites for electronic warfare

A comparison the unmodified USS Mistcher in 1958 and after 1968.

US Navy USS Mitscher (DL-2)

Mitscher in 1953
Mitscher in 1953


USS Mitscher (DDG-35) at Souda Bay, Crete with the USS America (CVA-66) in the background. Photo was received by the Naval Photographic Center in November 1971. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Originally designated DD-927, she was laid down by the Bath Iron Works Corporation at Bath, Maine on 3 October 1949. Reclassified as a “destroyer leader” (DL-2) on 2 February 1951, she was launched on 26 January 1952, baptised by the widow of Admiral Mitscher, then commissioned on 15 May 1953 after initial trials.

Her first home port was Newport and she became as intended flagship for Commander Destroyer Flotilla 2. After her shakedown cruise off Cuba, she made her post-cruis fixes in Boston, and another shakedown cruise of confrmation to the same place and Guantanamo Bay until 31 August. From Newport she conducted exercises off the east coast, evaluating her capabilities until 3 January 1956. Next she departed for her first European tour, stopping in England, Germany, and France and back to Rhode Island (10 February). For 5 years these east coast operations and NATO exercises went on.

In 1955, USS Mitscher cruised the Caribbean with the Commander Destroyer Force US Atlantic Fleet as flagshuo and in 1958 was visited by President Eisenhower to assist to the America’s Cup Challenge Races off Newport. She made her first South America tour before another off Northern Europe plus NATO Exercises. By November 1960, she moved south to Naval Station Charleston as flagship, Commander Destroyer Flotilla Six (CF6). On 9 February 1961, she made her first Mediterranean 6-month tour of duty (TOD) with 6th Fleet, as flagship, Admiral Anderson, 6th fleet CDR.

USS Mitscher off Cuba, Guantanamo Bay, January 1975

She returned to Newport, Rhode Island the next year and flagship, Commander Cruiser Destroyer Flotilla Two (CDF2). For 4 years, same homeport, she multiplied NATO exercises and those wit the 6th Fleet. In 1964 she made a 6-month Med TOD and by August she helped the evacuation of US nationals off Cyprus. She crossed the Suez Canal to patrol the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. In 1955 she made another 4 months Med TOD with the 6th Fleet.

Mitscher in 1980

On 2 March 1966, she was taken in hands at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for her missile destroyer conversion (18 March 1966-29 June 1968) with the new pennant DDG-35. In August 1970 she was in the Mediterranean tp host COMDESRON 1-4 and by July 1971 joined Destroyer Squadron 36 before another 1972 overhaul at Norfolk NYD. After a few years of uneventful service she was decommissioned and stricken on 1 June 1978, sold for BU in July 1980.

US Navy USS John S. McCain (DL-3)

USS John Mc. Cain was commissioned on 12 October 1953 at Boston Naval Shipyard, and after sea trials and shakedown to the Caribbean Sea she arrived at her homeport Norfolk on 19 May 1955, starting tests with the Operational Development Force. She later transited through Panama, arriving in San Diego on 4 December 1956, followed by five months of Pacific and California coast exercizes.
She made her first asian deployment from 11 April 1957: Australia, Formosa (Taiwan), interposing between Nationalist and Communist Chinese and back to San Diego on 29 September 1957.

USS John S. McCain underway on 30 September 1969
USS John S. McCain underway on 30 September 1969

By that time her new home port became Pearl Harbor and from 1958 she took part in fleet maneuvers, ASW drills for eight months. She returned in the South China Sea with the 7th Fleet as itwas feared an invasion of Quemoy and Matsu. She made a third deployment at the fall of 1959 (departure 8 September 1957), operating off Southeast Asia. She called Calcutta carrying medicine and food and to flood victims. In January 1960 she rescued the crew of Japanese freighter Shinwa Maru. Back in February in Hawaii, she started a long overhaul.

USS McCain in September 1969

Back at sea on 7 March 1961, 7th Fleet for six months, she operated off Laos and Vietnam. It was decided after USSR started, to launch a serie of Pacific tests. USS John S. McCain was posted to Johnston Island on 27 April 1962 as floating HQ. It was followed by regular runs between here and Hawaii unto late 1962, followed by patrols off the South China Sea, Gulf of Tonkin, in favor of South Vietnamese forces against the Viet Cong. Back in pearl on June 1963 she started ASW exercises from March 1964 with a hunter-killer group off Japan and in Philippine waters. She also operated wioth SEATO nations and the 7th Fleet. In 1965-66 she made another 6 month deployment and patrolled off South Vietnam.

“Guard ship”, 1962

On 24 November 1965 she was at war, shelling Viet Cong positions. She stopped to Hong Kong and Japan for rest and replensihment before returning in Vietnamese waters in 1966, before leaving for the East Coast, Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, and her long and complex conversion to a guided missile destroyer in 1966-69. She only was recommissioned on 6 September as DDG-36. She went on for more service, plagued however to that point by engine problems, until she was eventually decommissioned and stricken on 29–30 April 1978, sold on 13 December 1979 and BU.

US Navy USS Willis A. lee (DL-4)

Commissioned on 5 October 1954, USS Willis A. Lee made her shakedown cruise off Cuba and was also based in Newport, Rhode Island at first. After some time in the Atlantic she made her first Mediterranean tour by July 1955 with the 6th Fleet and after being back home, operated off the eastern seaboard, taking part notably in important air defense exercises.

Willis A Lee off Istambul in 1955

By February 1956 USS Willis A. Lee became a frigate and represented the US in the Dominican Republic (American Day, Ciudad Trujillo). During a storm in very bad visibility, she hit rocks at Jamestown on 18 March and spent tome in repair at Boston NyD. In November 1956, she tool part in ASW while recuring the crew of a fishing vessel, Agda sinking off Montauk Point. By February 1957, she hosted King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia, for his first visit to NyC. She also took part in Washington, D.C. to the birthday of George Washington ceremonies and was the main ship filmed in “Windjammer” showcasing North Atlantic ASW exercises. She also took part in an International Naval Review off Hampton Roads followed by a combined NATO exercized in the North Atlantic

Off Newport, Rhode Island, June 1957

The following years she made two TOD in the Mediterranean (6th Fleet), and east coast exercizes of ASW and air defense. Operation “Inland Sea” was her responsibility as flagship, RADM E. B. Taylor, (TF 47) in 1959, including a cruise to the Great Lakes via the brand new St. Lawrence Seaway. She stopped in Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, Erie and Cleveland. In 1960 she was Commander, Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet, visiting many Atlantic Fleet ports down to San Juan, St. Thomas, Ciudad Trujillo, followed by the annual Carribean Operation “Springboard”. After a midshipmen cruise she visited Montreal and NYC, taking part in LANTFLEX and then international Operation “Sword Thrust” with 60 European and Canadian vessels. She crossed the Arctic Circle fir a second time. She stopped at Le Havre and was back to Newport, then was overhaul as part as FRAM in Boston NyD.

Emerging from the shipyard in September 1961, USS Willis A. Lee took part in the rescue of Texas Tower No. 2 (off Massachusetts), before she was badly hit by Hurricane “Esther”, leading the tower to be abandoned. Next she spent much time evaluating her brand new bow sonar from mid-Atlantic to the Caribbean. This arrived quite right in 1962 as to break the blockade, Soviet Premier escorted convoys with Soviet Diesels subs. She took part in the “quarantine line” for 10 days.
In February 1963 she was overhauled at the Boston NyD, also for improving her experimental sonar system and made tests in Haitian waters, stopping at Port-au-Prince. Later she took the head of the Destroyer Development Group 2 experimenting ASW defence until the rest of 1963, and another stop at Boston. Evaluation cruises in 1964-65 were punctuated by Exercise “Steel Pike” a massive amphibious exercise. She was flagship, RADM Mason Freeman (Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla 2). Testing operations stopped by late 1965 for a lengthy overhaul directed at here unique powerplant, and modifications of her sonar system.

Lee underway in 1967-68
Lee underway in 1967-68

This routine of sonar development and testing from Newport and with fixes at Boston went on until 20 May 1967, followed by a Mediterranean tour from January 1968 and the Red Sea as flagship, COMMIDEASTFOR. Her propulsion problems proved faulty while off the coast of Brazil and she was repaired in Recife, Brazil, replaced by USS Luce (DLG-7) before heading for home. By January 1969 she was in Boston for a final overhaul. She was decommissioned in December 1969, sticken on 15 May 1972, sold for BU and towed to scrapyard on 5 June 1973.

US Navy USS Wilkinson (DL-5)

USS_Wilkinson_DL-5 late 1950s
The last of these fleet escort destroyers and destroyer leaders was laid down at Bethlehem Steele on 1 February 1950, launched on 23 April 1952 and commissioned on 29 July 1954. After shakedown cruise off Cuba, post-shakedown fixes and availability, she was prepared in her first home port, Newport in Rhode Island for her first mission on 21 February 1955, porting RADM Arleigh Burke’s flag as Commander, Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet. Burke would become Chief of Naval Operations and had a massive destroyer class named after him. His tour included San Juan (Puerto Rico) St. Thomas (Virgin Islands) and Guantánamo Bay, Havana in Cuba then back Key West in Florida, now as flagship for Commander, Destroyer Flotilla two (DesFlot 2) in the reorganized Atlantic Fleet’s ASW forces, starting exercises.

Weapon Alpha reloaded on Wilkinson in 1956

On 11 July 1955 she carried midshipmen for a training cruise to Edinburgh, Copenhagen, and back to Guantánamo Bay. She made another tour from 24 October 1955 for air defense exercises off Mexico, as flagship, DesFlot 6, stopping at New Orleans and Havana and back to Newport on 18 November, then a five-month overhaul with her 3 inch guns replaced by newer types and later new 3 in/70 battery while training off Guantánamo Bay. She called for Port-au-Prince, Charleston and Norfolk while taking part in large ASW maneuvers by June, earning the FY1956 Battle Efficiency “E.”

In July 1956, she departed fir San Diego via Panama and a first TOD in the Pacific Fleet, stopping in Havana, Balboa, Buena Ventura and vecoming flagship DesRon 17, forst of the Mitscher class in the Pacific Fleet. Until March 1957 she took part in many ASW, air defense, and amphibious exercises and soon after arrival on 14 September 1956 was part of a 70 fighting ships review off Long Beach. In April 1957 she went north to the Bering Sea and Aleutians (stopping at Kodiak and Dutch Harbor) and back to San Diego, touched at Esquimalt and Seattle, then San Francisco. RADM Chester Wood embarked for air defense/ASW exercises while later off Portland she was part of the annual Rose Festival activities.
New Home port became Long Beach in July 1957 and she was drydocked in 1958 for her troublesome power plant. She trained from September off Long Island and San Diego until December 1958. From January the next year she made her first WestPac cruise, arriving in Pearl Harbor and hitting Subic Bay, Buckner Bay, Kaohsiung (Taiwan) then Yokosuka and Kure and back to Long Beach with DesRon 19 Cdr aboard.
In 1959 after extra exercises off California she took part in the 1st Fleet review and started her second WestPac in October, joining the 7th Fleet for exercizes in the Taiwan Strait patrol. Back in March 1960, she had a 5 month overhaul, having her Combat Information Center enlarged and upgraded, new long-range air search radar, DASH installed. After six weeks of training off San Diego, month-long leave/upkeep she departed for her third WestPac on 3 January 1961 joining on the way DesDiv 191 in Pearl Harbor, Midway and Apra Harbor in Guam. March 1961 saw her in the South China Sea for the Laotian crisis, undeparting for home on 12 May.

She had upgrades in the Long Beach NyD by June (improved sonar), a refresher training (experiencing two accidental fires with victims) and was evaluated off Puget Sound, then exercized with submarines in the southern California operating area. She was to depart for her 4th WestPac on 17 June 1963, but went east, stopping en route at Acapulco and Salina Cruz before transiting Panama Canal to Newport and evaluations went on when she reached NyC, reclassified as “frigate” and continued testing her sonar system until May 1965. She also trained in the Caribbean and between Newport and New York, trained off Key West and Jacksonville. After an overhaul she trained again in Cuban waters (refresher) until 28 April 1966, helping the burning Norwegian pass. freighter Viking Princess.

After a stop at San Juan she was back in Newport on 2 May, then reached Boston for a large overhaul with a new sonar equipment mong other alterations and left on 15 August for sea trials and remained inactive at Newport apart a few steaming exercises (ISEs). She was in the Argentine waters for a review at Mar del Plata (4-8 February) and back on 5 March, reaching Bethlehem Steel Shipyard to receive a new data acquisition system for the sonar, participating later at the Veteran’s Day memorial services in Newport by 4 May. Next she was in Montreal, Canada for the “United States Week” in May, and the world’s fair Expo 67, being visited by President Lyndon B. Johnson, with her men serving as Presidential Honor Guard.
Back to Newport on 1 June and until late 1967, off Bahamas and Narragansett Bay she went one training mainly for ASW.

On 5 October she had a weak cleat snapping while her motor whaleboat was secured, striking a sailor, and returned quickly for his safety to Port Everglades. She was next at sea for more sonar tests with USS Grouper (AGSS-214), calling for Freeport (Grand Bahama) and back to Newport and upkeep at Norfolk NYD until December. In 1968 she went on with sonar technical evaluation and trained with USS Yosemite (AD-19) until a new overhaul at Boston NYD (13 September), and until June 1969. She visited NYC in July, trained in Narragansett Bay when was announced at the end of the year her decommissioned as part of budget cuts, entering Boston NYD for inactivation on 3 September 1969, then the Naval Inactive Ship Facility at Philadelphia, decommissioned on 19 December, but only stricken on 1 May 1974 sold on 13 June 1975.

Read More


John Gardiner’s Conways all the world’s fighting ships 1947-1995
Fahey, James C. (1965). The Ships and Aircraft of the United States Fleet, 8hth Edition. Annapolis USNI
Friedman, Norman (1982). U.S. Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis USNI
Friedman, Norman (1984). U.S. Cruisers: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis NIP.


Plans on northpoint

Model Kits

On scalemates: General1:350 Iron shipwright1:700 loose cannon

Wager class Destroyers (1950)

Wager class Destroyers (1950)

south african navy South African Navy (1950-80)
SAS Jan Van Riebeeck (D278), SAS Simon Van Der Stel (D237)

Wager class joins South African Navy:

SAS Jan Van Riebeeck
SAS Jan Van Riebeeck after conversion (C.Haycocks)

On 29 March 1950, South Africa received its first destroyer HMSAS Jan van Riebeeck (former HMS Wessex), at the HM Dockyard in Simons’s Town, with the British High Commissioner Sir Evelyn Baring officially handing the vessel over to the Union Government. Nearly three years later, the South African Navy would acquire her sister ship HMS Whelp, which was commissioned into the South African Navy on 23 February 1953 as SAS Simon van der Stel, with the letters HM being dropped from the names of SA naval vessels in June 1952.

Both ships were units of the Wager class of fleet destroyers, which formed the 9th flotilla of the Emergency War Construction Program, which was constructed between 1943 and 1944. These destroyers were cheaper editions to the earlier J, K and N class destroyers built. The Wager class destroyers were fitted with guns and mountings, which were readily available and was strongly built. They were excellent sea boats and could operate their weapons in almost any weather. Wager class destroyers gave exceptional service, and most of those who survived the war would end up joining post-war fleets, one example being the South
African Navy.

HMS Wessex
HMS Wessex, which was transferred to the South African Navy and renamed HMSAS Jan van Riebeeck on 29 March 1950 (Imperial War Museum)


Armaments and Electronics

The main task of destroyers at the beginning of World War Two was to protect friendly vessels from enemy vessels, such as other destroyers and even submarines. To accomplish this, they needed heavy armament in the form of both torpedoes and guns. The Wager class were the last British destroyers to be fitted with 4,7-inch guns. They were fitted with four single 4,7-inch mountings, two forward and two aft. Working in conjunction with the guns the vessel was equipped with a combined dual-purpose HA/LA director with a Mk III range finder incorporated on the bridge.

Secondary armament includes two quadruple 21-inch torpedo launchers, one twin 40mm Mk IV Hazemeyer Bofors (one quadruple two-pounder pom-pom anti-aircraft mounting fitted in Wessex and whelp) and four twin 20mm Oerlikons. Anti-submarine armament includes two depth-charge throwers on either side of the deckhouse aft and two rails at the stern. The Wager class were also the first destroyers in its entire class to be fitted with a heavy lattice foremast with Type 276 radar.


The Wager class destroyers were powered by two Admiralty 3-drum boilers, which were positioned in separate boiler rooms, back-to-back, enabling the uptakes to be turned into a single funnel. The steam turbines developing 40 000 horsepower were arranged in two sets in a single engine room and drove two shafts through single reduction gears positioned in a separate gearing room abaft the engine room. These vessels could achieve a top speed of 36,75 knots and travel a total distance of 4 680 nautical miles at 20 knots.

⚙ Specifications: Wager class (As Built)

Displacement: Standard 1 710 tons, Full Load 2 505 tons
Dimensions: 110,60m x 10,87m x 3,51m
powerplant: Two shafts Parsons SRGT turbines, two Admiralty 3D +Melesco superheaters, 40 000 hp
Speed and range: 36,75 knots, 4 680 nautical miles at 20 knots
Armament: -Four single 4,7-inch QFSA Mk9 low-angle guns
-One quadruple 2-pdr pom-pom
-Four twin 20mm Oerlikons Mk12
-Two quadruple 21-inch Mk7
-Four depth-charge throwers
-Two depth-charge rails stern
Electronics: See notes, Radar type 276
Crew: 179

Wager class at sea

Two years after commissioning, the SAS Jan van Riebeeck was most appropriately selected to represent the SA Navy at the Van Riebeeck festival held in Cape Town in April 1952 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck at the Cape. After the festival, she underwent a refit in Simon’s Town before returning to Durban, the home port of the SA Navy in those days. During the latter half of 1952, she conducted a month-long cruise to East African ports, including stops at Diego Suarez, Mombasa and Dar es Salaam. In early 1953 she sailed from Durban to Simon’s Town, where she was laid up in reserve to provide a crew for the commissioning of SAS Simon van der Stel. This became the norm throughout their long service with the South African Navy.

In 1954, a little over a year after being handed over to South Africa, the SAS Simon van der Stel, under the command of M R Terry Lloyed, made a historic cruise to northern waters, which lasted nearly five months. SAS Simon van der Stel sailed from Durban on 14 July 1954, making her first stop in Cape Town to top up with fuel and supplies before heading to Walvis Bay. She proceeded to Freetown in Sierra Leone, followed by Dakar, before arriving in Portsmouth on 31 July 1954. After spending two weeks alongside the British battleship HMS Vanguard in Portsmouth, SAS Simon van der Stel also paid a highly successful visit to Rotterdam, being the first and to date only South African war vessel to visit the Netherlands.

After the visit to the Netherlands, SAS Simon van der Stel returned to Portsmouth and then proceeded to Londonderry in Northern Ireland before going up the Clyde to Glasgow, which was later to become home to many South Africans involved in the construction of three Type 12 frigates built there during the early 1960s. On the return voyage to South Africa, SAS Simon van der Stel escorted the newly acquired Ford class Seaward Defence Boat SAS Gelderland. The two vessels left Portsmouth on 21 October 1954 and after encountering bad weather with waves continually breaking over the bridge of the much smaller SAS Gelderland, the decision was made to visit the French naval port of Brest to wait out the bad weather before continuing.

SAS Simon van der Stel and SAS Gelderland continued on their journey, making stops at Lisbon, Las Palmas, Dakar, Abidjan, Pointe Noire, Walvis Bay, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth before finally arriving at Durban on 8 December 1954. SAS Simon van der Stel has covered a distance of 17 200 nautical miles and has been away from her home port for a total of 147 days. After four years in commission, SAS Simon van der Stel was decommissioned on 18 February 1957 and joined her sister ship in reserve.

Modernisation program

Whilst both ships were laid up, the striking power of the SA navy came under intense review. By this time, the rapid advances in submarine designs and technology meant the two destroyers were not as capable anymore of countering enemy submarines. The use of shipborne helicopters with anti-submarine capabilities would appear to be the answer; thus plans were drawn up to convert both ships into fast, helicopter-carrying anti-submarine escorts. The first ship to be taken in for modernisation was SAS Simon van der Stel, which was taken in hand by the SA Naval dockyard in Simon’s Town in 1962. SAS Simon van der Stel was recommissioned on 27 February 1964 when work started on the modernisation of SAS Jan van Riebeeck.

The conversion, which gave the ships unique silhouettes, included fitting a flight deck and a hanger for two Westland Wasp HAS Mk 1 helicopters for standoff weapons delivery. The main armament, four single 4,7-inch guns were replaced by 4-inch guns in twin Mk 19 mountings, one forward and one aft. SAS Simon van der Stel initially shipped a modified gun-director system, but this was later replaced by an Elsag NA9 fire control system, similar to that fitted in SAS Jan van Riebeeck during her refit. The operations room of each ship was also enlarged, and a great deal of new electronic equipment was fitted, along with new communications systems, with the Type 293 search radar and masthead being retained.

4-inch guns in twin Mk 19
4-inch guns in twin Mk 19 mountings at the SA Naval Museum (R.Ackerman)

On SAS Simon van der Stel all the secondary armament was removed and replaced by four single 40/60 Bofors, two fitted on each side of the bridge structure and two on the flight deck. Both depth charge rails were retained, as well as two of the four depth charge throwers. One of the two quadruple 21-inch torpedo launchers was removed in order to make space for the flight deck, the remaining torpedo launcher would be removed at a later stage.

During the SAS Jan van Riebeeck modernisation program the ship was fitted with the two single 40/60 Bofors on the bridge and two triple Mk 32 anti-submarine torpedo tubes on the flight deck in place of the two single 40/60 Bofors and would also retain the depth charge rails and throwers. At a later stage, SAS Simon van der Stel would receive the same modification as SAS Jan van Riebeeck with the removal of the two single 40/60 Bofors on the flight deck and the addition of two triple Mk 32 anti-submarine torpedo tubes, making both ships nearly identical.

SAS Jan van Riebeeck
SAS Jan van Riebeeck at the SA Naval dockyard in Simon’s Town (D. Harrison)

⚙ Specifications: Wager class (As Frigates)

Displacement: Standard 2,105 tons, Full Load 2,750 tons
Speed and range: 31,25 knots, same
Armament: -Two twin 4-inch guns in Mk19 dual-purpose mountings
-Two single 40/60 Bofors Mk9
-Two triple-barrelled Mk32 launchers
-Two depth charge throwers, Two depth charge rails
Onboard Aviation: Two Westland Wasp HAS Mk1 helicopters armed with:
Mk44 anti-submarine torpedoes
or Mk11 depth charges
Electronics: See notes, Radar type 293
Crew: 186-210

Wager class in reserve

Once the modernisation was completed for the SAS Simon van der Stel, the vessel remained in commission for just over a year before being placed in reserve in March 1965. This was due to a manpower shortage, brought about by the commissioning of three new Type 12 frigates (President class frigates) by the South African Navy. The SAS Jan van Riebeeck would also end up in the same position as her sister ship, after completing its trials in July 1966, being placed in reserve due to the manpower shortage, as a result of the new frigates being commissioned.

After spending three years in reserve, SAS Simon van der Stel was recommissioned on 17 June 1968 and joined the 10th Frigate Squadron, this however was short-lived and on 1 October 1968 SAS Simon van der Stel withdrew from frontline service and became an independent unit employed as a training vessel. Later in October 1968, SAS Simon van der Stel would visit Lourenco Marques in company with the SAS Kimberly and the SAS
Mosselbaai, where they took part in ceremonies, leading up to the unveiling of a Garden of Remembrance to the Voortrekker leader Louis Trichardt.

After numerous flag-showings and training cruises, SAS Simon van der Stel was finally decommissioned at sunset on 27 March 1972, with her role as a training vessel being taken over by her sister ship SAS Jan van Riebeeck, which has gone through an extensive electronic and general refit in March 1971 and being recommissioned for limited service on 12 April 1972. With South African Navy flag showings not taking place as often anymore the SAS Jan van Riebeeck would once again be placed in reserve in late 1975 after only a few years of serving as a training vessel.

SAS Simon van der Stel
SAS Simon van der Stel’s stern, anchored (Cape Times)

The end of the Wager class

By the time SAS Jan van Riebeeck was placed into reserve in 1975, the SAS Simon van der Stel had temporalty been reactived after its decommissioning. With only a skeleton crew, the vessel was escorted to Durban by the SAS President Kruger in early 1975, where it was planned to refit the vessel at the newly reopened Salisbury Island Naval Base. However, it was subsequently found that the general state of the ship was such that it would not be economically viable to refit the vessel.

In late 1976, SAS Simon van der Stel was stripped of all her useful gear before finally being scrapped by Sandock Austral at their Bay-Head yard. Despite her lowly end, her hanger structure eventually became a temporary paint shop at the yard, a sad reminder of a once proud ship. A few years later the SAS Jan van Riebeeck would also meet its end and be stripped of all her useful equipment. On March 1980 she was used as a missile target some sixty nautical miles south of Cape Point. Here she was sent to the bottom of the ocean in an exercise to prove the effectiveness of the weapon system fitted to the SA Navy’s new Minster class Strike craft.

The thirty-six-year-old vessel was torn apart by a single Skerpioen (Scorpion) surface-to-surface missile fired by the strike craft SAS Jim Fouche from over the horizon, which struck the vessel amidship leaving a huge hole. As a result of her light condition and the calm seas prevailing, it was necessary for additional participating units to engage her before she sunk. Her final moments above the waves obscured by dense smoke.

SAS Jan van Riebeeck after being hit by a Skerpioen missile 1980 (D. Collopy)

20/08/2022 By Reinhardt Ackerman

Read More/Src

Toit, A. D. 1992. South Africa’s Fighting Ships Past and Present . Ashanti Publishings (Pty) Ltd, pp. 193-200.
Wessels, A. 2022.A centuary of South African naval history.Naledi, pp. 95-99, 147-151.

Clemenceau class Aircraft Carriers (1957)

Clemenceau class Aircraft Carriers (1957)

French Navy (1957)

For this 14 of july 2022, French national holiday, here is the Clemenceau class carriers: Clemenceau and Foch were the first purpose-designed aircraft carriers in France since the Joffre class in 1938. They were somewhat inspired by the modernized Essex class, and became the only CATOBAR carriers in Europe in the late 1970s. They were decommissioned in 1997 and 2000, although Foch was sold to Brazil as Sao Paulo and served for another 17 years.

In short, the Clemenceau class were practically the only French carriers active for most of the cold war. France however had operated before they were completed the former British Dixmude (ex- HMS Bitter C3 converted escort vessel) until 1960, Arromanches (ex- HMS Colossus) in 1946-74, and Lafayette (ex-Langley) and Bois Belleau (Belleau Woods) both fast light carriers of the Independence class in 1950-63. They were replaced by FS Charles de Gaulle (R91) after a long study for a nuclear carrier class planned since 1982.

Grumman F-14A Tomcats from VF-14 (USS JF Kennedy) fly over FS Foch (R99) in the Carribean Sea 1 May 1990 during an exercize

Design development

PA 28, the early draft

Since the old Béarn to the point of being deactivated, France in 1945 started studies for a replacement, in part based on studies already done for the purpose-built Joffre class. This led to a first design, called the PA28 Aircraft Carriers (1947). The initial “Clemenceau” was a secret project woekd on in occupied France, as an improvement over the late 1930s Joffre design.

It was planned to built it as soon as the war ended. By August 1947 the design was approved, construction ordered, to be laid down at Brest as “PA28”. Design-wise, it was in part inspired by British light carrier design. The straight flight deck was armoured, both hangars were offset to port, two lifts 15 x 10 m carried 12 tons installed forward and aft of the island and to stop planes, seven arrestor cables. Launches used two steam-driven catapults.

The propulsion system was basically twice the one used on the Mogador class large destroyers, for 105,000 hp and 32 knots. The AA rested on eight twin 100 mm turrets fore and aft, six twin 57 mm (So 24 in all) and 45 aicraft carried. As planned, a mix of Piston engines Fighters SNCASE SE 580 and Jets SNCAC NC1070. In 1949, after a change of minister, the design was revised and considered already outdated, while recent US upgrades planned on WW2 shown a new path more favourable for heavier jets. The PA28 was cancelled in 1950.

Specifications: 15,700/20,000 tons, 214/230 m oa x 25.4m/36 x x 6.5 m, 2 shaft Parsons turbines, Complement: 1800.

PA 54, a brand new 1953 design.

By the early 1950s, the French Navy had no less than four aircraft carriers in service, all dating back from the war: The most modern and larger was Arromanches, ex- British Colossus, followed by rather small vessels, the escort Dixmude (hms Biter) and two Independence class (Lafayette and Bois Belleau). All were fine for piston engine aircraft, but way too small to operated modern aircraft, jets in particular.

To ensure France remained independence in aicraft carrier construction two modern fleet carriers were planned, the first being about 35,000 tons each, comparable, but smaller than the Audacious-class carriers. Built from scratch would be the occasion of taking on the latest ideas in aircraft carrier design: They would be equipped at the onset with an angled flight deck, steam catapults and mirror landing aid now widespread in US and British carriers. They would operate a new generation of French designed jets as well.

The previous PA 28 being cancelled, the initial draft for the new carriers was prepared by the Naval General Staff in 1949. It asked for four aircraft carriers of 20,000 tons, delivered in two phases. After a meeting 22 August 1949, the Supreme Council of the Navy asked for six. On 15 July 1952 however amidst economic hardships, the French Navy looked for a total of up to five for the whole French Union that would not all be available to NATO.

According to RCM 12 after the Lisbon Conference of 1952, France was asked to have a carrier ready at NATO’s request on the first day, two on the 30th and three at 180, which implied laying down three keels in close order. However, plans changed gradually and by 1953 the Navy reorganized it’s strenght around just two tasks forces to cover all her needs, which implied only two aircraft carriers.

PA 54 was budgeted in 1953 but delayed until November 1955. She was in between named “Clemenceau” after PM Georges Clemenceau nicknamed the “tiger”, in charge from 1917. Next was PA 55 Foch, budgeted FY1955, and also delayed until February 1957. She was named after the WWI French entente generalissimo, Marshall Ferdinand Foch.

Detailed design

These were a class of multi-role aircraft carriers, in order to replace all WW2 era ships provided until then. They took everything that was appealing to the admirakty from the British and US models but in the end for their general appearance, they leaned more strongly to the latter. This was overall a small but effective design, like a mix od modernized Essex SCB-27C or even a Forrestal (also in construction at the time) but on a smaller scale for the latter. At the time, missile development was less advanced than in the UK or the US and thus, an all-gun armament was retained. The designers did not anticipated later additions making the ships top-heavy and requiring bulging the hull to solve stability issues.

The Clemenceau-class were conventional CATOBAR designs, launching standard jets through catapults. There was bi debate about the issue. There was a continuation of WW2 designs, years before any STOVL prototype was even in the works. Helicopters were also not a thing for power projection and thus a conventional park was though of from the beginning. At 22,000 standard tonnes and 32,780 max fully loaded, the two Clemenceau class were half the size of a Forrestal, and comlparable to WW2 Essex class, or the unbuilt Malta class. They measured 265 m (869 ft) overall at flight deck level, for a beam of 51.2 m (168 ft) and Draught of 8.6 m (28 ft).

Crew: Number of officers: 80, Number of petty officers: 500, Number of quartermasters and sailors: 800


Rudder wheel aboard Clemenceau

Clemenceau’s (PA 54 class) powerplant was classic. At the time, it is not clear if the French Navy knew the US were working on nuclear powerplant for their carriers and submarines, but in France its development was just started and lack funding. Its adoption was out of question. The radical impulse in the French nuclear program, also carried out for propulsion, started in 1958 under the impulsion and unrelentless drive of De Gaulle. Therefore since 1954 it was envisioned a classic powerplant, taking example of the one planned for the Gascoigne class fast battleships. It consisted two sets of the latest Parsons geared steam turbines fed by 6 Indret boilers. It was quite remarkable for a ship of this size with a figure of 63,000shp per shaft only surpassed only by USN super carriers.

Engine control panel

After their 1978-1980 refit the PA 54 had the following:
-Four propeller shafts (diameter)
-Four RB geared steam turbines
-Six massive double-ended small tubes oil-fired with injectors, very high pressure boilers
-Grand total output 126,000 shp.

-Top Speed: 32 knots (59 km/h) (32.5-33 knots on trials)
-Range as planned: 7,500 miles/18 kts or 3 500 miles nautical @ 32 knots

-2 alternative diesel power unit (2000 KW)
-2 turbo-alternators (2000 KW)

As of note, the range was short, compared to larger USN carriers at around 10,000 nm, but it was fit for the Mediterranean and a good achievement for their size.


The passive protection consisted in some classic armour, with the following:
-Fully Armored flight deck 2-in (45 mm)
-Armored boxes above the machinery space: 2.5-in (50 mm)
-Box around the ammunition holds: 1-in (30 mm)
-Citadel: Sides, bulkheads and deck of the hangar: 2-in (51 mm) of reinforced plates.


For 1954 when they were first studied, missile development was in its infancy in France, and thus, guns were retained for thes carriers at the start. It comprised only a single type: The new French turret developed as a universal gun, eight 100mm in sponsons, two fore and aft on both sides, in sponsons. This classic configuration was coherent with British and US practices of WW2 and the 1950s.
Although lesser-hitting than US pattern 5-in guns, they were faster-firing. These successful models updated in 1964 and 1968 were also used by the Bundesmarine, and the Navies of Belgium, Portugal, Turkey, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan and Bulgaria. As of note, four turrets replaced by two missile batteries and finally the last four replaced in 1997 by two SADRAL systems. In the 1980s also five cal.05 Browning M2HB (12.7 mm) machine guns were installed for close-in defence, intimidation and training.

8x 100 mm

100 mm M68 on Foch after decommission

First generation M53. 55 cal., firing a 100 x 700mmR HR fuse shell. In brief:

  • Elevation: 29°/s
  • Traverse: 40°/s
  • Rate of fire: 78 round/min
  • Muzzle velocity: 870 m/s
  • Effective firing range: 17,000 m (elevation 40°)
  • Maximum practical range: 6,000 m aerial/12,000 m surface targets

FS Clemenceau main guns turrets

Stern sponsons details. FS Clemenceau waiting to be BU.

SACP Crotale EDIR systems (52 missiles)

Crotale system (here on FS Tourville)

This system was installed during the 1980s refits on both carriers. The Crotale EDIR (Ecartométrie Différentielle Infrarouge) works with the radars DRBV 15 and DRBV 51B/C. Guidance rests on auto alignment and fuse detonation. Each system comprises three elements, the launch turret equiped with a Thomson Ku-band Target Pointer and 8 canisters. Under the turret launcher is the FCS comprising a radar data display and digital compruting system with display. The third part is the storage area, behind the deck and tailored for 18 spare missiles, with a lift for a full 30 minutes reload (all eight missiles). This is a derivative of the 1971 design Crotale R-440 in use in many armies. The Chinese PLAN also used its own derivative version on the Type 05212, Type 053H313 et Type 054A vessels.

Sadral SATCP systems

Installed in 1997. This system derived from the short SAM (barery larger than a MANPAD). This Mount comprises 6 Mistral missiles with an automatic fire control of the FCR or EO systems. They carried a 2.95 kgs payload to 930 m/sec or Mach 2.71 via infrared homing to any target in the vicinity of 6 km. Short range indeed. This system was merely adopted for the last refit of FS Foch destined to the Brazilian Navy, replacing the remaining 100 mm guns for and aft in combination with the Crotales.


Both were equipped with the following systems over time:
-Radars DRBV-20C, DRBV-23B, DRBV-50, NRBA-50, CCA.
-Fire control radars: two DRBI-10, two DRBC 32A, two DRBC 31D
-SQS-503 sonar (fixed), removed in 1980
-ECM suite ARBR-16, ARBX-10
-Docoy launcher: 2x Syllex Rocket Launcher
-CCS: SENIT-1 Central Combat System
-Satnav: Syracuse, Fleetsatcom

Aviation Facilities

The landing area is 165.5 m (543 ft) long, 29.5 m (97 ft) wide angled at 8 degrees off of the ship’s axis. The flight deck was 265 m (869 ft) overall and its forward aircraft elevator was a side one, placed to starboard, as placed on US carriers, while the rear one was also placed the deck edge.

The ships had a single BS-5 steam catapult forward, both 52 m (171 ft) long at the bow, and a single BS-5 waist catapult on the angled landing deck. The hangar measured 152 m (499 ft) by 22 m (72 ft) fwd and 24 m (79 ft) aft, 7 m (23 ft) high, leaving plenty of room to spare for the parked aviation.

They also carried 1 800 m³ tons of jet fuel and 1100 liters (400 m³) of aviation gasoline (avgas) plus 3 000 m³ of ammunition for her air group alone. This was a far cry to the capacity onboard US supercarriers though and designed for shorter and less intensive deployments.

Air Group

French Aeronavale
French Aeronavale, 1980s air group.

Super-Etendard and F-8 aboard Clemenceau

1950-60s: The first commissioned air group only comprised 40 aicraft, half that on US supercarriers of the time. The mark comprised SE.20 Aquilon 202/203 jets, Étendard IVM/P fighters and the Br.1050 Alizé ASW planes.

In 1967 Clémenceau had aboard six F-8E(FN) superiority fighters, 18 Étendard IVM attack aicraft and 8 Alizé ASW piston-power aircraft.
In 1977, she had ten F-8E(FN) Crusader fighters, still sixteen Étendard IVM and four Étendard IVP for reconnaissance, six Alizé ASW and an helicopter park of two Super Frelon heavy SAR and two light Alouette II SAR and liaison helicopters.
In 1983, FS Foch still carried her six F-8E(FN) crusader fighters, alonsgide fifteen Super Étendard and three Étendard IVP plus five Alizé and six Super Frelon helicopters.

Their last 1990s air group at the time of the Gulf war comprised ten F-8E(FN) fighters, sixteen Super Étendard, three Étendard IVP, seven Alizé and two Alouette III.
The Dassault Rafale was the designed replacement for the F8 Crusader, but development dragged on so much the F8 was kept until their decommission, despite modifications made to operate the Rafale M (“marine”).

Alouette III used for SAR in the 1970s

PA 58 (Verdun class), the successor “atomic carrier”

As soon as the Clemenceau class was approved, the admiralty planned its next class, much larger in order to operate large jets able to operate nuclear strikes. Known as PA58 it was advanced enough for the Navy to have named the lead ship FS Verdun. Much larger than the PA54 (Clemenceau) they reached 45,000 tons, twice as much as the PA54, looking at the first Super-carriers like the Forrestal class. The ship reached 286 m overall, and was 34 m wide for 58 m wide flight deck, much more than the Clemenceau. It was still much smaller than the US carriers and the air group, much reduced in comparison.

Despite it’s atomic strike capabilities, nuclear power in France was not advanced enough to fir the new carrier with a nuclear plant, and thus, Steam turbines on 4 shafts for 200,000 shp and 33 knots was the solution chosen. Parking size on deck was larger, aircraft handling improved, with two larger, heavy capacity (22 tonnes) lifts, two large catapults forward and the same angled deck as the PA54. Armament comprised from the start two Masurca SAM systems on side sponsons plus eight 100 mm guns fore and aft of the flight deck on sponsons. The SAMs were placed just like on the Kitty Hawk class.

The air group was a repeat of the Clemenceau class, but with the addition of a squadron of Mirage IVM navalized version of the French atomic bomber. The Mirage IVM weighted 20 tons and so required new lifts and catapults. The rest comprised a park of Alizé ASW aircraft and Etendard fighter-bombers plus SAR helicopters for a total of 50 aicraft. In 1960, the admiralty considered the many delays and budget issues with the project, and eventually downgraded it without the Masurca SAM. Considered this time irrelevant, the program was terminated in 1961.

The result of these studies was the adoption of a nuclear strike aboard Foch and Clemenceau, carrying the AN52 nuclear bomb, which was brough to the objective bu a Super-Etendard, despite its limited range. A brand new carrier, this time nuclear-powered was announced in 1980 with the PAN program. Delays accumulated as discussions of a partnearship with the Ryla Navy which had broadly simlar requirements, although on a conventional basis. In the end, the Charles De Gaulle (R91) diverged considerably from the joint French-British project and PAN 2 was cancelled in the post-cold war budget cuts.

Infographics from wikimedia CC, Yannick Le Bris, from DCAN plans via Martine Destouches from Châtellerault archives.

⚙ Clemenceau’s 1961 Specs

Dimensions 9,085 t, 11,100 t FL
Displacement 180.5/187m x 20.3m x 6.5 m
Propulsion 2 CEM Parsons geared steam turbines, 4 boilers,
Performances 877,000 hp, 33 knots, range 4,000 nm
Armament Eight twin 127 mm M1958 DP, ten twin 57 mm M1951 AA guns
Sensors Radar DRBV 20A, DRBI 10
Crew 977

Clemenceau refits & modernizations

1966: Clemenceau had bulges fitted (like Foch).
1978: Lifts capacity increased to 20 tonnes and SENIT-1 CCS and SENIT-2 CCS installed
1986: Four 100mm/55 removed for 2×8 Crotale Navale SAM (36 R440) installed, as well as the radars DRBV-20C, DRBV-50, NRBA-50 and two Syllex decoy chaff launchers. The DRBV-15, and NRBA-51 radars were installed and Sagaie decoy RL, displacement rising to 27,307/32,780 tonnes.
1992: Two twin Simbad SAM (8 Mistral).
1997: Four 100mm/55 removed and 2×6 Sadral SAM (24 Mistral) installed and later two 30mm/82 OTO Breda-Mauser Model F for the Brazilian Navy.

Foch refits & modernizations

1966: Same as Clemenceau: Bulges added
1980: From July 15, 1980 to August 15, 1981, Foch had a major overhaul in Toulon: Internal quarters installations, living quarters, flight deck, propulsion system with 2 additional boilers, SENIT 2 satnav system and television network proving infos to all departments, inertial unit for Super-Etendard reclalibration, bunkers layout fit to house the AN 52 tactical nuclear weapon.

1987-88: From February 1987 to June 1988 Foch received two Crotale EDIR replacing the four aft turrets, and a DRBV 15 radar, 2 chaff EW Sagaie system and the Syracuse + Inmarsat satnav and transmission systems, modernized SENIT with links 11 and 14, CSEE DALLAS laser/IR camera landing assistance system, SNTI intercom, Minicin inertial navigation unit and ammunition bunkers fit to manage the ASMP cruise missile. The the fixed SQS-503 sonar was removed.

1993: Foch had some mofifications on the launching system to test the Dassault Rafale Marine, taking place in April 19-20 this year. For better NATO operability she was also fitted with the US Fleetsatcom transmission system, 2 OE-82 antennas and the AIDCOMER system.

1995-97: From September 1995 to September 1997 she had her last radical upgrade before being resold to Brazil: The while propulsion system was modernized; New boilers and control systems, and two Sadral SATCP systems installed to replace last turrets forward and aft port and starboard plus the latest SENIT 8/01 (SARA) combat system.

✚ Read More/Src

Shipbucket rendtition by Vossieln via


Short construction video footage in US news of the time
Comparison with HMS Audacious
100 mm gun on
The 100mm on

On bbc news 2009
Kagero Book/topdrawings


❏ John Gardiner Conway’s all the world’s fighting ships 1947-1995 (1978, reedition 1990)
❏ Boniface, Patrick (September 2015), “Clemenceau carriers”, Ships Monthly: 46–49
❏ War Machines Encyclopedia, Aerospace Publishing Ltd, London, 1984, p.476
Plans: ArromanchesLafayetteDixmudeJoffreBearnFoch

The models corner:

Heller 1:400

1:400 Foch Heller’s starter kit
. The company also proposes a full 3-ship pack sea supply including Clemenceau/Foch, a Durance class tanker and Dupetit-Thouras class Frigate. Or FS Charles de Gaulle.

The famous 1:400 Heller Kit (likely out of stock). It was also poposed by HP-Models at 1:700, Progresswerk Nürnberg 1:400, Shizukyo (SK) 1:1000, Blue Ribbon Collectors Series, but also Heller, Lodela and ADA XIEDA at 1:1750 for wargaming.Query

Marine Alouette III from FS Clemenceau

FS Clemenceau (1957)

The construction start date dates from May 26, 1954 and the assembly of the first prefabricated elements (at the Brest arsenal) began in December 1955 at basin no. 9 in Laninon (DCAN). Launched on December 21, 1957, the Clemenceau carried out its first sea trials on November 23, 1959. Admitted to active service on November 22, 1961 and assigned to the aircraft carrier group (ALPA), she immediately sailed for Toulon where it will be based initially.

From January 29, 1962, she participated until February 5 in the BigGame NATO exercise, with the US Sixth Fleet (USS Saratoga and USS Intrepid aircraft carriers), in the Western Mediterranean, as an anti-aircraft carrier. submarine, then he continues, from March 9 to April 2 with the NATO exercise Dawn Breeze VII, in the Gibraltar area.

Ckemenceau’s deck between Upgrades, in 1970 and 1990

During her long career, Clemenceau took part in the majority of French naval operations:

  • 1968: deployment of Force Alfa in the Pacific;
  • 1974-1977: operations Saphir I and II in the Indian Ocean for engagement and protection during the independence of the Republic of Djibouti;
  • 1983-1984: Operation Olifant in the eastern Mediterranean during the Lebanese civil war;
  • 1987-1988: Operation Prometheus in the Arabian Sea during the war between Iran and Iraq;
  • 1990: Operation Salamander in the Red Sea and Arabian Sea during the conflict between Iraq and Kuwait;
  • 1993-1996: Operation Osprey then Salamander in the Adriatic Sea during the Yugoslav civil war.

Between 1959 and 1997, FS Clemenceau underwent like Foch numerous modifications, among which the the “Crusader Capability” in 1966, “nuclear qualification” on December 10, 1978 with five AN-52 bombs and medium-range ASMP cruise misiles from 1993, 2 “Crotale” EDIR systems in 1985, modernization of its propulsion and detection system. In 1960s and 1970s, the two aircraft carriers were often moored side by side at the “aircraft carrier berth” in Brest’s harbor.

She sailed on all oceans and seas of the world. At the end of her career, she cumulated one million nautical miles, 48 times around the globe, having spent 3,125 days at sea, with 80,000 hours of air operation, more than 70,000 catapult launches.

In 1983, she also disrupted a long tradition as the first Marine Nationale seagoing vessel to greet female personnel on board. The three women were an Army doctor, senior master military secretary and first quartermaster. Of course this will change on the long run and peak to around 20% recently.

Faithful to another long-held tradition of Marine Nationale, while anchored in Toulon, she welcomed on board many painter artists like Maurice Boitel, Gaston Sébire (official painter of the Navy) and others. Her Junior Officers’ Wardroom was decorated with an oil on canvas by naval painter Mathurin Méheut. Filmmaker Pierre Schoendoerffer, which immortalized the French Indochina war, and was himself a navy veteran, also sailed on board in 1981, from Brest to Hamburg.

Clemenceau, overhead view, in 1981

Throughout her lengthy career, the “clem” as she was popularly known by her crew and the French public at large, participated almost all major French naval operations. From 12 January to 5 February 1962, her firdt test was NATO exercise BigGame with the US 6th Fleet, in the western Mediterranean. There she acted as ASW aircraft carrier. From 9 March to 2 Aprilshe took part in NATO’s Dawn Breeze VII, in the Gibraltar zone.

-From January 1968, Clemenceau took part in the large research for the recently disappeared submarine Minerve, in the Mediterranean. Contact was lost just 25 nautical miles from Toulon, her home port. On 22 July 2019 French Defence Minister Florence Parly announced her wreck had been discovered, and causes of her loss now more clear. That was also a great relief for the crew’s relatives, so many yeasr after the event. Minerve’s wreck is now a grave site.

-Also in 1968, Clemenceau was deployed for the first time to the south Pacific. She assisted to preparation and detonation in French Polynesia of Canopus, first French hydrogen bomb. As the centerpiece of Alfa Force she assumed the defence of two atolls where at that time was assembled more than 40% of the entire French navy in tonnage. Clemenceau as flagship directed forty ships. This was at the time also one of the largest fleet in the pacific, outside the US 7th fleet and JSDMF. However at the time, De Gaulle decided to keep France out of NATO and she no longer took part in joint exercizes.

-In 1974–1977, Clemenceau was deployed off the African coast and Indian Ocean. She took part in Operation Saphir I and Saphir II to defend the recently obtained concession of Djibouti, transformed into a naval base.

-In 1983–84 saw her deployed off the Lebanese coast during the Civil War, rotating with Foch and providing constant air support to French peacekeepers operating within the Multinational Force in Lebanon and the United Nations Interim Force (UNIFIL) in what was called Operation Olifant.

Super-Etendards launched from FS Clemenceau in 1980s operations.

-In 1987–1988 she took part in Operation Prométhée in the Gulf of Oman, as observer and to protect trade in the red sea during the Iran-Iraq war. The Promethée battle force, called Task Force 623, centered around Clemenceau, also comprised the mine counter-measures support ship Loire, the fleet tankers Meuse, Var, and Marne.

-In 1990, she took part in Operations Desert Shield & Operation Desert Storm. Under escort of the missile cruiser Colbert and the tanker Var, she carried 40 army antitank helicopters SA-341F/342 Gazelle and transport SA-330 Pumas, plus trucks. The French side of the 1991 campaign was called Operation Salamandre in the Red and Arabian Seas until the liberation of Kuwait.

-In 1993-1996 Clemenceau experienced three tours of duty off the former Yugoslavia: Operation Balbuzard in support the UN troops. She also later took part in Operation Salamandre in the Adriatic Sea. Her later years were less impressive and she remained mostly in the Mediterranean for her last sorties in between maintenance rounds, which proved more difficult as time passed.


In Brest, 2008, before being transferred to UK for scrapping.

On 31 December 2005, Clemenceau left Toulon and sailed to Alang in India to be BU, despite ecologist protests about improper disposal. On 6 January 2006, the Supreme Court of India denied access to Alang and the ship was boarded by activists held by Egyptian authorities when transiting the Suez Canal. Eventually the French Conseil d’État ordered Clemenceau back to France, and the British Graythorp yard near Hartlepool was tasked to scrap her in far better conditions. It started on 18 November 2009 and ended in late 2010.

FS Foch (1959)

F-14 Tomcats from USS JF Kennedy above FS Foch during a joint exercises in 1990.

In brief

  • In 1966, Foch took part in Force Alfa, in the Pacific French nuclear experiments. She was relieved by FS Clemenceau.
  • In 1977 she was in the Red Sea to relieve Clemenceau, to protect the independence of Djibouti (Operation Saphir II).
  • In 1978 she was redeployed in the Red Sea, always for Operation Saphir II.
  • In 1983, she took part in supporting the French contingent deployed in Lebanon (Operation Olifant), rotating with Clemenceau and providing constant air support to French peacekeepers in coordination with UNIFIL.
  • From 1993 to 1999, she took part in Operations Balbuzard, Salamandre and Trident (Osprey, Salamander, Trident) in the Adriatic. It was part of the deployment off former Yugoslavia in coordination with UNPROFOR, SFOR, and KFOR. Foch was tasked of the close protection of French elements in thes eoperations, and carrying out air strikes when directed by UN and NATO HQ.

In 1992 for the first time she deployed the Dassault Rafale for its first tests, after deck modifications made in preparation to and operate it. These tests went on in 1995-96 after further deck modifications.

Combat history

Etendard IVM and Super-Etendard aboard FS Foch in 1983

Her “near-duel” in which her French F-8 Crusaders had a serious confrontation was On 7 May 1977: Two Crusaders on patrol were interecepting for an exercizes French Air Force (4/11 Jura squadron) F-100 Super Sabres stationed at Djibouti. The flight leader initiated a dogfight but quickly called his wingman for help as it happened these were not the expected French jets but two Yemeni MiG-21 Fishbeds. Master armament was switched to “on” but, but after a few passes, all four fighters wisely disengaged.

Super Etendards launched from Foch off Lebanon, 1983
Super Etendards launched from Foch off Lebanon, 1983

In October 1984, Foch took part in Operation Mirmillon off the coast of Libya due to the Gulf of Sidra crisis (International waters claimed by Libyan leader Khaddafi). She flew many sorties, spotted Lybian jets but unlike US Navy’s F-14s, never was closed enough to engage Libyan jets, most of which were Mig-21 and 23.

Operation Dragon Hammer, 1992
Operation Dragon Hammer, 1992

During the Yugoslav Wars in the summer of 1993, winter of 1994, and summer 1994 she was in close support of UN operations, deploying her F-8 Crusaders to encfoce the no fly zone, and Super Étendards. Later in 1998 she deployed the same super-etendards for close strike missions over Serbia in 1999. She lost no planes, despite two SAM being launched one day. However she had to be withdrawed earlier than expected after four continuous months, longest yet, in part due to problems with her catapult system. and sadly other sites reports also a mutiny in 1999 as cause for her departure. It indeed happened, but its story was amplified by a disgruntled former (Ret.) officer, which faslely reported to the press at the time that 60 volunteers of Maghrebi descent took the captain hostage in the cafeteria to protest against French raids on several sites in Kosovo, considered holy for the Muslim.

Replenishment at sea (RAS), called in french RAM (RavitAillement en Mer)

This had been debunked since in Cols Bleus Magazine, the official navy review. Instead of the alleged commando operation, a few gendarmes solved the issue, and six sailors (not of Maghrebi decent) only were ousted of the ship because of their conduct, and repatriated to Hyères NAS. There was indeed general discontent of some recently enlisted young recruits after a four-month non-stop deployment with only two short stops in Trieste, during Operation Trident. Sadly this fake new is still found on some websites.

In 2000, Foch made her last deployment. She led Task Force 473 on a four month around-the-world tour. In fiction she appeared in the 1995 film “Crimson Tide” with American journalist Richard Valeriani playing himself aboard reporting. Foch also appears in Tom Clancy’s 1986 novel “Red Storm Rising”.

As São Paulo

sao paulo

Foch was in disposal until September 2000, afetr negociations with the Brazilian government, interested in acquiring her. She was purchased eventually for US$30 million with no air group and recent Mistral SAM additions. She was to replaced the WW2 Minas Gerais after 40 years of service. Previouslt Bazil also approached Spain for a new built US$500 million or acquiring Dédalo. 23 second-market upgraded AF-1 (A4 Skyhawk) fighter were purchased from Kuwait for $70 million, combined with existing Brazilian helicopters were intended for the São Paulo air group.

Purchased while still operational, she was received in her current state by the Brazilian Navy and incorporated, commissioned on 15 November 2000. Next she trained with her AF-1 fighter group for qualificatitions and was visited while in Rio de Janeiro on 17 February 2001.

Given her age and despite her last upgrades, the new carrier (same pennant R99), had a short active life. She took part in Operations ARAEX, PASSEX, and TEMPEREX, to qualify and train the Argentine Navy’s Super Étendards and S-2T Turbo Trackers. She also practice carrier-based attack missions. In 2005 she was struck by a major fire, started by an explosion killing one and injured ten, due to a rupture in the steam pipeline. The Brazilian Navy newt launched an extensive overhaul.

When completed in late 2009, she had all steam turbines repaired and cleaned, maintenance of the surface condensers, all boilers retubed, high-pressure compressors fixed, AC electrical generator refurbished, spare parts purchased and new pumps, valves and piping network replaced. Sghe received two new API oil-water separators, two water cooling units, new chemical oxygen generator, new oil tanks, new Naval Tactical Data System, closed-circuit television system, IFF transponder, MAGE system (ESM), new flight deck inspection facilities and new Optical Landing System processing unit and complete overhaul of the aircraft catapults.

Her 12 A-4 Skyhawks were upgraded by Embraer for $140 million as the AMX and F-5EM. They gained the new Elta 2032 radar and carried the MAA-1B, Python 4, and Derby AAMS. Marsh Aviation converted her four S-2T Turbo Trackers to AEW planes to be later delivered. This was added to six S-70B Seahawk helicopters purchased in 2008. However even so after her recommissioning in 2010, her service life was cut short. São Paulo suffered another major fire in 2012 and by September 2016 repairs were still going on when the commander of the Brazilian Navy, Admiral Eduardo Leal Ferreira announced a radical overhault of her old propulsion systemand replacement of catapults. But it was never done as of 14 February 2017, she was announced decommissioned due to budget constraints. It was formal on 22 November 2018 and since 2020, there is an ongoing French effort to turn her into a museum back in France.

Last user of “Le Crouze”

F8E (FN) of Flotilla 14F, landivisio, June 1985 in its original livery

When facing the construction and planned completion of its two large aicraft carriers (about Essex-size) to replace natably the smaller Arromanches, oppoortunity arose in 1962 to consider the acquisition of something better than the current SE. Aquilon (French-built de Havilland Sea Venom), but only had Dassault’s Etendard IV, a small multirole naval attack plane, not able to take on first rate interceptors of the time. Without an easy way to convert the Mirage III into a naval fighter, as it was never maent to be, one quick solution was to turn to the US and it’s ever growing menagerie of naval aircraft. In 1962 there was no contest at the best: The Vought F8 Crusader, the “last gunsliger” made it’s entry debut in the USN and was quite promising as interceptor, even breaking all records of USAAF models of the time.
The French Navy was especially interested into its main asset, an innovative variable-incidence wing provided with high-lift slats, flaps and drooping ailerons allowing such a low-speed lift that despite it’s huge size, the new interceptor can operate from the fleet of SBC-34 Essex carriers, safely. The French looked at the similarities to their requirements and don’t look further for its adoption, starting negociations with the Pentagon for their acquisition. However they realized the Clemenceau were still smaller and the bird needed to be further tamed if possible, to what Vought answered with having the angle of incidence of the wing going from 5 to 7°, enabling a 12 knots drop in landing speed, which was quite welcome.
Henceforth, the French gocernment announced in 1962 the purchase of 40 F-8E(FN), plus six TF-8E(FN) for training. In all, 42 single-seaters were ordered, to be placed into two Flotilla in France, the 12F and 14F based in landivisiau, Britanny. The first F-8E(FN) flew on June 26, 1964 while Pilots trained in VF-174 “Hell’s Razors” at NAS Cecil Field, Florida.
The new warbird was outright loved by the French for its capabilities and nicknamed “Le Crouze”.
With these, both Clemenceau and Foch would have a first rate interceptor for many decades. Perhaps too much. Indeed in the early 1980s was asked the question of their replacement, despite a proposal for a serie of possible upgrades. They were planned to be replaced by the Dassault Rafale, but the latter was still in nigociations with other partner countries, which eventually created the European 4th gen. fighter split precisely due to differences of views concerning the CATOBAR carrier constraints specific of the French (leading to the Eurofighter Typhoon). Delays had the Rafale only first flying on July 4, 1986, and the Rafale M for “Marine”, only were operational from December 2000.
This meant all this time, “Le Crouze” had to make due for first rate interception.

F8E (FN) modernized in 1986 with its new livery, Flotilla 12F.

As planned, an answer was provided: Dassault introduced in 1978 already the “Super Etendard” to replace the Etendard IV and provide some well-needed modern electronics and capabilities, but only with a secondary air defence role due to its speed of only 1 560 km/h (Mach 1,3). The second measure was the modernization of the F-8E(FN) Crusader:
It was first upgraded to carry four pylons for US Sidewinder missiles, replaced by the more modern Matra R530 missile, until withdrawn from service in late 1989 and the Magic 2 therafter. But also they received the new improved airframe of the F-8J in the early 1970s, and by the late 1980s they were given the following improvements as a life-extending measure:
-New zero-zero capable Martin-Baker Mk. 7 ejection seat.
-New wiring and hydraulic system
-Cockpit instruments rearranged and modernized.
-New avionics fitted (radar altimeter, IFF, ILS, VOR)
-Mirage F1 gyroscopic navigation system adopted.
-Thomson-CSF SHERLOC radar warning receiver.
The first of these was completed and tested by June of 1992. By September 1994, 12 were delivered, now known as the “F-8P” (For Prolongé/Prolonged). Sea trials took place in 1993. This was the penultimate version of the venerable Crusader, started in the 1950s as a pure gun interceptor. The last operational ones, No.7, 10, 11, 34, 39 were retired on December 15, 1999 at NAS Landivisiau, after a 40+ years service…

Kitty Hawk class Aircraft Carriers (1960)

Kitty Hawk class Aircraft Carriers (1960)

US Navy Flag USS Kitty Hawk, Constellation, America, John F. Kennedy (1955-2009)

The Kitty Hawk class aircraft carriers (CV-63-66) were the second “supercarrier” serie and last conventional USN aircraft carriers. In between already was studied an enlarged nuclear-powered version from 1955, which ended with the famous USS Enteprise. In theory, to speed things up, the new class was closely modelled on the previous Forrestal, but with improvements all across the board; In the end, the fourth, lanched years after the others, CV-67 USS John F. Kennedy, was heavily modified and became arguably the finest conventional aircraft carrier of the US Navy to date; Unlike the Forrestals, their modernization was less thorough and late, and they saw the end of the cold war and early 2000s with notable participation in the Vietnam War.

Design Development: Only improved Forrestals ?

The biggest differences from the Forrestals were their greater length and a different elevators location, as two were forward of the island, one aft and one on the portside stern. These relocations greatly improved the way they could use their angled deck and general aircraft movement aboard. They got rid of the forward-end elevator of the Forrestals, situated both in the landing path and in launch path of waist catapults planes, the biggest issue with the previous design, later eliminated during refits.

Other than that, some improvements were also made in avgas and ordnance stowage, safety, electronics, bridge ergonomics, hangars management, and armament. On the latter chapter, guns were planned but dropped during completion for replacement after commission by the brand new Terrier missile launchers. They were later replaced by the Sea Sparrow, the latter combining anti-air and anti-surface capabilities.

The base design was called SBC 127, and concerned Kitty Hawk and Constellation as SBC-127A, America was completed upon the modified SBC-127C design. Her differences wuth her earlier sisters ships were mostly her anchors with instead of two forward anchors, no port side anchor but an anchor astern, to accommodate the AN/SQS-23 sonar. USS America was indeed the very first USN carrier with a built-in sonar, although removed in the 1980s. Her smokestack was alsio narrower.

Kitty Hawk subclass

At the origin, nuclear tests under the leadership notably of Admiral Zumwalt were leading to its adoption for surface ships even before submarines. While USS Nautilus was launched in 1957, development ended more protracted for the first nuclear powered carrier, USS Enteprise. She was next in line on order (CV-65) after the first two of the Kitty Hawk class, CV-63 and CV-64. Thus, the Kitty Hawk were to be the last two conventional carriers of the USN. But it was not to be due to spiralling costs overruns in the CVAN-65 program.

Cancelled CVAN 66-67 (Enterprise class)

Originally, the next two carriers, CV 66 and 67 were to be ordered as part of the Enterprise class, CVAN-65 nuclear carriers. However ballooning costs of the latter during early construction cause the cancellation of CVAN-66 and CVAN 67. The first was reordered as a conventionally powered Kitty Hawk-class carrier, and soon renamed USS America. The second was pushed even further back to test improvements earned from the early Kitty Hawk service and other ideas and ended as her own separate class, USS John F. Kennedy. She was probably the best conventional carrier ever built in the USN and probably also among the world’s best when she was in service.

Detailed design

Bow view
Bow view, CV-64

Hull and Protection

As designed, USS Kitty Hawk displaced 61,351 long tons (62,335 t) standard and 81,985 long tons (83,301 t) fully loaded, a bit more than previous Forrestals. She was also a tad shorter at 1,068.9 ft (325.8 m) overall (versus 1070 ft/326.1 m) but with a much greater overall beam at 282 ft (86 m) extreme on the flight deck, but less than half 130 ft (40 m) at the waterline making for a very favourable ratio of circa 1/9.5. Her draft was 38 ft (12 m) so a meter more than their predecessors. The latter were also slighly narrower at the waterline, at 35 ft 9 in or 39.42 m.

The island design was about the same, relatively large and encompassing the funnel, with two enclosed bridge and an open one, a strong structure with a large mast for electronics platforms. As for protection, it was far less extensive than previous carriers:
SBC-127A (CV63, 64): Four protected decks (144 mm total) with an armored flight deck 1.8 in (45mm) thick, a gallery deck 1 in (25mm), a hangar deck below 1.45 in (37mm) and main deck 1.45 in (37mm), all STS, as on the previous Forrestals. There was a distributed vertical armour which combined with the longitudinal bulkheads made for a total 150 mm like on the previous vessels. The magazines and ammunition, even the avgas tanks had box armour around. Underwater protection had no less than five longitudinal bulkheads of thin armor but the 4th bulkhead was the thickest at 76mm or 3-in and the souble bottom was thicker.

On the slightly miodified CV-66 USS America (SBC-127C) the four protected decks amounted to 151 mm, repartiton as the following: Flight deck 45mm, hangar deck 50mm and main deck 56mm. While the side armor and longitudinal bulkheads were thinner at 135 mm combined. Box-shaped vitals was kept, and the underwater protection was uncharged.

On USS JF Kennedy (CV-67) armour protection for the deck was the same, as the vertical armour, same for the vitals and underwater protection, although it was improved and was the prototype adopted later for the Nimitz class.


Propulsion consisted of four Westinghouse geared turbines, 280,000 shaft horsepower (210,000 kW), four shafts with eight 1,200 pounds per square inch (8,300 kPa) Foster Wheeler boilers. Top speed was 32 knots (59 km/h; 37 mph). Range was 12,000 miles (19,300 km) at 20 kts based on 7,800 tons of oil aboard. This was the same figure for all four carriers, virtually a repeat of the Forrestals.


The first three ships incorporated a Terrier surface-to-air missile system instead of guns, even in their early stage in 1955. The missiles were combined with the new generation AN/SPG-55 radars, but they consumed a lot of space aboard while duplicating the air defence escorts long range capabilities. They were later removed and replaced by a more balance, short range system. In fact John F. Kennedy missed the Terrier entirely and instead was completed from the onset with the Sea Sparrow Basic Point Defense Missile System (BPDMS).

Later they were replaced by the NATO Sea Sparrow (NSSM) combined with Phalanx CIWS for anti-missile and close defence. In 2001, the last upgrade came into the shape on USS Kitty Hawk in her SLEP overhaul, of two Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) forward in place of the Sea Sparrow, plus Phalanx CIWS. For active defense, the SLQ-32 Electronic Warfare Suite also installed, as well as on USS Constellation.

RIM-2 Terrier:

Launch of a RIM-2 Terrier from USS Constellation in 1962.

CVA 63 as built had two twin Terrier SAM (80 RIM-2) launchers. This was a monster of a missile, designed to shot down high altitude, high speed soviet bombers (80,000 feets or 24,000 m at Mach 3). The vector weighted 3,000 lb (1,400 kg) overall with booster, comprising the missile at 1,180 lb (540 kg) and its booster at 1,820 lb (830 kg), for a total Length of 27 ft (8.2 m), beam-ruiding and carrying a 218 lb (99 kg) controlled-fragmentation wahread (alt top a 1kT W45 nuclear warhead). In the 1980s it was considered an overkill for air defence as there were already onboard interceptor with long range AA missiles which could do the job. Instead of being replaced by RIM-67 Standard ER (SM-1ER), the much smaller RIM-7 was chosen for USS JFK and added as a supplement on Kitty Hawk in 1977 onwards. USS Constellation kept her Terrier launchers in 1984 after refit, but gained three octuple RIM-7.

RIM-7 Sea Sparrow Mk29:

Due to the large size and complexity of the Terrier, it was cobsidered a light defence system was more desirable for USS John F Kennedy. Thus, the latter adopted in 1969 a battrery of three octuple Sea Sparrow SAM (24 RIM-7). To work, they were coupled with the 6x Mk 95 fire control systems and main SPS-58 radars. Two were added to USS Kitty Hawk in 1977 (16 missiles), with four Mk 95 and two SPS-58 radars. During her 1981 refit, USS America kept her Terrier but was added two twin Standard SM-1MR SAM (80 RIM-66). A year after in 1982 her Terriers were replaced by three octuple Sea Sparrow SAM (24 RIM-7).

RIM-116 RAM:

The U.S. Navy purchased 1,600 RAMs and 115 launchers for 74 ships and the system, outside modernized carriers, also equipped the Nimitz-class and several assault and dock landing ship as well as the littoral combat ships (LCS) today. Designed by General Dynamics/Diehl BGT Defence from 1976, a single system cost was US$998,000 (FY2014). It consisted in a 5,777 kg (12,736 lb) launcher firing eight 2.79 m (9 ft 2 in) missiles, all fitted with a 11.3 kg (24 lb 15 oz) frag warhead. It is powered by a Hercules/Bermite Mk. 36 Solid-fuel rocket.

Operational range is 10 km (6.2 mi) at Mach 2+ (1,500 mph; 2,500 km/h), guidance by passive radio frequency/infrared homing, or infrared only, or infrared dual mode enabled to defeat countermeasures. Accuracy is over 95%. It seems on these ships, the Mk 144 GML was not fitted but directly its replacement the Mk 49 Guided Missile Launching System (GMLS). USS Kitty Hawk was the only one fitted with this system in 2001, in addition to her sea sparrows: Two 21-silos RAM SAM (42 RIM-116).

Phalanx 20mm CIWS:

This one already had been seen in detail oàn the previous Forrestals and can be viewed there.


CV-66 island in 1976

During her carrer, CV-66 was the “tester” of most electronics systems: She had the SPS-37A, SPS-39, SPS-30, SPS-43A, SPS-10F, SPN-10, SPN-12, SPN-35 radars as well as two SPG-55 radars (Terrier), SQS-23 sonar, WLR-1, WLR-3, and WLR-11 ECM suites in succession.

AN/SPG-55 radar (terrier)

The designation “AN” stands for “Army-Navy” ans SPG is part of the MIL-STD-196E Designation System for S = Water, P = Radar and G = Fire Control/Searchlight Directing. This Fire control quality three-dimensional data dish-style arrway was not only used in the USN but also the Marina Militare on the Andrea Doria-class cruiser, Giuseppe Garibaldi-class and Vittorio Veneto, all equipped with USN missiles. The AN/SPG 55 supported beam riding Terrier missiles but the upgraded AN/SPG 55A supported homing Terrier missiles.

AN/SQL-32 EW suite

This was the CV specialized version of the CNO family of inexpensive EW suites planned in the early 1970s to replace older systems. It was notabvly a warning system against antiship missile as appeared in the 1967 sinking of Eilath by Egyptian Komar FACs. It was agreed thah both AN/WLR-1 and AN/ULQ-6 systems were unable to perfrom this task. Development started in 1972, and the first prototype was tested in 1977, 1979 on USS Oliver Hazard Perry, and it was installed virtually on every USN major warships. Improvements were implemented starting in 1987. It was available with a standard or DDi console. The system selects the launchers tube, reseed intervals for each engagement while the operator presses the ARM and QUICK LAUNCH FABs to actually launch the decoys. It was replaced by the WLR-11 suite.

AN/SQS-23 sonar

It was only installed on USS America, which had no port side anchor but and anchor astern, and she was the sole U.S. carrier with such feature. It was removed in the early 1980s. The system went back to 1958 and was improved over time but only accepted in 1968. It is a long range, azimuth-scanning search/attack sonar (attack-RDT/SDT, hand-key applications). Although common on DDG-2 and DDG-16 class, data was analysed in the Ship center display (SCD) for and target center display (TCD) for attack. Like the SQS-26 found on many ASW frigates, it had problems.

Flight Deck, Hangar and Facilities

Super photo showing USS Kitty Hawk wing elevator in action

The flight deck was equivalent to the Forrestals in lenght, with an overall 1,069 ft (326 m) long, but far wider, at 282 ft (86 m) extreme as designed, much larger than the Forrestals before upgrades. Forward, there was a total of 20,000 m², or 6,945 m²/52,785 m³ for the Flight deck (310.2 x 73m) with a hangar: 225.5 x 30.8 x 7.60 m. Four deck-edge elevators were 40t in weight, measuring 21.4/25.9 x 15.9m. Launched were performed by four C13 catapults, two forward and two waist ones. Aircraft fuel stowage amounted to 353,500 l of petrol, 6,955,000 liters of highly inflamable JP-5 jet fuel. Aviation ordnance stowage amounted to 1,800t. Their avgaz system was sensitive and often the cause of mishaps and grave fires onboard the ships, in particular aboard USS Constellation.

Vietnam Air Group

A4-C Skyhawk of VA-64
A4-C Skyhawk of VA-64 onboard USS America, prepared to be launched in 1967.

USS Kitty Hawk started her service with twenty four F-4B Phantom II (which became a standard) and twelve F-8E Crusader fighters. She also carried twenty-four A-4C Skyhawk and ten A-3B Skywarrior for attack as well as 12 A-1J/H Skyraiders. She also operated four RF-8G, three RA-3B, three EA-3B, and four E-1B for reconnaissance, and four UH-2A for SAR.

All in all during her career she operated the FJ, F2H, F9F, F3H, F4D, F11F, F8U, F4H fighters, AD, A3D, A4D, A3J attackers, F2H-P, F9F-P, OE, A3D-P, F8U-P, F4H-P recon planes, AD-Q, F3D-Q, A3D-Q ECM planes, AD-W, WF EW planes, S2F ASW planes, TF cargo planes, but also the HRS, HUP, HSS, HUS, HOK, HUK, HUL, and HR2S helicopters.

F-4B Phantom II of VF-33 prepared to launch in 1967

USS Constellation in 1974, after conversion as a multirole carrier, had twenty four F-4J and the same of A-7C Corsair attack aircraft, twelve A-6A Intruder and for recce,three RA-5C, four EA-6B Prowler, four E-2C Hawkeye, and four KA-6D, then S-3A viking for ASW warfare, eight 8 SH-3H which were used for SAR and ASW duties.

A-6A from USS Kitty Hawk in 1968

NA F4J Phantom II VF-92, USS Constellation

Vought A7E Corsair II VA-86, USS America

Vought A7E Corsair II VA-195, USS Kitty Hawk

Grumman E1B Tracer from VAW-111

A-6C, VA-165, USS America 1970s

F-4Js VF-74, USS America 1972-73

Launch of a U-2 from the deck of USS America

The 1980s air group


In 1988, USS John F. Kennedy operated twenty-four F-14A (in replacement for their Phantom II, zalthough larger, same number was kept for bith escort, interception and CAP), twenty four 24 A-6E Intruder for attack, five EA-6B Prowler and four E-2C Hawkeye for recce, four KA-6D Seasprite helicopters for ASW duties completed by ten S-3A Vikings ASW planes and also eight multirole SH-3H Sea King amphibious helicopters;

F14A, VF-102 USS America

F14A, VF-33 USS America

F14A, VF-32 USS John F. Kennedy

F14A, VF-21 USS Constellation

A7E, VA-46, USS America

1990s air group

Grumman A6E Prowler, VA-34, USS America

At the time of the gulf war in 1991, USS America carried the same twenty four F-14A, but also the same number of F/A-18A/B and twelve A-6E/KA-6D ASW helicopters plus eight SAR SH-3H (so 20 helicopters in all) six EA-6B Prowler and four E-2C for recce/EW, plus eight ASW S-3B Viking.

F14A FV-33 USS America, Gulf War, 1991

All profile are courtesy from Tom Cooper, Helion Publishing.

In the 2000s, the air group varied widly but was restricted to fighter/bombers for simplification. Typically in 2006, USS Kitty Hawk and JF Kennedy carried twenty-four F/A-18E/F Hornet abnd the same of F/A-18A/C multirole (taking on attack duties) Hornets, four EA-6B and E-2C as usual and two C-2A cargo planes, as well as six SH-60F/HH-60H Seahawk multitole helicopter.

About the names

Launch of USS Kitty Hawk
Launch of USS Kitty Hawk in 1961

Like previous vessels, naming convention was more diverse than just naval battles. USS Kitty Hawk honored the start of US aviation by recalling the famous field of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, site of the Wright brothers’ first powered airplane flight. She was second of the name after a cargo ship on WW2.

USS Constellation, the fastest of all Kitty Hawk carriers and of USN vessels for the matter, honored the Congress “Super-Frigate” launched in 1797 whih really setup the biorth of the US Navy. The name was also carried by a sloop pf war of 1854 whioch took part in the civil war and preserved in 1933 as a National Historic Landmark in Baltimore. The last was a cancelled battlecruiser of the Lexington class started in 1920 (CC-2). The name itself described the stars of the flag. The name was also chosen for a brand new class of frigate as we speak.

USS America was obviously a reference to the continent. The name was sported by a 1782 74-gun ship of the line, a 19th-century racing yacht converted during the Civil War and the captured German ocean liner SS Amerika.

CV-67 was named in hommage of the 36th president of the USA, assassinated on 11 November 1963 in Dallas. She was ordered under that name on 30 April 1964 and the first USN ship to be so. After she was discarded, CVN-79, a Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier launched in 2019 and in completion, is the second vessel named after him. Her latin motto was “Date Nolite Rogare” or “Give, do not ask” and Unofficially she was called “Big John” but also “Can Opener” or “Jack the Tin Can Killer” due to her numerous collisions at sea.


USS Constellation under construction in 1960.
USS Constellation under construction in 1960. It was devayed by seven months after a fierce fire. She would have two more in her career earning her the unnofficial “Hot Connie” moniker. Nevertheless, she ended as the most decorated carrier of the Vietnam war.

USS America under construction at Newport News
USS America under construction at Newport News in 1961, early phases, showing her internal bulkheads and double hull. Next the gigantic turbines will be installed. Replacing them during SLEP was a daunting task.

-USS Kitty Hawk was ordered on 1 October 1955, the first of two built in New York Camden yard, laid down on 27 December 1956 and launched on 21 May 1960, then completed on 29 April 1961. She was also the last decommissioned, in 2007, two years after JF Kennedy…

-USS Constellation was also ordered to New York shipyard, but not Camden as her sister, on 1 July 1956. Laid down on 14 September 1957 she was launched on 8 October 1960 and comlpleted on 27 October 1961.

-USS America was laid down on 1 January 1961 at Newport News, Virginia, buult by Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Corp. She was launched on 1 February 1964, sponsored that day by Mrs. Catherine McDonald, wife of Admiral David L. McDonald, Chief of Naval Operations. She was commissioned at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, 23 January 1965. But she was also the first decommissioned, in 1996.

-USS John F. Kennedy was awarded on 30 April 1964 to Newport News Shipbuilding, laid down on 22 October 1964, launched on 27 May 1967 (Sponsored by Caroline Kennedy) and Christened by her mother, and Commissioned on 7 September 1968.

⚙ Kitty Hawk class specifications 1960

Dimensions 990 (wl) x 130 x 38 ft (300m x 40m x 12m)
Fight Deck 1,069 ft × 282 ft (326m × 86m)
Displacement 60,933 long tons light, 81,780 long tons fully loaded
Crew 5,624 total, 2,764 + 1,912 (Crew, Air Staff), see notes
Propulsion 4 GS HP turbines, 8 Babcock boilers, 280,000 hp (210 MW)
Speed 34 knots (63 km/h; 39 mph)
Armament 24× Sea Sparrow/RIM-116 RAM, 3–4× Phalanx CIWSs
Air Group 90 planes, see notes.
Electronics SPS-8,10,12 radars, SPN-6,8,12, FCS Mk 35, SLR-2 ECM
Protection Belt 6 in, flight deck 2 in, gallery deck 1 in, hangar and main deck 1.5 in, torpedo bulkhead 3 in

The variant: USS John F Kennedy (CV-67).

USS John F. Kennedy at the New York Parade, 4 July 1986
USS John F. Kennedy at the New York Parade, 4 July 1986

USS John F. Kennedy was originally scheduled to be the fourth carrier of the class, but because she received so many modifications under the SCB 127C program, she ended as her own sub-class. So much so many publication list her as an entirely separate class. USS JF.Kennedy had the same design changes concerning her anchors placement to accommodate a fixed improved sonar array, but the latter was never installed.

The nuclear power conversion SCB 211A was considered and planned, but never authorized by the Congress. JF Kennedy’s smokestack is different also, tilting outboard to further push smoke away from the flight deck. Her angled end at the waist was also revised and different from from previous carriers, and the fruit of early studies planned for the Nimitz class. Se was 17 feet (5.2 m) shorter overall in lenght.

Outboard island in 2004

These were only the most visible differences. Countless details were also improved. Since she was completed after USS Enterprise, she was also a prototype in some way for the future Nimitz class. Indeed she was completed on 7 September 1968, seven years after CVN-65. USS Nimitz was laid down earlier, on 22 June 1968 and studied were greatly influence by all lessons applied to CV-67.

Major Refit: SLEP 1980-88

USS Kitty Hawk’s bow in 2007

In 1987-1991 USS Kitty Hawk underwent her major overhauled, at a cost of $785 million, later than the older Forrestals, but under a slightly revised version of the “Service Life Extension Program” (SLEP) at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. In 1990-1992, this was the turn of USS Constellation, but it was even costier (inflation adjusted) at $800 million also at Philadelphia despite being shorter in span. Both were intended to give thel an extra 15 years of active service.

John F. Kennedy escaped SLEP as alreay way improved over her sister and instead had a 1993-1995 overhaul costing $491 million, also in Philadelphia befiore the yard went bankrupt. USS America was scheduled after Constallation for the same but the post-coldwar budget cuts saw her decommissioned instead of 9 August 1996. Anyway, a team determines that she was in very poor condition. Like her sisters she was considered for a donation as floating museum but this was never carried out and she ended as live-fire target and sunk as artificial reef on 14 May 2005.

UNN Constellation was in service again from 1992 to 2003, so less than the 15 years planned, as the Congress estimated her yearly operational maintenance cost. So she was decommissioned earlier than expected, on 7 August 2003. John F. Kennedy was decommissioned just three years afterwards on 23 March 2007. Her too, did not exploited her last overhaul to the full. USS Kitty Hawk, the oldest of them all, paradocically, remained in service until 2008. She was indeed in the best conditions, somewhat preserved by her partial status as schoolship. She was eventually replaced by USS George Washington for the permanent naval station in Japan. Back to the US she was decommissioned on 12 May that year.

⚙ Kitty Hawk class in the 1990s

Displacement 65,000 tons tons standard, circa 79,000 tons Fully Loaded
Crew 4,378
Armament 3×8 Sea Sparrow SAM Mk29, 3×20 mm CIWS Mk.15
Electronics SPS-29,37A/43A, SPS-30 radars, SPS-58 for sea sparrow, WLR-1, WLR-3 ECM
Protection Kevlar add-on plates in some areas

A long cold war career

USS America prepares to launch a F-14 Tomcat off the coast of Libya in 1986
USS America prepares to launch a F-14 Tomcat off the coast of Libya in 1986

Commissioned in 1961-1968, the Kitty Hawk-class supercarriers Kitty Hawk (CV-63), Constellation (CV-64), America (CV-66) and the John F. Kennedy (CV-67) variant took part in the Vietnam War, and middle east crisis, frolm the 1967 war to the Gulf war.
-USS Kitty Hawk, saw Vietnam (7th fleet) deployment in 1961 to 1964 and 1965 to 1972. Mediterranean deployments in 1973-1977 and 1979-1998. She was still active until 2008, but did not took part in the 1991 gulf war.

-USS Constellation suffered a fire during construction. She made deployment in 1960–1969 (Vietnam) and 1970–1979 middle east. An era marked by Black sailor protests. She served in various crisis until the 2000s.

-USS America took part in two First deployment (1965–1966), a third in 1967, followed by a Mediterranean TOD, for the Crisis in the Middle East, between the Six Day War and the attack on USS Liberty. Her Atlantic and Mediterranean Service was followed by a second Vietnam War deployment, a third, until 1973. The 1980s saw the Crisis in Lebanon, Crisis in Libya, Libyan retaliation, Operation El Dorado Canyon and the Persian Gulf War with Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

-USS John F. Kennedy was the only one never deployed in Vietnam. Instead she served mostly in the Mediterranean and Atlantic. Her middle east commitments were pareticularly intense in the Middle east crisis of the 1980s. She took part also in Operation desrt Storm in 1991 and continued to serve in the Naval Reserve Force before taking part in Operation Enduring Freedom, her last major deployment.


The 5 nations fleet, 2002


J.Gardiner, R. Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1947–1995
Donald, David; Daniel J. March (2001). Carrier Aviation Air Power Directory. AIRtime Publishing
Cracknell, W.H, Warship Profile 15, USS Enterprise (CVAN 65) Nuclear Attack Carrier
Friedman, Norman (1983). U.S. Aircraft Carriers: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, Maryland: Unite
Miller, David; Miller, Chris (1986). Modern Naval Combat. London, New York: Salamander Books.
Huddy, Doug (25 July 2001). “USS Kitty Hawk gets upgrade with Rolling Airframe Missile weapon system”. Stars and Stripes.
Naval Sea Systems Command Office of Corporate Communications (23 November 2009). “Navy Announces Availability of ex-John F. Kennedy for Donation” (Press release).
Hollman, Laurie (31 July 1991). “A somber farewell to the Kitty Hawk; the job done
“Shipyard’s Closing Uproots 4,400 Workers: Philadelphia Naval Shipyard Scheduled To Close Sept. 15”. The Plain Dealer. Cleveland, Ohio. Associated Press. 2 May 1995. pp. 12.C.
United States Navy. Kitty Hawk Command FAQ. Accessed 12 January 2008.
“USS Kitty Hawk, Navy’s Oldest Active Ship, Leaves Japan to Be Decommissioned”. Fox News. 28 May 2008.
Miller, David; Miller, Chris (1986). Modern Naval Combat. London, New York: Salamander Books.
Huddy, Doug (25 July 2001). “USS Kitty Hawk gets upgrade with Rolling Airframe Missile weapon system”. Stars and Stripes.
“AN/SLQ-32 Electronic Warfare (EW) system”. 30 June 1999. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
Naval Sea Systems Command Office of Corporate Communications (23 November 2009). “Navy Announces Availability of ex-John F. Kennedy for Donation”
Hollman, Laurie (31 July 1991). “A somber farewell to the Kitty Hawk; the job done, the carrier leaves. But clouds hang over the yard”. Philadelphia Inquirer.
“Revamped Aircraft Carrier Sails For 10-Day Sea Trial”. Orlando Sentinel 7 November 1992.
“Shipyard’s Closing Uproots 4,400 Workers: Philadelphia Naval Shipyard Scheduled To Close Sept. 15”. Associated Press.
“USS Kitty Hawk, Navy’s Oldest Active Ship, Leaves Japan to Be Decommissioned”. Fox News. 28 May 2008. Retrieved 4 May 2016.



CV 59 on Navsource
The class on
Navypedia (archive)
About USN radars
Litty Hawk class
AN/SLQ-32 Electronic Warfare (EW) system
Nimitz class
USS JF Kennedy
USS Enteprise

Model kits

kitty hawk class on scalemates

Popular subject, especially in the 1960s. Trumpeter for example covered it in 1:350 and 1:700, Merit International to 1:350, Fujumi 1:700, Academy 1:800.
USS Constellation (CV-64) was covered by Italeri 1:720 but aso the same as above plus AODA Hobby to 1:800, ARII 1:800, Otaki 1:800, Revell Monogram 1:1450.
USS America also, but with Testors 1:720 and Kitek to 1:800 also. JF Kennedy was covered by Merit International 1:350, Academy 1:800 and Academy/Minicraft 1:800.
USS America CVA-66/CV-66 Book Detail & Scale Nr. 34 Bert Kinzey

USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63)

Kitty Hawk in Sydney at the end of her career

Early service

After five years of construction, since 1956, USS Kitty Hawk was commissioned on 29 April 1961 and started her shakedown cruise in the Western Atlantic frollowed bby her first long term cruiser from Naval Station Norfolk on 11 August 1961, stopping in Rio de Janeiro, where she carried the Secretary of the Brazilian Navy for a demonstration with Brazilian destroyers, rounding Cape Horn on 1 October. After a stop in Valparaíso, Chile, she arrived in Callao, Peru on 20 October, where she hosted the President. She arrived in San Diego to be visited by Admiral George W. Anderson, Chief of Naval Operations, for ASW demonstrations and Terrier missile launch by USS Topeka and her own air exercizes.

Afetr a short overhaul in San Francisco Naval Shipyard by November she joined the Seventh Fleet on 7 October 1962, relieving Midway as flagship and participating in the Philippine Republic Aviation Week Air Show, later embarking Admiral Harry D. Felt CINCPAC for another demonstration o, 3 December. She visited Hong Kong and Japan, new station at Yokosuka (2 January 1963). As flagship, CarDiv 7, she preformed exercises in Jan-Feb. 1963, followed by Operation Checkertail‘s mock airstrikes on Okinawa, Picture Window III in interceptions on Northern Japan, Red Wheel to assess the readiness of the the HUK (Hunter-Killer) Group and stippin in several Japanese ports. She was back in San Diego on 2 April 1963.


On 6 June 1963 she was visited by President John F. Kennedy and white house staff, for a task force demonstration off California. Her proncounced a famous discourse during his stay to the fleet. Later she hosted Film director John Frankenheimer for “Seven Days in May” movie. After strike exercises and tactics between the coast and Hawaii, she returned to Yokosuka, learning there President Kennedy has been short, and knocking flags half-mast when entering Sasebo (25 November) the day of funeral, and firing memorial salutes. She cruised between the South China Sea and Philippines and was back in San Diego by July 1964.

In Vietnam 1965-73

After her overhaul in Puget Sound and refresher cruise off the western seaboard Kitty Hawk was back in San Diego, then Hawaii, and the Subic Bay, Philippines, in preparation for combat operations off Vietnam. She made another overhaul at San Diego and while back in south asia hosted the 1966 Walt Disney comedy Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N. She called Yokosuka in November, relieving USS Constellation as flagship RADM David C. Richardson, TF 77.

On 5 December, she arrived at Yankee Station, starting her around-the-clock operations over nort Vietnam, hosting along the way William Randolph Hearst Jr., Bob Considine, Dr. Billy Graham, Nancy Sinatra and John Steinbeck. She was back in San Diego on 19 June and maintenance at Long Beach, back to San Diego and extensive training to be back in the far east.

She later gained a Presidential Unit Citation for exceptionally meritorious and heroic service (23 December 1967-1 June 1968) taking part in the Tet Offensive, plus the Navy Unit Meritorious Commendation for exceptionally meritorious service (15 January 1969-27 August 1969) for intensive Southeast Asia support, and Northeast Asia. She suffered a fire while in port at Subic Bay which was quelled in 51 hours. On 16 January 1968 she lost a C-1A Trader on deck due to bad weather. She departed in June 1969 for San Diego and Puget Sound drydock period.

On 12 October 1972 while in the Gulf of Tonkin a race riot between 200 sailors caused some 50 sailors injured, the incident being widely publicized and followed by a Congressional inquiry of discipline. She did not took part in late operations until the war ended or ARVN troops support: From January through July 1973 indeed, she was based in San Francisco and returned in dry dock on 14 January 1973, to convert her into a multi-mission carrier (CV). This indicated she would take on also anti-submarine warfare, the first Pacific Fleet carrier so designated.

Conversion from CVA to CV-63 and fire

She earned ten new helicopter calibrating stations, sonar/sonobuoy readout and analysis center and operating procedures were revised while an Anti-Submarine Classification and Analysis Center (ASCAC) was added to her CIC. ASCAC depended for operations on Carrier Air Wing 11. Propulsion-wise Navy Standard Oil was swapped for Navy Distillate Fuel. Onb deck, the jet blast deflectors (JBD) were improved and enlarged, while she received better catapults to launch the large Grumman F-14 Tomcat. The first Aircraft Elevator was redesigned, with an angling out 6°. Thus was over on 28 April 1973 and she departed for post-overhaul training;

From Hunters Point NyD, to San Francisco, the carrier cruised for tests to Pearl Harbor, making R&R along the way, and proceeding to South China Sea. While underway on 11 December 1973 in her first machinery room, a flange gasket failed and JP5 jet fuel was sprayed and ignited. The fire and damage took 38 hours to master. The amount of smoke was such mostof the crew non part of the damage team was ordered on deck. For a time she listed 7 degrees portside and aircraft had to be moved starboard for balance. Six died in the inferno, plus 34 severely intoxicated by the smoke.

USS Kitty Hawk arrived in Subic Bay for damage to be properly assessed and repairs. On 10 January 1974, an investigation was ordered by RADM Donald C. Davis CG1, the blame falling soon on the six men who died in the initial fire. Conclusion on 10 January 1974, pinpointed the start to a faulty replacement of the defective gasket in the strainer cover assembly, reflecting “poor judgment and unsound maintenance practices.” However they were awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for fighting the fire, a relative relief for their families.

The seventies

Kitty Hawk served extensively between the Western Pacific (RIMPAC 1973, 1975) and on 12 March 1976 was receiving a major overhault at Puget Sound Naval lasting for 12 months to better operate the F-14 and S-3A “Viking”, including modifications to the storage, ordnance handling and maintenance facilities. Work areas for airframes and repair were revised, as well as better avionics support as the S-3 was a rather electronically-complex plane. Her Terrier SAMs were replaced by sea Sparrow, with ordnance elevators and magzaine modified as well as linked electronics. She was underway for post-refit trials ahd refresher cruise in March-April 1977 and later from NAS North Island in October 1977 she made another depkoyment in the Pacific, until 15 May 1978.

In May 1979 she deployed Carrier Air Wing 15 (CVW-15) in the Pacific and took part in rescuring Vietnamese boat peoples. She also offered support following the assassination of Republic of Korea President Park Chung Hee. She was dispatched in the North Arabian Sea in support for the Iran hostage crisis, deploying CVW-15 and earning the Navy Expeditionary Medal. She also was chosedn to host her fourth movie, 1980’s The Final Countdown, playing as Nimitz, filmed entering Pearl Harbor in front of USS Arizona Memorial. Back in San Diego in February 1980 she earned the Meritorious Unit Commendation and Naval Air Force Pacific Battle Efficiency (The “E” Award), best Pacific carrier.

To the end of the cold war

In April 1981, USS Kitty Hawk left San Diego for the Western Pacific’s 13th time,. being awarded bot the Navy Expeditionary Medal and the Humanitarian Service Medal for her rescue efforts, and was back in January 1982 in Bremerton for a long overhaul, upgrade and subsequent training with Carrier Air Wing 2. In 1984 she became flagship, Battle Group Bravo, and spending the most time at “Station Gonzo”, north Arabian Sea. By March 1984 she took part in “Team Spirit” off Japan, shadowed by K-314 (Victor class). On 21 March K-314 surfaced directly in front of Kitty Hawk and was rammed in the dark. If the carrier suffered little, the Soviet submarine was bacly damaged and limped back to base. In derision a red submarine was painted on her island while she was back in San Diego.

She stopped before departing to Subic Bay for initial repairs and piece of K-314’s propellers was retrieved in her as her Soviet anechoic coating, gold for USN intel services. After repairs and 7 months extra service she was awarded another Battle Efficiency “E” Award. By July 1985 with CVW-9 she was at Battle Group Bravo. In August a press article related how she smuggled missiles and jet parts into Iran after the FBI arrested seven suspects (“Iran-Contra scandal”).

In 1986, she lost an Airman in flight operations during launch. She later left her home port for 25 years, spending 106 days on the Indian Ocean station, earning later the Navy Expeditionary Medal and the Meritorious Unit Commendation. She was in Philadelphia NyD on 3 July and entered later her main SLEP overhaul, until 2 August 1990, sieing the end of the cold war. Although she was good for 20 years of service post-cold war restruction came in. She made her second deployment between Indian Ocean and South America, taking part in Gringo-Gaucho with the Argentine Naval Aviation.

By 1st August 1992, she carried the Cruiser-Destroyer Group 5 Commander with DesRon17 staff and CVW-15 for three months in the Western Pacific by November 1992. She was later off Somalia supporting Operation Restore Hope. Back to the Persian Gulf on 27 December 1992 her air group joined the coalition offensive strikes over southern Iraq. She made another deployment from 24 June 1994 in the Western Pacific over concerns for North Korea. She started ASW operations against Han and Oscar II Class in the regio. The was even a serious standoff with PRC and PLAAF fighter too close for comfort around Kitty Hawk’s S-3 Vikings from VS-37.

In 1995, she carried a modified CVW-11 with less F-14 and more F/A-18 squadrons. Her 18th deployment started in October 1996 and lasted six-month from the Persian Gulf and Western Pacific. She toures Australia and stopped in Manama, Bahrain. She was back in San Diego in 11 April 1997 for a $110 million overhaul in Bremerton Drydock ending in March 1998. At the time, few preedicted she would still be around in the 2020s…

USS Kitty Hawk departed San Diego on 6 July 1998 as a forward-deployed CV, replacing USS Independence, with Carrier Air Wing 5 aboard and deployed at NAB Atsugi.She operated from Yokosuka. As Independence was decommissioned she became the second-oldest active warship in the US Navy (she flew the First Navy Jack). She took part in Exercise Tandem Thrust off Guam and sent her CVW-5 team in the Persian Gulf for the No-Fly Zone. Later returned aboard, the carrier visited Australia and Thailand. Next she took part in Exercises Foal Eagle and AnnualEx 11G and later Cobra Gold with Singapore and Thailand.

By fall 2000 she took part in Exercise Foal Eagle and in 2001 stopped in Singapore, and Changi Naval Base. In April she was Guam celebrating 40 years of active service before taking part in Exercise Tandem Thrust 2001 with Australia and Canada. She was often flown over by Russian warplanes in the Sea of Japan. By October 2001 she was in the North Arabian Sea for Operation Enduring Freedom and as staging base for the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. She vsited Guam, Singapore and Hong Kong, and after training in the Western Pacific, trained with the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (AnnualEx 14G), followed by a 5-month maintenance time in 2003.

In 2003 she took part in Operations Southern Watch and Iraqi Freedom. By May 2003 she was drydocked in Yokosuka for maintenance. On 3 July 2005 she was in Sydney for a crew’s leave. She was based in Guam and by Xmas in Hong Kong. In June 2006 after her second restricted availability period she was overflown by a Russian Il-38 and by August 2006, was back in Australia, and next to Thailand and back in Yokosuka. By October 2006, during exercises she was “mocked-sunk” by a Chinese Song-class submarine which shadowed the group, surfacing just 5 mi (8.0 km) of the group on 26 October, something rare and reported as incident, and remained undetected until then.

On 11 January 2007 she was in maintenance in Yokosuka, relieved by USS Ronald Reagan. She took part off Australia to the Exercise Talisman Sabre and by September 2007 back in Yokosuka, followed by the exercise Malabar in the Bay of Bengal. She was denied entry into Hong Kong for Thanksgiving but stayed offshore during the Taiwan election on 20 March 2008, entering Hong Kong for the last time. By May 2008 she depoarted Japan, replaced by USS George Washington, but the latter experienced a fire and Kitty Hawk stayed in Hawaii, eventually taking part in RIMPAC 2008 this summer and being back in August at NAS North Island.

Separated from Carrier Air Wing 5, transferred to USS G. Washington, she awaited her fate in 2007, and Captain Todd Zecchin announced her would overseeing her decommissioning, after she left Yokosuka on 28 May 2008, her very last visit. Kitty Hawk and John F. Kennedy were suitable for conversion into museum ships, more complicated then nuclear carriers such as USS Enterprise or the Nimitz class and she was decommissioned in Wilmington, North Carolina, waiting an ecquisition. In March 2017 a Veterans Association raised $5 million in pledges while some US Navy officials during the Trump administrations wanted to have her extended in the reserve inactive fleet. But she was stricken on 20 October 2017, and the Navy announced her scrapping.

By March 2021 she was in Puget Sound dry dock for last maintenance and by October, sold for one-cent to International Shipbreaking Limited, leaving on 15 January 2022 to Brownsville, Texas, via the Straits of Magellan and arriving on 31 May 2022. As these lines are written (28/06/2022), the scrapping is ongoing and would probably last until late 2023.

USS Constellation (CV-64)

USS Constellation (CV-64) aerial Battle E

Started in 1957 and completed on 27 October 1961, USS Constellation had her initial trials period pushed back due to repairs following heavy damage due to a fire while under construction on 19 December 1960. It happened in Brooklyn Navy Yard and causes are still uncertain today, several hypothethis including vo,nuntary arson by local mobs or disgruntled workers. It started in the forklift on the hangar deck and happened when its cargo was pushed into a steel plate, knocking it over. The plate in turn broke the plug of a 500 US gallons diesel fuel tank, spilling its content and igniting when reaching the lower levels, probably by a cutting torch and consuming the wooden scaffolding.

It took 17 hours for firefighters to master the fire, but the repair cost was estimated 75 million as hundreds of plating had to be cut out and replaced, buckled by heat. Electric cabling needed replacement as well as many otbher recently fitted parts. Firefighters remarkably saved hundreds of lives that day having no causalities, but later found in the debris fifty shipyard workers corpses, burnt to a crisp in the inferno or by toxic smoke. It took seven more months to have the carrier back into completion.

Constellation stated sea trials with Captain T. J. Walker in command but the unlucky ship experienced another fire on 7 November 1961, during tests, killing four, injuring nine sailors. After acceptance trials and post-trials fixes she departed for Norfolk and her Virginia Capes initial training, without the air group. With a few test planes she carried her first catapult launch and arrested landing until Commander George C. Watkins arrived at the head of air group (CVG) 13, bringinf to the ship the A4D-2 Skyhawks of Attack Squadron 34. “Connie” (her newly earned nickname) started her two-month shakedown cruise as usual in the Caribbean.

The summer of 1962, saw her sent to the Pacific Fleet, CVG-13 being sent on another affectation. She made a two-month trip around Cape Horn instead of goning via Panama, to harden the crew, before reaching San Diego and embarking CVG-5 off Mayport in Florida. By November CVG-14 joined in also and she started air operations underway to her maiden deployment to the western Pacific and the 7th fleet. She arrived back in San Diego in September 1963.

“Connie” in Vietnam

Her second Pacific TOD started on 5 May 1964, relieving her sister USS Kitty Hawk in the Gulf of Tonkin for the start of Vietnam Operations on 8 June. She embarked CVW 14 by 20 December 1963 staeting a round of reconnaissance missions over Laos in June-July. After maintenance in Subic Bay, she entered Hong Kong for the first time on 27 July, and was recalled due to the Gulf of Tonkin Incident (2 August 1964).

Two days after arrival, she launched her F-4B Phantom IIs with those of USS Ticonderoga to cover destroyers allegedly attacked by North Vietnamese MTBs (which happened bogus). On the 5th Operation Pierce Arrow, air strikes over North Vietnamese oil facility and vessels commenced. CVW-14 lost two including an A-1 Skyraider and A-4 Skyhawk, the first airmen POWs of this war. She was back in San Diego on 1 February 1965 after a nine-month deployment and both the carrier and CVW-14 were awarded a Navy Unit Commendation (NUC) under CarDiv 9 command.

After her first long (8 months) maintenance time, she departed with CVW-15 on board for Vietnam, commencing operations in May 1966, for 111 straight days on station. One F-4B from VF-161 shot down a MiG-17 on 13 July, the first CV air kill. USS Constellation was back in San Diego by December, having lost 16 aircrewmen and 15 aircraft. CVW-15 was awarded another NUC. She started her third TOD from April 1967 with a reconstituted CVW-14 and operated from Dixie Station 60 miles (97 km) off South Vietnam, hitting the Iron Triangle. She also operated from Yankee Station off North Vietnam for a total of 121 days. For all this time, F-4Bs of VF 142/VF 143 counted four more MiG kills, for 16 aircraft lost and 20 personnel (including 8 POWs) motly to SAMs and she was awarded another NUC.

“Connie” made her fourth deployment in the western Pacific and Vietnam from May 1968. She was restricted to strikes below the 20th parallel, North Vietnam after a Presidential order. On 1 November, all operations were halted. Her last plane in mission was a lone A-7 Corsair II. She was back home in January 1969 totalling 11,000 combat missions, with 20,000 tons of ordnance spent and 15 aircraft lost, 6 pilots KiA, 5 MiA and 3 POWs.

In August 1968 she returned in Vietnam for her fifth TOD with CVW-14 and for 20-day supported striked over South Vietnam and Laos, then from Defender Station in the Sea of Japan as situation deteriorated over the Korean Peninsula. On 2 October 1969 she had a grave helicopter accident, the latter crashin on deck, killing all the crew and passengers. Back to Yankee Station on 1st November one F-4J aircrew made the 100,000th arrested landing. On 28 March 1970 of Phantom II from VF-142short down a NVA MiG-21. After 128 days of operations and nine-month, loosing 7 aircraft, she went home for a long overhaul.

USS Constellation was decomm. for a nine-month drydock overhaul. The spring of 1971 saw her gaining a new air group, CVW-9 as she departed San Diego for operations over logistic targets in Laos and reconnaissance over North Vietnam. On 19 January 1972 one VF-96 F-4 downed a MiG-21 and she stayed on station dutring the North Vietnamese Easter Offensive. She conducted daily air strikes in support of SVA troops and major targets in North Vietnam. On 8 May 1972 VF-96 shot down a MiG-17 and on 10 May, three, therefore Lieutenant Randall H. “Duke” Cunningham and Lieutenant (junior grade) William P. Driscoll shared the status of first aces of the Vietnam war. Three more were short down by VF-96 and VF-92 a MiG-21. Connie was back home after 154 days off Vietnam with as much Migs down than aircraft lost, earning a Presidential Unit Citation.

The troubled seventies

“Connie” Back in San Diego

USS Constellation was the focus of media attention as crew’s black members protested over systemic racism, leading to an aborted mutiny in late 1972. The same happaned on Kitty Hawk and other carriers at the time, and registers in general with troubles at home since the civil right and anti-war protests of the 1960s. “Connie”, back home on 1 July was prepared to return off Vietnam by early 1973 but delayed by replacement personnel and the commanding officer ordering administrative discharges for five black sailors considered as troublemakers ignited the protests. 250 more were soon concerned.

While in exercises off the California coast, the rumored 250 discharges spread into near-mutiny and a riot onboard; the result of which were filmed by television crews. Eventually discharges were carried out and the ship went back to Southeast Asia just as the Paris Peace Accords took effect (28 January). CVW-9 went on striking targets in Laos until a definitive cease-fire was pronounced on 21 February. “Connie” therefore was present fopr the whole Vietnam war and became the most praised, decorated, batte-hardened of all carriers in this war. The remainder of her deployment was to cover mine-clearing operations in North Vietnam.

Underway in 1971-72

Back home in October 1973, with nine-month workup she made her first peacetime deployment in 10 years and in November, became the first carrier to enter the Persian Gulf since 1949. She was back on 24 December 1974. After a very long (14-month) overhaul and upgrade at Puget Sound from February 1975, redesignated “CV” on 30 June 1975 and modified like her sister for ASW operations. Now able to operate the S-3A Viking and F-14A Tomcat, she was able to take part in 1977 RIMPAC off Hawaii but she was back in the Far East until lat 1977.

USS Constellation was deployed in the Indian Ocean due to the crisis in Yemen in 1978. From February 1980 under Captain Leon Edney’s command she took part in RIMPAC exercises and took place at Gonzo station, Arabian Sea, after the Iran Hostage crisis. She departed the station on 1 May after 110 days, earning a Navy Expeditionary Medal.

Constellation’s late service 1980-90s

After her 1981 maintenance she was visited by President Ronald Reagan on 20 August 1981, declaring she was “America’s Flagship” the crew being presented a presidential flag. He also said “Let friend and foe alike know that America has the muscle to back up its words, and ships like this and men like you are that muscle.” Now under Captain Dennis M Brooks she returned to the western Pacific and Indian Ocean until May 1982.

In January 1983, she started a 13 months major Overhaul in Puget Sound, having her Terrier replaced by Sea Sparrow and CIWS, among others. She was now able also to operate the new F/A-18A Hornet? Deployed until August 1985 with CVW-14 she sailed with USS Jacksonville, USS Worden, USS Camden, USS Crommelin and USS Fletcher from the port of Mombasa, Kenya, gaining there her motto “Go Ahead Make My Day” painted on the ship’s island, quoting President Reagan after void terrorist threats during the 1985 TWA Flight 847 crisis. She later earned the Meritorious Unit Citation and Navy’s Environmental Protection Award.

The 1987 deployment earned her also the Pacific Fleet Battle Efficiency Award (“Big E”) for her 18-month 1986 continuous stay. By April-October 1987 she took part in Operation Earnest Willescrting re-flagged Kuwaiti tankers in the Persian Gulf. She also earned the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal.

The “Unlucky Connie” 1988 explosion

On 2 August 1988 she slipped her moorings in a routine carrier qualification off southern California, while a JP-5 fuel leak in the uptakes reached her main machinery room. The resulting exploision torne down uptakes and spread quickly. Bith the fuel Oil Supervisor and Oil Lab were blamed for failing to do the transfer as required while a Boiler Technician triggered the halon fire suppression system. Due to the 30 minutes wait after it, the still hot space reignited the fire resultng in further explosions, until General Quarters was given. Volunteers managed to extinguish the fires but despite damage control frantic efforts if the main fires were extinguished around 21:00 they soon reflashed leading to a full night of battle.

An over-temperature alarm sounded in the Mt. 23 CIWS 20 mm ammunition magazine at some point (port side of the island), which urged offloading the magazine due to unsufficient pump pressure for flooding it. Despite all the collateral fires, amazingly there were no fatalities, but smoke inhalation injuties and the damage was immense. She entered North Island on 3 August for investigation which led to the inspection and repair of all JP-5 pipes on all USN CVs afterwards. This was a failure of previous maintenance. Total of JP-5 pumped into the uptakes was approximately 20,000 gallons at the time.

SLEP and later years

A B25 Mitchell on deck during the shooting of the Pearl Harbor movie
A B25 Mitchell on deck during the shooting of the Pearl Harbor movie

Quick repairs assisted by civilian contractors had Connie ready for another TOD on schedule with CVW-14, starting on 1 December 1988 in the Indian Ocean. She also had a screw repaired at Subic Bay. She later lost a Prowler at sea. Her West-Pac TOD ended in San Diego on 1 June 1989. She embarked CVW-9 by February 1990 for exercises on the East Coast and Gringo-Gaucho exercize. Next she had her SLEP in Philadelphia NyD, completed in March 1993, including among other the replacement of her gigantic steam turbines, of a standard no longer seen for decades in the USN.

After her post-SLEP shakedown with CVW-17 aboard at Mayport, Florida, she received instead CVW-2 and departed in late May for exercises off South America underway to San Deigo where she arrived on 22 July 1993. By May–June 1994 she took part in RIMPAC and on 10 November departed San Diego for exercises off Okinawa and off Korea after intel revealed a nuclear weapons program. On 11 January 1995 she led a battle group in the Persian Gulf for Operation Southern Watch the south iraq no-fly zone after after six-month was back in San Diego. From 1st October 1995, she was escorted by CruDes Gp 1, from 1 April to 1 October 1997 in the Persian Gulf (Operation Southern Watch) with the Fifth Fleet. In 10 weeks she made 4,400 sorties.

Her 1999 deployment saw her off the Korean Peninsula after gunfire between North and South Korean vessels. From August she was in the Persian Gulf for ten weeks and 5,000 sorties, including air strikes against two Iraqi radar stations and a duel wirh Iraqi jet using the Phoenix missile on 14 September. She was back home on 17 December earning a second “Big E” (Best Pacific carrier). She started her 20th deployment from 16 March 2001, in the Persian Gulf (from 30 April, for Operation OSW), under command of Captain John W. Miller, her last. She sailed to Pearl Harbor in September for the classic “Tiger Cruise” to San Diego.

USS Constallation in Australia, 2001

On 11 September 2001, halfway there, the crew learned about the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon. She arrived in San Diego on 14 September for her 40th birthday a,d after maintenance, she made her final deployment as part of the “Global War on Terrorism” from 2 November 2002 with CruDes Gp 1 (RADM Barry M. Costello) and Operation Enduring Freedom. On 17 December she entered the Persian Gulf and by 19 March 2003 started cover missions for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Designated night carrier she launched 1,500 night sorties with CVW-2 aircraft, dropping some 770,000 kg of ordnance. One aircraft was lost due to malfunction was all she reported.

She departed on 17 April for San Diego and from June receiced aboard VS-38 equipped with S-3B Viking; one of which made the last carrier’s arrested landing in her 21st deployment. With 41 years of service, a record, she was decommissioned at NAS North Island, San Diego, on 7 August 2003. Towed in September 2003 to the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility (“ghost fleet”) in Bremerton and stricken on December 2003 due to maintenance costs. Reserve Category X ended in February 2008 when it was announced her dismantling which started on 26 January 2012, alonsgide Forrestal and Independence.

Decommission ceremony
Decommission ceremony

She was scrapped at Brownsville, Texas from 2015, towed for this around Cape Horn, starting on 16 January and ending on 10 May 2017.

USS America (CV-66)

USS America underway 1967

USS America was commissioned at Norfolk NYD on 23 January 1965 under command of Captain Lawrence Heyworth Jr. Fitting out lasted until 15 March 1965, after which she trained in Hampton Roads and off the Virginia Capes, departinf on 25 March and making her first catapult launch on 5 April 1965 with her CEO piloting a Douglas A-4C Skyhawk. She made her shakedown cruise in the Caribbean, entering Guantánamo Bay on 23 June 1965.

Mediterranean service

CV-66 underway with USS Seattle in 1976

After a stop at Norfolk for post-shakedown fixes in ealy june, remaining until 21 August she returned for extra training off the Virginia Capes and Bermuda and back in Norfolk on 9 September. The 25th saw her flagship, RADM J. O. Cobb, CarDiv 2. She started her first tour of duty (TOD) in the Mediterranean a deployment lasting only a year. She departed late in 1965 and spend the new year’s day in Livorno, Italy. She visited Cannes, Genoa, Toulon, Athens, Istanbul, Beirut, Valletta, Taranto, Palma, and Pollensa Bay also taking part in the NATO exercize “Fairgame IV” until back at Norfolk on 10 July, operating there until 19 September to continue training in the Carribean, weathering Hurricane Inez, her crew helming restoring the devastated Guantanamo base.

In October she saw her first A-7 Corsair II conducting flight qualifications, off the Virginia Capes. She also tested an atomatic landing “no hands” system with F-4 Phantom, F-8 Crusader and A-4 Skyhawks. On 16 October two of her Phantoms collided in midair. On 3 September 1965 she was back for her second Med TOD, underway to Taranto, when loosing a plane as a catapult malfunctioned, which destroyed another. In all she would loose five planes.

Until 15 December, when back to Norfolk she took part in “LANTFLEX 66”. She started her third Med TOD on 10 January 1967, relieving USS Independence at Pollensa Bay on 22 January. She qualified also underway her SH-3A Viking crews, and practiced missile shoots in mid-Atlantic, day and night air operations. Off Gibraltar, she was shadowed by a Tu-95 “Bear” (18 January) intercepted by two scrambled F-4B.
On 4 February underway to Athens she took part in Italian control and reporting centers and met with the Marine Militare simulating a fast patrol boats attack. By early March she operated with Task Group 60.1, Task Force 60, for “Poker Hand IV” with HMS Hermes, making cross deckings and combined or opposed air defence exercises.

On 1 April she took part in “Dawn Clear” with TG 60.1, send and air raid against against Greek and Turkish “targets.” follopwing by extra training in the Ionian Sea. She stayed in Valletta and departed Malta back to the Ionian Sea, notably conducting an open sea missile exercise with USS Josephus Daniels and Harry E. Yarnell. With the civil war in Greece after the coup, the need to protect American citizens arose, including evacuation so the Sixth Fleet was constituted in a special operations task force under RADM Dick H. Guinn, TF65, USS America acting as flagship.

She stand by for evacuation, but as the coup was not violent security was not a problem and on 29 April, RADM Lawrence R. Geis relieved RADM Guinn as Commander CarDiv 4/TF 60, but also the commander of TF 65 and TF 502 (NATO) mobilized. USS America sailed to Taranto in May for rest, open to 1,675 visitors. With TG 60.1 sge departed Taranto on 8 May to train on the Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas and stopped in Livorno.

Middle east crisis

On 25 May 1967 while off Crete USS America aproached the coast of Spain, through the Malta Channel joining TG 60.2 (Saratoga and destroyers), RADMl Geis called in 48h when Egypt moved troops into the Gaza Strip, making the UN Peacekeeping Force withdrawn. As Israel also mobilized, the United Arab Republic went their fleet to close the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli shipping after normal training operations and replenishment operations she stand on duty until 5 June, to receive newspapers and TV crews from around the globe on board. A Soviet destroyer already started to shadow the fleet on 2 June. On 7 June, VADM William I. Martin, 6th Fleet warned Soviet ship for their agressive behaviour.

The Six Day War saw USS America, escorted by USS Lloyd Thomas keeping sonar contacts with possible soviet submarines in the area, although destroyers took their distances. USS Sampson investigated the contac and starting tracking it while the carrier launched all her ASW helicopters Sea King of HS 9. The contact was confirmed by Lockheed SP-2H Neptune of VP 7, coordinating the fleet after a positive MAD contact, an even reported by newsmedias.

A-4C Skyhawk from VA-64 with Bullpup missiles were made ready after USS Liberty was attacked by Israeli forces, a technical research ship 15 mi (24 km) north of El Arish, international waters. She was heklping communications for the evacuation of American dependents in the area. The DoD ordered to scramble F-4B Phantom and more were prepared. Two A-4 Skyhawks launched and all convered to Liberty’s position while Tel Avir reported this to be an error. It costed nevertheless 34 men and 173 wounded. Destroyers arrived at 06:00 on 9 June to assist.

Meanwhile as the Six-Day War went, Arab countries decounced the 6th Fleet as providing direct air cover for Israeli ground forces, which was denied in presse conference, still aboard. Appeals for a cease-fire came and tension relaxed. Meanwhile Two squadrons of CVW-6 participated in the 27th Paris Air Show. After corssing the Dardanelles on 21 June to Istanbul RADM Geis made a state visit. About 600 students, 1,500 spectators and sympathizers made an anti-American protest march and crew’s visit was was cancelled. She departed on 26 June and returned in the Aegean Sea.

She latter stopped in Thessaloniki for the Fourth of July celebrations with the Prefect ad Mayor of Thessaloniki and American Consul, officers. On the 8th July, RADM Daniel V. Gallery USN (Ret.) arrived on board, visiting the 6th Fleet forhis later articles and books. The carrier was also in Athens and steamed to Valletta, the in August the Bay of Naples, Genoa, Valencia, Pollensa Bay, relieving USS Franklin D. Roosevelt and departed for Norfolk in September

On 6–8 January 1967, she trained off the Virginia Capes and cruised in the Caribbean for the naval technical proficiency inspection (NTPI) refresher training and doing more carrier qualifications. She prepared for WestPac and took par tin the AFWR in February with Carrier Air Wing 6, testing simulated PT boat attacks. After a stay in Norfolk she departed in March for AFWR training and “Rugby Match” exercize. She conducted another off Puerto Rico, a SAREX, photographic reconnaissance sorties, also simulating conditions in Gulf of Tonkin and firing two Terrier missiles.

With CarDiv 2 as flagship, TG 26.1 she participated in more exercises as part of the “Blue” attack Force, for drills of close air support, photo reconnaissance and combat air patrol for TF 22 off the island of Vieques. CVW-6 trained also for aerial mining mission and amphibious cover.

CV-66 in Vietnam

On 10 April 1968, USS America sailed for “Yankee Station” with CVW-6, with major training exercise underway off Rio de Janeiro and via the Good Hope. She past Madagascar and arrived in Subic Bay to gain her station via the South China Sea and after the 26 May “Newboy” carrier qualifications exercise, started operations on 31 May. She stayed 112 days on “Yankee Station”, destroying many objectives. On 10 July 1968, an VF-33 F-4J Phantom downed a MiG-21 ‘Fishbed’ northwest of Vinh over North Vietnam, the first carrier MiG kill. For its strikes, CVW-6, was later awarded the Navy Unit Commendation.

In between she visited Hong Kong and Yokosuka and added to her regular strike group, VAH-10 and VA-130 for EW taking part in “Magic Carpet”. She later went to Australia, New Zealand on her way back to Brazil and reaching Norfolk, making the usual ceremony when crossing the Equator underway. In January 1969 she headed for Jacksonville for carrier qualifications, returned to Norfolk for an nine-month overhaul, post-repair trials and refresher cruise off the Virginia Capes until November 1969, also testing the U-2R reconnaissance plane.

On 5 January 1970 she departed Norfolk for her training cruise in the Carribean and in February took part in Operation “SPRINGBOARD 70” until back in Norfolk in March-Apeil and her second Vietnam deployment with CVW-9 on board. Again she went by to Rio de Janeiro, rounded the Cape and crossed the Indian Ocean into the Pacific for a call port of Subic Bay. In late May she was in the Gulf of Tonkin, Cmdr. Fred M. Backman, commanding VA-165 from a Grumman A-6C Intruder initiating strike sorties with the new A-7E Corsair II. She spent 100 days on “Yankee Station”. On 20 August back in Manila for replsnishment and rest, VADM Frederic A. Bardshar (7th Fleet) hosted President Ferdinand E. Marcos on board.

On 17 September, she carried out her fourth frontline station period before heading for the coast of Korea and Sea of Japan via the Tsushima Straits and after a stay, existed via the Tsugaru Strait, engaging CVW-9 in exercises “Blue Sky” with ROKAF and “Commando Tiger”, “Autumn Flower” with the JASDF an 5th US Air Force. She was back in Subic in November. In total she flew 10,600 sorties and 7,615 combat and support missions, spending 11,190 tons of ordnance without a single combat loss and one landing accident with no fatalities.

Back in the Med

CV-66 underway in the Indian Ocean

The crew rested in Australia where she hosted the ambassador and his wife to Sydney, speneding a Thanksgivings twice while crossed the International Date Line. She was back via the Cape Horn on 5 December 1970, stopping at Rio for refuelling, and Norfolk on the 21, remaining there until 22 January 1971 and a 3 month overhaul. After which the usual refresher off the Virginia Capes, Puerto Rican waters training with HMS Ark Royal, HMS Cleopatra, and HMS Bacchante followed. She prepared in Hampton Roads by July for another Mediterranean TOD. On 16 July she was at NAS Rota in Spain to relieve USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, then Naples for three major exercises.

While underway to Palma, Majorca she took part in “PHIBLEX 2–71” (mock amphibious landing in Sicily) and in August to “National Week X” before heading for Corfu, Greece and Athens for eastern Mediterranean exercises, also stopping at Rhodes and taking part in the Aegean Sea’s Operation “Deep Furrow 71” with CVW-8. After a stop at Thessaloniki she took part in “National Week XI”, central Mediterranean and later with British, Dutch, Italian, and French forces for “Ile D’Or” until late November, stopping at Cannes and Barcelona before reaching Rota in December for upkeep and be relieved by her near-sister USS John F. Kennedy.

Last Vietnam Deployment

Back in Norfolk on 16 December, a two-month overhaul, sea trials and training, she took part in exercise “Exotic Dancer V.”. By June 1972, she carried Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, and escorted by USS Davis and Dewey, plus the fleet oiler Waccamaw she was back in southeast Asia via Good Hope in June, joining the 7th Fleet to relieve USS Coral Sea on station, for operations interrupted by repairs after an accident in Subic Bay delayed due to a natural disaster, and back on station on 9 August. To note her air group bombed and destroyed the very important Thanh Hoa Bridge on 6 October. After a new upkeep at Subic Bay, she was in Singapore, and returned to “Yankee Station.”

He luck ran out when a grave fire broke out onboard on 19 November 1972 in N°2 catapult space, but damage control parties mastered the damage. She remained operational on the line for 43 days, and after another call in Subic Bay by December, repairs, she was back to “Yankee Station”, learning at Xmas of the Paris agreements. She would receive five battle stars for her Vietnam service. Her crew spend the newy years’s ever in Hong Kong and she departed on 4 January 1973 for Subic Bay and back to “Yankee Station” to resume operations for two weeks until peace was secured so on 28 January 1973, ceasfire was announced while she returned in “Yankee Station” a last time until back in Subic and to the US from 20 February, calling Mayport Florida to land CVW-8 and calling Norfolk on 24 March, followed by a 30 days stand down and yard maintenance in May-August.

Post-Vietnam service

USS America trained in October and celebrated her 100,000th landing on 29 August, earning her nickname “Miss America”. On 29 October, she headed for Jacksonville to make carrier qualifications, assisting in November the crippled sailing schooner Harry W. Adams with her Helicopters. She later went to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in November for various drills, and back to Norfolk. By January 1974 she was back for another Med TOD, calling Rota, as flagship, RADM Frederick C. Turner, TF 60. She was present in several exercises in the western Mediterranean visiting underway Toulon, Barcelona and Valencia in an late February taking part in “National Week XVI” off Crete, stopping in Athens. In March this was “PHIBLEX 9–74”, resumed in early April returning in Athens.

Next she took part in “Dawn Patrol”, a seven nations exercize, and after another stray in Athens in May she was in Istanbul, back to Athens for “Shahbaz”, and calling Rhodes in June and later “Flaming Lance” off Sardinia. Back to Athens she trained off Souda Bay and “Nimbus Star”i n the Suez Canal, then back to Corfu, and Palma, Majorca, then Rota on 15 July. With the crisis in Cyprus, she was mobilized until relieved by USS Independence, and reached Norfolk on 3 August. Next she took part in “Northern Merger” in September with HMS Ark Royal again, closely watched by Soviet surface units, “Bear” and “Badger” bombers, duly intercepted.

She sailed to Portsmouth (29 September) and back to Norfolk on 12 October and an overhaul from November 1974 to September 1975 followed by sea trials and additional training off the Virginia Capes, then Cuban waters, launching her helicopter to locate and save the crew of the stranded motorized sailboat Ruggentino. Back in Norfolk on 16 December, she was back at sea on January 1976 and by March took parft in “Safe Pass ’76” with four other navies. She made another Med TOD from 15 April 1976 with CVW-6 and CarGru 4 commander RADM James B. Linder onboard.

Lebanon crisis

USS America in 1983

From Rota she took part in NATO exercise “Open Gate” and gained the eastern Mediterranean for Operation “Fluid Drive”, evacuating US Citizens from Lebanon. For three months she remaine din high alert for the longest stay since the Yom Kippur War. After calling Rhodes in May, Taranto, she learned underway of the assassination of US ambassador Francis E. Meloy while visiting Lebanese President Elias Sarkis on 16 June 1976. She assisted the LST Spiegel Grove evacuating personal from the beach to safety. She celebrated the bicentennial Independence Day at Bari in Italy. In July she conducted a missile exercise north of Crete while still part of “Fluid Drive”, returning on 27 July. In August, after Naples for two weeks she was back in August for “National Week XXI” and reached Palma for “Poop Deck 76” with the Armada and USAF units.

Next, after topping in Barcelona and Málaga, she took part in “Display Determination” again with HMS Ark Royal but also units from Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Turkey with the goal of practicing convoy escort duties with close air support for amphibious operations. Back to Rota, she was relieved by USS Franklin D. Roosevelt before reaching Norfolk in late October 1976. Her maintenance lasted until February and in the spring from Mayport, she took part in May’s “Solid Shield 77”. She later trained with TG 20.4 in the Caribbean and returned to the Mediterranean on 29 September with CVW-6 aboard.

From Rota in October she crossed the Tyrrhenian Sea, stopped in Brindisi, and reached the Ionian Sea on 7 November then Crete, the Kithira Island, and back to the Adriatic, Dubrovnik, Trieste, and back to Souda Bay, then Palma where she spent Christmas. Next she was in Ligurian Sea to stop in Genoa on 30 December, stying there until 8 January 1978 and ASW exercises in the Tyrrhenian Sea, followed by Sicily and back to the Tyrrhenian Sea and Catania, “National Week” on 5 February and exercises in March until back to Norfolk on 25 April. After resplenishment and carrier qualifications off the Virginia Capes she entered the Naval Shipyard for upkeep followed by exercises and more carrier qualifications in October. A Lockheed S-3 Viking missed ner landing and was lost.

1980s service

After traning off Guantánamo Bay, Ft. Lauderdale, Norfolk and Virginia Capes training, she miltiplied drills in the Caribbean until March and “BEAREX” exercise with a Lockheed P-3 Orion from Bermuda, simulating a Russian “Bear” though soon A-7 and Grumman F-14 Tomcat scrambled to intercept real “Bear D” planes on their way to Cuba. She was in Rota on 24 March, relieving USS Saratoga visiting many ports and training in the Adriatic, visiting Split and Venice, Trieste, later Alexandria and back in Souda Bay. She headed then west to Palma and Barcelona, visting also Marseille and Genoa underway to Rota and starting her crossing home in September 1979.

She took part in several multilateral exercises in the Mediterranean like “National Week XXVII”, in the the Gulf of Sirte as a show off force for Libya. Her battle group was maintained in high alert, fearing incursions on the claimed waters. CVW-11 maintained fighter cover and the exercise went on unhindered. Back to Rota in September 1979 she was relieved by USS Nimitz and she was back in Norfolk. She was in Mayport for operations off the coast of Florida and later Gulf of Mexico with carrier qualifications, later notably the new McDonnell-Douglas F/A-18 Hornet. Back in drydock on 6 November 1979, until 23 September 1980 she started post-refit trials and tested her new “Sea Sparrow” missiles and Phalanx CIWS.

She stayed in these waters until January 1981 operating also the Grumman C-1A “Trader” with onboard the first USN black female pilot, and carrier qualifications for CVW-11. Following more qualificationss and training off the Virginia Capes and Caribbean she was reassigned to the Indian Ocean for NATO exercise “Daily Double” in the Mediterranean, followed by a stay at Port Said. She transited the Canal on 5 May as Lebanon’s situation degraded, prompting her to stay. She eventually arrived at “Gonzo” Station for a stay until 3 June, visited Singapore and back to “Gonzo Station” for 35 days. After her second northern Arabian Sea stay in 4 August she headed for Australian waters and “Weapons Week” exercise off Diego Garcia.

Departing Diego Garcia on 15 August she reached Gage Roads at Fremantle in Western Australia and was back to “Gonzo Station” for 34 days. However it was interrupted by a fire on 23 September, starting in a steam trunk line but Capt. James F. Dorsey, Jr. ordered general quarters and the control teams did their job well. No casualties ansd limited damage. Sghe was relieved on station by USS Coral Sea on 16 October and via the Bab el Mandeb Strait, was on high alert due to the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen delcaring their hostility to the US. On 21 October 1981 after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat passage was granted through the Suez Canal, escorted by the Egyptian Navy. She reached Palma on 25 October and after drills with the Armada, she was back in Norfolk on 12 November.
America in dry dock at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, 1982.

After a short ovehaul until 20 April 1982 and carribean training she took part in “United Effort” and “Northern Wedding 82”, the latter off Scotland? She was back in the Med on 26 September, for exercise “Display Determination” and bacl to Mayport and Norfolk and more training in 1983 with CVW-1, reached Palma and headed for the Lebanese coast, relieving USS Nimitz on station (2 January) staying there 18 days whiled calling Piraeus with USS Dale and Savannah. Next she was in Port Said and transited the canal on 31 January, for the Red Sea. USS America took part in “Beacon Flash 83” and a “Weapons Week” off Diego Garcia. She visited Colombo on 7 March and back in the Indian Ocean took part in “Beacon Flash 83-4”, visiting Masirah Island in Oman.

She took part in “Ocean Venture” on 24 April 1984 and returned to the Mediterranean. After Málaga on 21 May, she arrived at Port Said on 3 Junenadn transited to join the 7th Fleet on 8 June and relieving USS Kitty Hawk. On 10 July while in training in the Indian Ocean she lost a EA-6B Prowler (VAQ-135 Black Ravens) due to a catapult failure later attributed to faulty maintenance. She later back in Naples, visited Monaco and took part in “Display Determination”. On Augusta Bay on 27 October she was relieved by USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.

After carrier qualifications in the Virginia Capes she was in overhaul and in May-June made her refresher training. In August she took part in “Ocean Safari” for six-weeks up to Norwegian waters. Nothing much happened in 1985.

Libyan Crisis (1986-87)

In 1986, tensions in the Mediterranean mobilized the 6th Fleet as in January President Ronald Reagan ordered all U.S. citizens out of Libya, sending a second carrier battle group while brefieing with the general staff for possible operations on Libya. “Attain Document” took place on 24-31 January 1986 and 10-15 February while USS America operated CVW-1, participating in March and patrolling the Gulf of Sidra. On 23-24 March, operation started south of the “Line”, defined by Khadaffi. On the shore, two SA-5 “Gammon” SAMs were launched at 07:52 and reached USS America’s F-14A Tomcats, but missed; Later additional SAMs were fired as well asn attack by a Libyan Combattante II G-type FAC from Misratah, approaching from USS Ticonderoga.

Two USS America’s A-6E Intruders (VA 34) fired their AGM-84 Harpoons and sank her. It was the first use of the Harpoon in combat. A-7 Corsairs from Saratoga’s later launched AGM-88 HARMs on various radar stations and SAM sites. Next, A Nanuchka-type FAC arrived in the Gulf of Sidra was was damaged by VA-34 and VA-85 planes with Rockeye cluster bombs. She limped back to Benghazi. On 25 March, another Nanuchka-II arrived and was attackzed by Intruders from VA-85 and USS Coral Sea’s VA-55 with Rockeyes and a Harpoon. A second Nanuchka-II later was also damage, all returning to Benghazi. “Attain Document III” stopped on 27 March. CV-66 steamed for Augusta Bay in Sicily, relieving USS Saratoga on station and visiting Livorno in April 1986.

Retaliation came with the TWA bombing of 5 April 1986 and an attack on La Belle Discothèque in West Berlin. Later President Reagan directed attacks on terrorist-related targets, which was “Operation El Dorado Canyon”. It started on 14 April 1986 with tanker aircraft from American RAF bases in England for the F-111F Aardvark and EF-111A Raven, some from the Iberian Peninsula and through Gibraltar, also flying over France, Spain, and Portugal. USS America launched six A-6 Intruder (VA-34), six A-7E Corsair IIs and USS Coral Sea eight A-6Es, six F/A-18 Hornets, others providing CAP. It was as later stated
“a spectacular feat of mission planning and execution”. All the targets were slmulaneously attacked on 19:00 with Shrike and HARM missiles (SAM sites at Benghazi and Tripoli) and Mk. 82 bombs on the Benghazi military barracks. Four crated MiGs being destroyed there among other.

CV-66 late career: 1988-2000

USS America returns from Operation Desert Storm

USS America was in Naples from 28 April tp 4 May and took part in “Distant Hammer” with the Italian and Turkish Air Forces. After a stop at Nice and Monaco she operated with USS Coral Sea and Enterprise for “poopdeck” with the Armada and USAF from Spain. Next, “Tridente” and “National Week” were followed by a visit of Catania and a stay in Benidorm, Spain. She was relieved by USS John F. Kennedy in Rota by late August to be back in Norfolk for an overhaul until February 1988.

Taking part in Operation North Star in March in the vestfjord and the Kola peninsula, she was shadowed by a Slava-class cruiser. After a stop in Norfolk by May she departed for her 16th deployment, to the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean. On 13 May 1989 she had a JP-5 pumproom fire and explosion killing two but quickly mastered after 7 hours. On 11 August she teamed with USS Coral Sea for the eastern Mediterranean as a show of force (after the supected murder of Marine Corps LtCol William R. Higgins with other hostages). She was back home on 10 November 1989.

She took part in the evacuation of the American Embassy in Lebanon in 1989 and until November and later took part in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991 as well as Operation Deny Flight. For Operation Desert Shield she had Captain J. J. Mazach in command. She tested for the first time in combat her new NTCSA system, CTAPS and an Advanced Tracking Prototype, for the first time in a single package, coupled with NTDS, C4I with digital data links with fleet, the most advanced in the world at that time. She also had tactical B57 and B61 nuclear weapons aboard.

America, Saratoga and John F. Kennedy battle groups formed Battle Force Red Sea for this operatio, started at 02:00 hours on 17 January. She deployed CVW-1, as CAP and later for air strikes, north of Baghdad. Later bridges, mobile Scud sites, oil production facilities and Republican Guard units were hiy. On 14 February, she was assigned to Battle Force Zulu with USS Midway, Ranger and Theodore Roosevelt for strikes over the Kuwait Theater of Operations and eastern Iraq.

On 20 February, VS-32 S-3 squadron destroyed an Iraqi gunboat. On 23 February, a Silkworm missile battery, which fired at USS Missouri, was destroyed. The following day, close air support for coalition forces started on a frantic pace. Some hit the infamous “highway of death” adn Kuwait was liberated after 100h of the assault, her own air group claiming 387 armored vehicles and tanks. She depoarted on 4 March after 3,008 combat sorties and 2,000 tons of ordnance dropped with no loss. She was back in Norfolk on 18 April, earning her 3rd Navy Unit Commendation.

After taking part in New York City’s “Welcome Home”, Fleet Week festivities, she took part in “North Star” in the north atlantic and to Norway for eight weeks. After another six-month deployment she was back in the Persian Gulf, visited on arrival by the Kuwaiti leadership and US Ambassador. After exercizes in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea, Mediterranean she returned to Norfolk in June 1992. With her Joint Task Group she departed in August 1993 to relieve Theodore Roosevelt engaged in Operation Deny Flight.

For several weeks she supported the UN flight exlcusion zone over Bosnia and Herzegovina. Next she crossed Suez on 29 October 1993, relieving USS Abraham Lincoln in the Indian Ocean for their humanitarian efforts in Somalia, covering 2,500 mi (4,000 km) in a week. CVW-1 also flew over southern Iraq for Operation Southern Watch. On 12 December she crossed Suez and headed to Norfolk. On 12 September 1994 USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and America were deployed off Haiti with many Army helicopters on board in support of President Clinton’s policy to restore democracy. It was a first for such action.

On 28 August 1995, she made her 20th, last deployment in the Mediterranean and uneventful six-month betwen the Adriatic Sea and Persian Gulf. She crossed a Perfect Storm after leaving Norfolk and took part in Operations “Deny Flight” and “Deliberate Force” with UN and NATO as well as “Southern Watch”, over Iraq. She stopped in Valletta by January 1996, returned to Bosnia-Herzegovina for Operation Joint Endeavor and arrived in Norfolk on 24 February 1996.

She was scheduled a SLEP overhaul in 1996 but budget cuts had her instead decommissioned early. This happened in Portsmouth, Virginia on 9 August 1996, under command of Capt. Robert E. Besal with Admiral Leighton W. Smith in assistance. Stricken, transferred to the Ready Reserve Fleet in Philadelphia (“ghost fleet”), she was awarded the 1995 Battenberg Cup for the crew’s last achievements. She was briefly used as live-fire target in 2005, and planned to scuttled, notably to establish better designs for future aircraft carriers (these were indeed passed onto the Gerald R. Ford class). Proposals to save her as a museum ship were unsuccessful.

On 19 April 2005 experiments took place for four weeks, with underwater explosives, closely monitored to simulate underwater attacks. In the end she was sunk in a controlled scuttling on 14 May 2005. The data was precious as underlined in May 2005 by Naval Sea Systems Command. She played her part for the USN, to the last.

USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67)

USS John F. Kennedy port stern view, 2004

The sole SCB-127C carrier, and last conventional fleet carrier of the USN was completed in 1965, in the larger semi-submerged Shipway 11, and after she was christened on 27 May 1967 by Jacqueline Kennedy and her daughter Caroline, she entered service on 7 September 1968. Her new island was the most striking difference to her other sisters with its angled funnel. The way she was shorter however, was not.

After her operational readiness inspection by Commander, CarDiv 2, CV-67 left for her first Mediterranean TOD in April 1969. She called Rota on 22 April, relieving USS Forrestal. RADM of the 6th fleet Pierre N. Charbonnet, Carrier Striking Forces and CSU (Carrier Striking Unit) 60.1.9 made her his flagship and she transited Gibraltar, refueled from USS Marias, shadowed by the Soviet Kotlin-class destroyer No. 383. Fo her maiden voyage and later deployments it’s the Middle East which became the focus and she was upgraded to handle the F-14 Tomcat and the S-3 Viking like her sisters in the 1970s.

She was mobilized to keep watch over the Yom Kippur war in October 1973. In In 1974, she won the Marjorie Sterrett Battleship Fund Award for the Atlantic Fleet. On 20 June 1975 there was an arson aboard, with eight fires starting, but no injuries while in Norfolk. Like her sisters, the main Atlantic home port. On 22 November 1975 she collided with the guided missile cruiser USS Belknap, and suffered far less than her sister. JP-5 fuel lines however ruptured and sprayed in the catwalk, fires starting on both vessels. Belknap’s superstructure burned to a crisp and she lost seven in the inferno. John F. Kennedy’s crew modelty suffered from smoke inhalation, and Yeoman 2nd Class David A. Chivalette (VF-14, CVW-1) died as a result.

Port Visit in Spain

In the night of 14-15 September 1976, while underway for a replenishment north of Scotland, USS Bordelon lost control, collided with CV-67. Again, the destroyer was in such state that she was scrapped at home. It was insignificant for thr carrier, ater repaied in Norfolk. She lost a F-14 Tomcat due to a catapult was lostr but the crew ejected and survived. As often in that case, the parachute never had the time to deploy and they basically both crashed on deck, being injured. The always nearby Soviet Navy rushed to seize the sinking planen carrying brand new missiles. Eventually, the US Navy managed to retrieve it.

In 1979 John F. Kennedy had her first long overhaul, completed in 1980 at Norfolk NyD while arson attacks were carried out on the ship on two occasions. On 9 April five fires killed a shipyard worker, injured 34 and another on 5 June, two more firesbut no injuries. After the usual post-refit trials and refrsher cruise she was back in the Atlantic, winning her second Marjorie Sterrett Battleship Fund Award. On 4 August 1980, she departed for the Mediterranean, with nothing to note.

On 4 January 1982, she operated with Carrier Air Wing Three as flagship, Carrier Group Four (CCG-4) for her ninth Mediterranean deployment this time completed by a Suez canal crossing and Indian Ocean, visiting Austrlia and Perth, Fremantle, and dropping anchors in Gage Roads, 19 March 1982. On 25 March she was back in the Indian Ocean and visited Somalia, then Mombasa, and Toulon, France before calling for Malaga in Spain and Nortfolk on 14 July. October 1983 saw her taking station off Beirut, Lebanon instead of her usual Indian Ocean deployment after a bomving of US personnel of the Multinational Force and she kept patrolling the aread.

On 4 December she launched her first strioke against Hezbollah positions in Beirut, ten A-6 aircraft in addition to others from USS Independence. This was a retaliation for two F-14 being fired upon. She lost an A-6E by SAMs provided by Iran. The pilots became POWS, released on 3 January 1984.

In 1984, she was in maintenance in Norfolk with overhault and improvements lasting for a year and a half. Sge was back in operation in late 1985, receiving the DoD Phoenix Award for Maintenance Excellence. In July 1986, she took part in an International Naval Review during the re-dedication and maintenance of the Statue of Liberty. in NyC, acting as flagship. In August she was back in the Mediterranean for Freedom of Navigation exercises in the Gulf of Sidra, Lybia. She also retook her station in Lebanon due to terrorist activities and Beirut’s hostage crisis. She was back in Norfolk in March 1987 for 15 months or iverhaul and upgrades.

In August 1988 she started her 13th deployment, at some point two Lybian MiG-23 Flogger approached the task force 81 miles (130 km) off shore and CV-67 launched two F-14 Tomcats (VF-32 “Fighting Swordsmen”) in interception, sending them away and she shot them down.
She later took part in Fleet Week, New York and Independence Day celebrations in Boston. On 10 August 1990, she was called to participate to Operation Desert Shield. She needed SRA maintenance which was done way faster than usual, in just 24-hour as well as additional fuel and ordnance before rushing in the Atlantic on 15 August as flagship, Red Sea Battle Force.

At midnight, 17 January 1991 Carrier Air Wing 3 launched its very first strike and until the cease-fire, 114 were launched, 2,900 sorties, dropping some 3.5 million pounds of ordnance. In late February order to stand down was received and she was relieved, taking the Suez Canal to be back in Norfolk on 28 March. Maintenance started with focus on the worn-out flight deck, and careful examination of many critical system and replacements while she was refitted to operate the F/A-18C/D Hornet. After he usual post-refot trials and refresher cruise in the Carribean, she departed for her 14th Med TOD and this time took position off Yugoslavia, for the Bosnia-Herzegovina war, enforcing the no fly zone with UN.

Back home, she entered the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, for a 2-year extensive overhaul (not SLEP), and she was transferred to Mayport NAS near Jacksonville, her new and final home port. By 1 October 1995, she became a reserve carrier with only partial full-time active duty on the Atlantic Fleet. She could be reactivated for war operations or relieve other carriers but in peacetime acted with a small reserve crew and support training requirements. She still took pat in routine fleet exercises and aviator carrier qualifications, even battle group training.

Lacking funds however, the naval Reserve failed to carry out a proper maintenance and John F. Kennedy’s general state degraded. Air Wing Reserve 30 was soon eliminated and the carrier was devoid of any planes since Carrier Air Wing Reserve 20 was also reduced drastically. After the 11 September 2001 attacks however, the Operational Reserve Carrier ended. John F. Kennedy was made fully operational again with a thorough maintenance. She visited Dublin for the first tiime in 1996 visited by some 10,000 while at anchor in Dublin Bay and greeted by American-Irish personalities.

She made afterwards her 15th Mediterranean deployment and transited Suez for four months of station in the Persian Gulf. Two Iranian F-14s arrived by night at low altitude and high speed, detected by the AEGIS cruiser USS Vicksburg and warned. They turned away. CV-67 also took part in Fleet Week ’98 in New York and made her 16th deployment, making a salvage and rescue during Hurricane Floyd by mid-September 1999. She stopped in Al Aqabah, Jordan, vbing visited by the King of Jordan, and took part in Operation Southern Watch. She was the last conventional fleet carrier of the USN when arriving in Mayport on 19 March 2000.


After maintenance and the Advanced combat direction system being fitted, she participated in the 4 July International Naval Review, followed by an appearance in Sail Boston 2000. During her last refit she became a testbed for the Cooperative Engagement Capability system using satecom to engage targets beyond range. In 2001 on trials shortcoming were found in air group operations and catapults, elevators, were found non-functional while two boilers refused to start, resulting on a degraded note while both her captain and two department heads were relieved for failing maintenance.

Her last major operations was Noble Eagle in the mid-Atlantic seaboard, ending on 14 September 2001, and for the first six month of 2002, she launched airstrikes over Afghanistan, spending some 31,000 tons of ordnance at al Qaeda targets for Operation Enduring Freedom. While back home she stopped in Tarragona, and Rota as usual. In July 2004 she collided with a dhow in the Persian Gulf and due to the incident the commanding officer was relieved. While trying to avoid the vessels, turning hard at high speed, she had three planes damaged by collisions, as she was recovering an aircraft critically low on fuel.

Ans assessment was made when back home and it appeared CV-67 was the costlier carrier to maintain and operate in the fleet, expected to have another expensive overhaul, but budget cutbacks instead urged her retirement, announced on 1 April 2005. She made her last training cruise on the East Coast and stopped in NYC for Fleet Week, visited Boston, and was decommissioned in Mayport. She made a last serie of farewell port calls along the way to her reserve site, including Boston before her decommission on 23 March 2007.
Her in-port cabin decorated by Jacqueline Kennedy was saved, disassembled and rebuilt at the National Museum of Naval Aviation, NAS Pensacola.

She was towed to Norfolk on 26 July 2007, until Pier 4 in Philadelphia was dredged for her to dock and on 17 March 2008 she left Norfolk with the tug Atlantic Salvor and arrived on 22 March at high tide at the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility of Philadelphia. By November 2009, she was on donation hold as museum/memorial, which passed Phase II in 2010, but eventually the Maine City Council refused to host the ship. By late 2017 her donation hold status was revoked and she was to be sold for BU, on 6 October 2021 together with USS Kitty Hawk to International Shipbreaking Limited. The dismantling process is still ongoing today.

President class Frigates (1962)

President class Frigates (1962)

south african navy South African Navy (1959-64)
President Kruger, President Pretorius, President Steyn

President Class:

President Kruger
President Kruger (Courtesy of P.Dubois)

Under the 1955 Simon’s Town Agreement, the South African Navy had to purchase modern anti-submarine frigates, coastal minesweepers and defence boats from Britain as part of the agreement to defend the sea routs around Southern Africa. With the acquisition of the SAS Vrystaat (Type 15 frigate) in 1956, the South African government continued with its expansion program by placing an order at the British yards in 1957 for the construction of three new modified Type 12 anti-submarine frigates or Rothesay class frigates as they would subsequently be known as in British service.

Specifications development

The Type 12 was designed for high speed, manoeuvrability, and good seakeeping. In total twelve of the Rothesay class frigates were laid down for the Royal Navy with the addition of two Rothesay class frigates built for the New Zealand Navy, six for the Royal Australian Navy under the designation River class and three build for the South African Navy under the designation “President class”.

The first President class frigate, “SAS President Kruger”, was laid down on 6 April 1959 at the Clyde yard of Messrs Yarrow & Company, Scotstoun, and was launched 18 months later, on 20 October 1960. The new frigate had the distinction of being the first major war vessel ever built to the order of the South Africa Navy. The second vessel to be laid down was the “SAS President Steyn”, which was launched on 23 November 1961 at the Linthouse yard of Alexander Stephen & Son. After the launch of the SAS President Steyn, the third and final vessel was launched on 28 September 1962 at the Cydeside yard of Yarrow’s at Scotstoun and would receive the name “SAS President retorius”. The arrival of President class frigates brought a close to the South African Navy’s extensive expansion phase and formed part of 19 new vessels acquired from the United Kingdom as part of the Simon’s Town Agreement.

Design of the President class

Armaments & electronics

As an anti-submarine frigate, the frigate’s main role was to search and destroy submarines.
The President class would achieve this with the use of two three-barrel Limbo anti-submarine mortars situated aft of the vessel. The Limbo mortar could fire the Mk 6 projectiles at ranges up to 2000 yards and was automatically aimed and fired by the hull mounted Type 170 short-range search and attack sonar. The Type 170 sonar would also work in conjunction with Type 164 target classification sonar and the Type 177M panoramic search sonar, allowing the vessel to detect and destroy submarines at a greater range and with more accuracy.

The main armament onboard the President class consisted of a twin Vickers 4.5-inch Mk 6 dual-purpose turret fitted forward of the bridge and was remote controlled by a Mk 5 Flyplane Predictor System which incorporated both optical sights and the Type 275 gunnery radar. The twin 4.5-inch mounting could effectively engage both surface and air targets and was also ideally suited for shore bombardment. With a maximum range of 10 miles, these guns were very accurate and could fire up to twenty rounds per minute per barrel. Further aft on the vessel a twin Mk V Bofors with its associated Type 262 radar was fitted to provide close range defence against aircraft.

Working in conjunction with the main armament onboard the vessel was the Mk 6M gunfire director which is used for calculating range and elevation for the main guns against moving targets. In order to locate potential target, the vessel was equipped with the Type 293Q combined air and surface radar, the Type 978 navigation radar and the Type 277Q height-finder. The vessel also carried HF/DF and UA3 electronic countermeasures, as well an Identification Friend or Foe Mk X antenna.

Mk 6M Gunfire Director
Mk 6M Gunfire Director at the SA Naval Museum (R.Ackerman)


When it comes to performance, the President class was fitted with two high power turbine plants using double reduction gearing to achieve low revolutions and maximum efficiency at high power. These two turbines produced at total of 30 430 horsepower and drove two shafts fitted with five bladed propellers which would allow for a top speed of 30 knots. With the correct weather and sea condition the President class could travel a total of 4 500
nautical miles.

Manoeuvrability of the vessel was very good due to the adaptation of twin rudders and the hull form, which was kept reasonably fine to assist in achieving high speeds. The vessel also featured a high freeboard and flared bow with a prominent half-raised forecastle to achieve lift forward. An all-welded hull was chosen for the vessel in order to achieve both lightness and strength and was partly prefabricated to enable rapid production.

Living conditions

SAS President Pretorius conducting Wasp helicopter recovery (Cameron Kirk Kinnear)

The President class became popular among the crew due to the habitability of the vessel being of high standards, especially when compared to earlier frigates. The vessel made provision for a cafeteria system, centralised gally system and well-appointed dining halls for the crew. The crew living accommodation was well illuminated by florescent lighting, each bunk had its own reading lamp and amenity points. A full air-conditioning system with a preset temperature was also installed to improve working conditions onboard the vessel.

It is also worth noting the President class was designed to operate under nuclear fallout conditions and were built in such a manner that all living and operational spaces could be sealed off from the atmosphere. To prevent contamination from settling, a pre-wetting system was installed, which when turned on enveloped the entire ship in an affective salt-water haze and would wash overboard radioactive particles that might have settled.

Rothesay vs President classes

The South African President class was different from the Rothesay class in that no provision was made for the Seacat system (British short-range surface-to-air missile) and instead shipped a twin Bofors Mk V with its associated Type 262 radar. The President class was also fitted with a later and more capable Type 177M hull-mounted panoramic search sonar in place of the Type 174 which is usually fitted to the Rothesay Class. In addition, a non-retractable fin stabiliser was equipped on the President class to provide a more stable platform for the ship fitted weapons and sensors due to the notorious Cape waters in which the vessels would have to operate in.

President Kruger after modernization (conways)

⚙ Specifications: President class as completed

Displacement: 2 170 tons standard, 2 605 tons FL
Dimensions: 112,78 oa x 12,5 x 5,331m ( feets)
Propulsion: -Two sets of English Electric double reduction geared turbines
-Two Turbo alternators
-Two 12-cyl Paxman Diesel generators
-Two Babcock and Wilcox controlled superheat type.
Output: 30,430 shp
Speed: 30 knots ( km/h; mph)
Range: 4,500 nmi ( km) at 12 knots cruise speed
Armament: 1x twin Vickers 144mm Mk6 Mod 1 Dual purpose mounting
1x twin 40/60 Bofors Mk5 AA
2×3 ASWRL Mk10 (Limbo, triple-barrelled) anti-submarine rockets
Electronics: (Based on Rothesay): Radar type 975, 977, 293, 262, 1994, 1978. Sonar 170, 174/177, 162.
Crew: 214

Career of the President class

All three President Class frigates formed part of the 10th Frigate Squadron and would conduct regular coastal patrols as well as participate in numerus naval exercises with the Royal Navy and other friendly navies as they rounded the Cape. The frigates also deterred territorial violations around South Africa and Southwest Africa and were also often called upon to assist those in distress in the surrounding waters of South Africa and to make mercy
dashes to outlying islands in the South Atlantic.

The first of these dashes occurred on 29 June 1966 when a message reached Cape Town by radio, from the South African weather station on Marion Island, communicating that the radio transmitting room and virtually all living accommodation had been destroyed by a fire. As a result, SAS President Kruger under command of Captain D K Kinkead-Weekes, which was on passage to Durban in company with SAS President Pretorius, was dispatched to the
island to render aid.

Besides patrolling local waters, the frigates was also frequently used to foster good relations with friendly countries. In November 1967 a South African Naval squadron consisting of the SAS President Kruger, SAS President Steyn and the replenishment vessel SAS Tafelberg, crossed the South Atlantic and paid a memorable visit to Argentine. Under the command of Commodore J Johnson, the squadron visited Puerto Belgrano and Buenos Aires, and exercised with the Argentine Navy destroyer squadron during the deployment.

A year later in 1968 the SAS President Pretorius, SAS President Steyn and the replenishment vessel SAS Tafelberg, would cross the Southern Ocean again under the command of Commodore J Johnson. On this occasion to visit Australia, the first since SAS Transvaal’s historic visit 17 years previously. As many South Africans and Australian officers worked and trained together during World War 2, the opportunity to meet the Royal Australian Navy at
home was welcomed.

During late January 1971 SAS President Kruger under the command of G N Green, had the privilege to escort South Africa’s first submarine, the SAS Maria van Riebeeck from Toulon in France. The SAS President Kruger had a particularly interesting cruise, making stop at a number of ports throughout the journey, including Luanda, Las Palmas, Lisbon, Naples, Augusta, Toulon, Gibraltar and Sao Vincente. On the return journey from Europe SAS
President Kruger assisted in towing the broken-down tanker Simfonia clear of “Danger Point” on 24 June. The vessel also acted as a guard ship for the Lipton Cup Sailing regatta held off Durban in July at the end of the return journey.

Modernisation program

Model of SAS President Kruger at the SA Naval Museum (R.Ackerman)

During 1967 the South African Navy commenced a modernisation program for its three President class frigates which were to be the most complex modernisation ever undertaken by the South African Naval Dockyard in Simons town. The first ship taken for modernisation was the SAS President Kruger on 29 January 1968, followed by the SAS President Steyn on 5 August 1969 and finally the SAS President Pretorius on 11 May 1971.

The conversion involved the removal of the forward Limbo anti-submarine mortar together with the twin 40mm guns, in order to install a flight deck and fully equipped hanger for the Wasp helicopter. The Westland Wasp helicopter onboard the President class frigates was used for anti-submarine warfare and could carry a Mk 44 torpedo or Mk 11 depth-charges.

A new fully enclosed mainmast was also constructed atop the forward part of the helicopter hanger to support a Thompson CSF Jupiter Long-range air-warning radar. The mainmast onboard President Pretorius received further improvement, being more streamlined and the size significantly reduced as a result of boiler smoke and fume dispersal problems experienced onboard the President Kruger and President Steyn. It is also for this reason the President Pretorius received a remodelled Leander type funnel which significantly changed her silhouette. The smoke and fume dispersal problem on her sister ships (President Kruger & Steyn) was eased by lengthening the funnel and extending the uptakes.

The boilers onboard President Kruger and President Steyn remained the same and continued to burn oil fuel while President Pretorius were converted to run on diesel fuel as well as her ballast tanks being converted to self-compensating fuel tanks.

Although the President Kruger kept the original Mk 6M gunfire director, gyro rate unit stabiliser and below-control unit, her sister ships (President Steyn & Pretorius) were fitted with a more modern Selenia Orion Gunfire Control System. The President Pretorius was also fitted with a modern optical director aft of the bridge. With the removal of twin Bofors Mk V anti-aircraft mounting, two single 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns were mounted on the
hanger roof, provision was also made to equip the vessel with four 12,7mm Browning machine guns.

Other improvements included the addition of two triple barrelled Mk32 torpedo tubes amidship for firing Mk 44 anti-submarine homing torpedoes, and the provision for electronic countermeasures & support equipment. A large winch was also installed for towing the Type 182 decoy, which seduces submarine-launched homing torpedoes fired at the ship. During the early 1980s President Pretorius received additional modifications, notably to the quarterdeck to enable her to lay mines and to transport new assault boats in place of the original whaler and 25-foot motor cutter.

Westland Wasp Helicopter at the SA Naval Museum (R.Ackerman)

⚙ Specifications: President class (as converted)

Displacement: 2 380 tons standard, 2 800 tons FL
Armament: 1x twin Vickers 144mm Mk6 Mod 1 Dual purpose mounting
2x 40mm/60 Bofors Mk9 AA, 4x 12,7mm HMGs (single mounts)
2×3 ASWRL Mk10 Limbo
Onboard aviation: Westland Wasp HAS Mk1 with Mk44 torpedoes/Mk11 Depth Charges
Electronics: See notes, Radar type 903
Crew: 236

The President Class at war

aft view NYC
All three President class frigates together with destroyer SAS Simon van der Stel in close formation (SA Naval Museum)

Between October 1975 and January 1976, two of the President class frigates, SAS President Kruger and SAS President Steyn, supported by the SAS Tafelberg (replenishment vessel) took part in Operation Savannah, the South African incursion into Angola. The frigates were tasked to patrol the Angola coast and prevent possible enemy landings, be available to evacuate South Africa Defence Force (SADF) personnel from Angola, provide naval gunfire
support if required and escort supply ships to the southern Angolan port of Lobito.

Under the command of Captain R D Kingon, SAS President Kruger Sailed from Cape Town on 5 November 1975 for Walvis Bay from where she sailed northwards under strict radar and radio silence due to the presence of Soviet vessels in the area. After three weeks SAS President Kruger was relieved by SAS President Steyn under the command of Captain A S Davis which had originally been scheduled for an operational visit to the Indian Ocean Island
of Reunion between 24 and 28 November 1975.

SAS President Steyn was involved in a particular daring mission when she rescued Brigadier Ben Roos, South Africa’s chief adviser to the FNLA (National Liberation Front of Angola), together with 25 other South Africans, off a beach near Luanda in pitch darkness after the collapse of the FNLA’s offensive in the north. Holden Roberto, leader of the FNLA had decided to advance and capture Luanda, a stronghold of the rival MPLA (People’s
Movement for the Liberation of Angola). Brigadier Roos strongly advised against committing all the FNLA troops to a narrow road flanked by swamps in the final assault on Luanda.

Roberto persisted and suffered a crushing defeat which led to the end of the FNLA participation in the civil war. Since the MPLA controlled most of the territory, it was decided the best way to withdraw them would be by sea. The pick-up by SAS President Steyn at Ambritzete, north of Luanda was set for 23:00 on 27 November. However, the road to Ambrizete was bad and it was not until 04:00 the following morning that Brigadier Roos and his men finally reached the pickup point and were able to signal the frigate. In the meantime, SAS President Steyn had cautiously navigated the coast in total darkness under radar silence, only using the echosounder for navigation.

Eventually vehicle lights would be sighted ashore at 04:24 and contact was made with Brigadier Roos a short while later. Three rubber zodiac boats under the command of Lieutenant R L N Erleigh, had been sent to the beach, assisted by a motor cutter and the frigate’s Wasp helicopter flown in daunting conditions by Captain Ben van der Westhuizen from the South African Air Force (SAAF). By 06:50, the daring operation was complete, and the frigate slipped away bound for Walvis Bay where she landed Brigadier Roos and his men before returning to the patrol area of the Angola coast, where the frigate remained until well into January 1976.

The loss of a President Class

Impact force between SAS President Kruger and SAS Tafelberg (R.Ackerman)

During the early hours of 18 February 1982, the South African Navy was dealt a devasting blow when the SAS President Kruger was lost in the South Atlantic following a collision with the fleet replenishment vessel SAS Tafelberg. At the time of the collision, the SAS President Kruger together with SAS President Pretorius were engaged in an exercise, protecting the SAS Tafelberg from the submarine SAS Emily Hobhouse.

The accident occurred while SAS President Kruger was executing a screen-reorientation manoeuvre in heavy seas with strong winds. SAS President Kruger turned inwards towards the SAS Tafelberg and crossed the replenishment ship’s bows, in an attempt to avert a close quarters situation, the vessel unexpectedly crossed the SAS Tafelberg bows a second time, which resulted in the two ships colliding.

The collision occurred at 03:51, as the SAS Tafelberg struck the SAS President Kruger, penetrating the port quarter of the vessel, aft of the hanger. A huge hole was torn into the side of the frigate. The two ships remained attached for about 30 seconds and then parted, with SAS President Kruger’s stern section dragging along the port side of the SAS Tafelberg. Of the 15-crew sleeping in Mess number 12 at the time of the collision, only two men
escaped death as the SAS Tafelberg sliced into the frigate and tons of water flooding the mess together with fuel oil from the ruptured tank.

Distress signals were immediately sent out following the disaster, with the SAS President Kruger signalling the SAS President Pretorius, that she had collided with the SAS Tafelberg and was sinking. The SAS President Kruger’s commander, Captain W J de Lange inspected the holed and heavily listing vessel and decided the risk of saving her was too great and gave the order to abandon ship at 04:36. The SAS President Kruger finally disappeared from her
sister’s radar screen at 05:29 and plummeted 3000 meters to the ocean floor.

SAS President Pretorius immediately commenced rescue operations and by 05:55, 30 oil-covered survivors had been rescued from the rough seas. The SAS President Pretorius was soon joined by the SAS Tafelberg and SAS Emily Hobhouse, whilst a SAAF Shackleton and two Super Frelon helicopters arrived at the scene and joined the search for survivors at 06:00. A number of civilian and naval vessels from both Cape Town and Simon’s Town also reached the area during the course of the day and continued the search for survivors throughout the night.

Of the 193 men onboard the frigate at the time of the collision, 67 were rescued by the SAS Tafelberg and 110 by the SAS President Pretorius, by 13:00. This would end up being one ofthe most dramatic days in South African Naval history since World War Two. In total 16 members lost their lives in the disaster, and despite an extensive search which continued until sunset on 21 February, only one body was ever recovered.

Life extension proposal

SAS President Pretorius post conversion (SA Naval Museum)

In order to keep the two remaining President class frigates operational, a new modernisation plan was proposed which involved stripping the vessels down to their bare hulls, rebuilding them and incorporating the latest in weapons and sensor development. The plan made provision for replacing the steam turbines and boilers with a diesel propulsion arrangement, extending the bridge deck to provide a larger flight deck for two Puma helicopters, and the complete reconstruction of the superstructure, mast, and funnel.

Planned armaments for the vessels included two single 76mm guns in superimposed position forward of the new bridge structure. In addition, Skerpioen (Afrikaans for Scorpion) surface-to -surface missile launchers were planned to be installed with close-in weapons and triple barrelled Mk 32 torpedo tubes.

Modernisation plans for the President class frigates would sadly not become a reality due to a lack of funding, ultimately leading to the frigates being decommissioned in the early 1990s. The decommissioning of the final President class meant the end of a proud era for the graceful President class frigates which were at the forefront of the South African Navy for more than three decades and would end up forming an important part of South African
naval history.

Read More/Src

Toit, A. D., 1992. President class. In: South Africa’s Fighting Ships Past and Present. Johannesburg: Ashanti Pubilshing , pp. 220-239
Museum, S. A. N., 2020. Facebook. [Online] [Accessed 22 February 2022]
Steyn, L., 2016. Facebook. [Online]

Bennett, C., n.d. The loss of SAS President Kruger. [Online]

[Accessed 14 March 2022].
Dickens, P., n.d. “Out of the Storm came Courage” … the tragedy of the PK. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 14 March 2022].
Toit, A. D., 1992. President class. In: South Africa’s Fighting Ships Past and Present. Johannesburg: Ashanti Pubilshing , pp. 220-239

Vittorio Veneto helicopter cruiser (1967)

Helicopter cruiser Vittorio Veneto (1967)

Marina Militare In service 1969-2003

The last Italian helicopter missile cruiser

Within the frame of NATO’s ASW policy, Italy developed and launched two helicopter cruisers armed with US Terrier missiles in the early 1960s, following the success of the conversion of the Giuseppe Garibaldi: The Andrea Doria class. They were found successful but soon reports came in service about their small size and limited upgrade capabilities. A new, more modular design was seeked out already as they were just delivered to the Marina Militare.

Design development history

Andrea Doria's stern
Andrea Doria’s stern

The initial design was derived directly from the Andrea Doria class, the first helicopter missile cruisers of the Italian Navy. They had a forward Mk.10 missile ramp and anti-aircraft guns around bridge, plus an aft flight to operate, housed in the associated hangar, two Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King or Agusta-Bell AB 204 heavy helicopters.

But operating only helicopters did not justified the overall cost of the ships, and that force was not efficient enough to justify the whole design. If one helicopter was in maintenance that left only one to operate, the same as any destroyer at the time. Soon the small flight deck and hangar were identified as the main issue to sold with the next design.

The design was therefore revised and expanded, the admiralty being informed that to operate at least six helicopters, a 50% displacement increase was necessary. The Marina Militare wanted to operate indeed six SH-3 Sea King helicopters, or nine light AB-204 ASW helicopters. The new design produced had had the same missile and guns arrangement but a much larger hangar and fligh deck aft, solving the whole cost-effectiveness of the program, but the Vittorio Veneto still cost much more than the first class, and after entering service in 1969, remained unique. Bugdetary constrains just prevented the construction of a siter ship at the time, which was postponed indefinitely after the 1973 crisis.

Launch of Veneto at ItalCantieri, 5 February 1967. Her motto was “Victoria nobis vita”, she had the pennant number C550 and hull number: 639 (790).


Veneto profile 1970
Veneto profile 1970 src navypedia

Vittorio Veneto’s overall standard displacement was 7,500 tons standard (still light compared to her side), and 8,850 tons fully loaded. Unlike the Andrea Doria class and their separate funnels, the new cruiser’s larger machinery space authorized more separaration between the turbines and thus, exhausts were split into two separated macks (combination of mast/funnels).

The second major difference was the location of helicopter facilities, with a raised rear deck aft, in order to moved the hangar below the flight deck, rather than the classic frigate/destroyer superstructure hangar arrangement of te previous ships, which made them cramped. To access the main flight deck, two renctangular elevators were managed, in the axis, to transfer wings-folded helicopters.

The much longer hull authorized better balanced and slightly lower superstrctures to be built, and more space for the electronics. The main bridge supported two forward FCS radars, one for each missile. The main Mack was installed aft of the bridge, supporting the main air search radar, with the main electronic mast at the end of the platform. The space in between superstructures housed notably service boats. The aft superstrcture started at the bas of the aft mack, which carried the remaining radars. These were dedicated FCS for the AA guns, one forward and one aft.


The Vittorio Veneto had a much larger machinery space, and she was propelled by two steam turbines, with an output of 73,000 shp (54,000 kW) total, for 30.5 knots (56.5 km/h; 35.1 mph). She received a set of stabilizing fins to improve stability for helicopter operations, like the previous class, a solution that proved useful.


Originally the same armament of the Andrea Doria class was planned: A Terrier SAM forward with dual role depending of the magazine used, for ASROC ASW missiles or SAMs. The magazines were completed by a third drum, for better capacity, making a total of sixty missiles of all types combined.

The Secondary armament comprised eight dual-purpose 76 mm (3 in) guns, all grouped around the superstructure and two triple 324 mm torpedo launchers, with homing Mk.46 ASW torpedoes. This was “light” for a cruiser of that size, and later additions saw this augmented considerably.

The evolution of technology cast serious doubts about the cruiser’s anti-aircraft and anti-ship defense capabilities, and the cruiser was updated and overhauled, modernized twice during her career at the Taranto Arsenal, notably in 1980-1983. At the time, Veneto had a very powerful and diversified armament suitable for many needs of the fleet and making her righfully the head of any squadron.

The flight was modernized also at the time, with the replacement of the AB 204 with the AB 212 ASW helicopter. Sea Kings in fact were seldom used due to the fact they were found too high for the cramped space in the hangar, and the few carried were stored permanently on the deck. This was not a problem in the Mediterranean though, to some extent.


RIM-2 Terrier/ASROC

The same weapon system was installed on the converted Garibaldi. A trusted USN and NATO missile system, here used in the classic twin launcher. It used a blast-fragmentation system. The first wing-controlled and beam-riding missile capable of mach 1.8 Mach over 10 nautical miles it was by the time Veneto was completed, tail-controlled, with a semi-active homing radar, mach 3.0 over 40 nautical miles, 80,000 feet ceiling. Carried in two 20-missile barillets (40 missiles), the third reserved with 20 launcher-compatible ASROC ASW missiles. Replaced after 1985 by the more capable Standard SM-1ER and RUR-5 “ASROC”.
For the detail, a dedicated page in the armament section is in writing.

Otomat Mk.2 SSM (after modernization)

Second generation of the anti-ship missile, placed in two pairs of canister either side of the superstructure amidship. The Teseo Mk.2 SSM (1977) weighted 780 kg (1,720 lb) with booster for 6 m (19.7 ft) long,
400 mm (15.7 in) diameter and carried a 210 kg (463 lb) warhead using Impact and proximity fuse. With its turbojet engine the Mk 2 Block IV was capable of reaching 180 km (97 nmi) at 310 m/s (690 mph; 1,100 km/h; Mach 0.91), using Inertial guidance, GPS and active radar homing.


Eight OTO Melara 76mm/62 (1962)

Eight AA guns was unusual for a modern cruiser, as the Veneto had Oto Melara 76/62mm MMI or 76/62 mm Compact guns, all grouped alongside the superstructure, two forward, two amidship, and two elevated on either side of the aft superstructure. They were an inheritance of the 1950s when trust to SAMs was limited, and to constitute a close quarters AA barrage for the area protection against air threats. Against modern mach-2 low-flying jets they were of limited usefulness but were dual-purpose.
In brief: 12 tonnes (26,000 lb), 62 caliber or 4,724.4 mm (186.00 in), one operator inside the turret,
76×636mmR shell caliber 76.2 mm (3.00 in), automatic loading, Elevation -15°/+85° at 40°/sec., Traverse 360° at 70°/sec, 55/60 rpm, Muzzle velocity 900 m/s (3,000 ft/s) and with the HE round at 45° 16,000 m (17,000 yd) range. Connected to a chain and ammo storage below the barbette. This weapon system was standard in the cold war Marina Militare, and cincluded destroyers, frigates, corvettes and OPVs.

Three OTO Melara 40mm/70 rapido (after modernization)

A more modern and smaller weapon system, two twin turrets installed, either side of the hangar lift aft in the 1980s refit and another forward, centerline on an elevated position with its FCS radar behind. The close-in weapon system (CIWS) Dardo was manufactured by Breda and Oto Melara, composed of two Bofors 40 mm firing HE shells, directed with a fire-control radar RTN-10X and the fire-control system RTN-20X/Dardo. Although much slower than 600/900 round per minute it is reputed able to destroy incoming missiles in flight by shrapnels. Its competitors US, Dutch or Russian are 20-30 mm indeed with barelled guns (Gatling system).


324 mm triple torpedo tubes standard US Pattern, firing Mark 48 homing acoustic torpedoes for ASW warfare. They were placed deck aft, close to the aft main 76 mm guns and still there after the modernization.

Onboard Aviation

Vittorio Veneto could operate up to nine light helicopters, of the types Agusta-Bell AB-204 or later AB-212 or six heavy helicopters of the type AB-61 (Sea King under licence) which could be housed in the hangar beneath the long rear deck.

italian sea king
Agusta-Bell 61 Sea King

Agusta Bell 205
Agusta-Bell 205

agusta bell 212
Agusta-Bell 212


The electronics were rather advanced for the time, comprising a three-dimensional AN/SPS-52 B radar and an SPS-768 (RAN 3L) air search radar. For anti-submarine warfare an AN/SQS-23 sonar set was installed.

  • 1 × SPS-52 early warning radar
  • 1 × SPS-768 long range radar
  • 1 × SPQ-2 surface radar
  • 2 × SPG-55 missile fire control radar
  • 4 × Orion 10X fire control radar
  • 2 × Orion 20X fire control radar
  • 1 × navigation radar
  • 2 × SCLAR decoy launcher
  • 1 × ECM system
  • 1 × TACAN

Vittorio Veneto (1967)

Dimensions 179.6 x 19.4 m x 6 m (589ft x 64ft x 19.7ft)
Displacement 7,500 tons standard, 8,850 tons FL
Crew 557
Propulsion 2 shafts geared steam turbines, 4 FW boilers 73,000 hp
Speed 30.5 knots (56.5 km/h; 35.1 mph) Range 5,000 nm/16 kts
Armament RIM-2 Terrier/ASROC, 4 OTOMAT SSM, 8×76mm, 3×2 40mm, 2×3 ASW 324mm TTs
Sensors SPS-52, SPS-768, SPQ-2, SPG-55, Orion FCR, nav, ECM, SCLAR, Tacan
Aviation 6-9 ASW helicopters, see notes

Early career of Vittorio Veneto 1969-80

Early career, in Operation with the destroyer Impetuoso and frigate Margottini, 1970s

Sometimes called the third Andrea Doria class ships (the first design was the same with just a large hangar aft) the design was so strongly modified as to constitute a new class of its own. The Cruiser “Vittorio Veneto” was built at the Shipbuilding Yards of Castellammare di Stabia, the concrete result of years of redesign, seraching for the best compromise solution between demands of air defence and anti-submarine operations. It was to be assigned to multiple tasks, which include antiaircraft protection, antisubmarine and antiship protection of naval forces and convoys; antisubmarine warfare; and antiaircraft defense of a zone. The second prospective unit, to be named “Italia” was cancelled in favor of the “Garibaldi” aicraft carrier programme.

Completed at Navalmeccanica, still in Castellammare di Stabia, the cruiser, launched on 5 February 1967 was officially commissioned on 12 July 1969, with captain Vittorio Marulli in command, directing since 1966 the outfitting. Her became admiral in September 1981-January 1984 as well as Commander in Chief of the Naval Squadron. From February 1984 to 15 October 1985 he became also Chief of Navy General Staff. A veteran of WW2 he served already in the battleship Vittorio Veneto.

Veneto reached her operational base in Taranto for he first yearly deployment starting on 30 October. On 4 November, she was certified, receiving the Combat Flag in Trieste donated by the city of Vittorio Veneto. This combat flag was handed over by Countess Maria Francesca Frascara, widow of Admiral Corso Pecori Giraldi (former captain of the battleships Vittorio Veneto and 1955-1962 Chief of Staff).

After a year of service, she left for a long training cruise from April 25 to August 23, 1970 in the North Atlantic, visiting American and European ports along the way. Back to her operating base she trained with the missile cruiser Garibaldi. In 1971 Vittorio Veneto assumed the role of flagship for several years, only ceded to the aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi in 1987.

During her activity, the cruiser Vittorio Veneto participated in numerous national and international exercises within great NATO coalition manoeuvers always as command ship of escort groups to aircraft carrier units or large convoys. In 1972, (August 16, to October 29) she sailed with two frigates of the Bergamini class in a long training campaign in South America.

Veneto moored as TS in Malaga last years of service

The winter and spring of 1973 saw her teaming with Andrea Doria and the 3rd Helicopter Group in a relief effort towards the Tunisian populations affected by a major flood. She took part in a rescue operation of nationals hit by earthquakes at Friuli in 1976, and Irpinia in 1980. She made a world-cruise in 1977 which took a strain on the ship in general.

In 1978, Vittorio Veneto participated in the summer training cruise, with Livorno Academy’s second year students, replacing San Giorgio still under completion. Her navigation in the Indian Ocean saw hir hit hard by the monsoon. Her hangar was managed as a dormitory for the students during this cruiser and she only had a token provision of helioipters. In the summer of 1979, with Andrea Doria and the refueling vessel Stromboli (VIII Naval Group) she operated in the waters of the Gulf of Thailand , South China Sea, coming to rescue boats people. She carried back to Italy a thousand Vietnamese refugees fleeing their country back to Venice.

1980s refits

Veneto in 1985
Veneto in 1985

The ship underwent an extensive update for three years at Castellamare di Stabia. Electronics were of course updated, Otomat Mk.2 missiles launchers for antiship warfare installed and a SPS-40 radar to go with these. Three OTO Melara twin 40 mm/70 Bread Compact (1.6 in) DARDO CIWS compact guns were also added for mixed AA/AM warfare. Her powerplant was modernized, using a new feeding system, without heavy oil but now diesel fuel.

Her improvements were suited to her multiple roles as anti-aircraft, anti-submarine protection and anti-ship, plus convoy escort and anti-submarine warfare, command and area air defence tasks. In hand from 1981 to early 1984 for modernisation which included the installation of four Teseo launchers and the three twin Breda compact 40 mm. Terrier missiles were removed, replaced by 40 Standard SM1 and 20 ASROC ASM – SM-1ER SAM/ASROC (40 RIM-67A, 20 RUR-5)- SAM/ASW twin missile launcher. Two SPG-55C Standard fire control systems were added, and Italian-built RAN-3L (SPS-768) and two RTN-20X (SPG-74) radars were installed to manage the new systems.

profile Veneto 1985
Profile of the Veneto in 1985. Src navypedia

Operations in Lebanon and Achille Lauro assault

In February 1984, she covered Italian troops operating under supervision of a UN operation to the second phase of “Lebano Due”, escorting convoys to and from Italy and with her helicopter, covering and transporting national contingents deployed in Beirut. In February 1985 she carried the italian president of the Republic Pertini during an official visit to Egypt. In October she took part in Operation Margherita, shadowing the transatlantic Achille Lauro seized by Palestinian terrorists. The whole operation was coordinated by Vittorio Veneto, using for the first time COMSUBIN paratroopers.

The 1990s: No longer a flagship

Veneto in Malaga 2001
Veneto in Malaga, Spain, 2001

As the new aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi entere service on 30 September 1985, Vittorio Veneto lost her flagship role, but still went on participating in the most important national and international exercises of the Mediterranean, like Operation Ibis (1992-1993) in which she was the command ship of the 24th Naval Group with the Frigate Grecale, the fleet refueller Vesuvio, landing ships San Giorgio and San Marco carrying the “San Marco” Battalion in a large landing exercize.

In April-September 1993, Vittorio Veneto became the HQ Ship for STANAVFORMED, NATO permanent naval force in the Mediterranean. She took part in Operation Maritime Guard in the Adriatic.
Vittorio Veneto ran aground in bad weather off Vlorë on 22 April 1997, as flagship of a multinational task-force protectin a humanitarian relief operation to Albania. Four tugboats pulled free but she suffered no serious damage nor injuries.

After 1985 the guided-missile helicopter-carrying cruiser Vittorio Veneto was mainly -if not exclusively- operated as a training ship for 2-3 month yearly during her deployments to different parts of the world. At the time of her decommission in November 2003, she was not the last European cruiser in service, as the French cruiser Jeanne d’Arc (2010) remained longer. Her ASW air support role was assumed by the new generation V/STOL aircraft carrier Conte di Cavour. After lingering for some time in a mothball she was eventually stricken formally on 29 June 2006, but not sold yet. She was eventually purchased to be scrapped at Aliaga, Turkey, in 2021, so very recently indeed.

Veneto in Taranto
Veneto in Taranto

About the name:

Veneto in taranto after decommission.

Veneto at sunset in taranto’s mothball, waiting to be sold for scrap, 2010s

The battle of Vittorio-Veneto was the largest Italian-Austro-Hungarian fight of the Great War, the Verdun on Italy. Engaging nearly two million combatants on a front of about 250 km in snow, from marshes in the south to icy fields in the plains and among lofty peaks and sometimes above the clouds in the Alps, it was planned and prepared in secret and executed on schedule like a vast tactical exercise, resulting on a crushing victory that erased the bad souvenir of Capporetto.

Read More/Src

stern Veneto 1970s


J. Gardiner, Conway’s all the world’s fighting ships 1947-95
John Moore, ed. (1981). Jane’s Fighting Ships, 1981-1982. New York: Jane’s Information Group.
Gardiner & Chumbly, p.205


On hazegray
On global
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Video: The last cruiser built in Western Europe
Model kit by Delphis Models | N° DM 034 | 1:700
3D model on 3dwarehouse

County class missile destroyers (1960)

County class missile destroyers (1960)

United Kingdom: HMS Devonshire, Hampshire, Kent, London, Fife, Glamorgan, Antrim, Norfolk

The new “county” are missile destroyers

The Royal Navy in the 1950s the needed a new “county class”, but at the time it seemed obvious that they would have been armed with missiles. Development started in 1944 already until various projects (from the air force, army and navy) were coordinated under a single authority. From there, a ship was cast around the new promising SAM in development, the Sealug missile. Debate raged about what these new ships would be, between those who wanted a few cruisers, possibly hyrbids, or a serie of modern destroyers. It was resolved in 1957 for good and the design of the new missile destroyers was finalized around the Seaslug. And thus, appeared the first missile destroyers in Europe, in service until the 1980s, still soldiering under foreign flags until …2013 for the last one. For twenty years the County class really redefined the Royal Navy, helping its transition around a set of new missions.

HMS London 1971, IWM

About the class name: Given informally to a serie of pre-deadnought battleships started at the turn of the century, then a cruiser serie before WW1, and a large serie of heavy cruisers of the interwar, battered veterans of WW2 from the Atlantic to the Pacific and Mediterranean. The next class was composed of missile destroyers. From battleships to destroyers it seems like a downgrade, but reflected perfectly the hope placed in modern missile destroyers in 1960. They were supposed to definitely make gunnery obsolete. Largely pioneered by USN early conversions in the late 1950s, the Royal Navy invested in this field also in the late 1950s. However developing at the same time the missile, the related electronics and its launcher ship was quite an endeavour in a largely diminished economy, even in the context of the cold war. Despite of this, ten were ordered, the first dedicated missile ships of the Royal navy, active for some in other navies (Pakistan and Chile) until 2006, so about forty four years. For modern missile vessels it remains almost unprecedented and a testimony to the ability to upgrade their large hull. In the Royal Navy the spent twenty years in service on average. The current “county” class is the current Duke class missile Frigate.

country class DD in a 1980s Fleet review

British missile Development 1952-58

The development of missiles during WW2 – namely German guided bombs such as the Fritz-X 1 trigerred a wave of interest, after some spectacular results (such as the sinking of the Italian battleship Roma in November 1943). Missile development in Great Britain did benefited from some German intel (via Operation Surgeon) and outside acquiring German expertise on the matter (100 German scientists move to UK), there was already the will to built up missile development, which took twenty years, notably before the advent of antiship vectors such as the Sea Eagle and Sea Skua. But development of SAMs started much earlier: On 16 March 1944 indeed, the first meeting of the “Guided Anti-Aircraft Projectile Committee” (GAP Committee) was held, to discuss missile developments, while The Admiralty Signals Establishment in charge of radars and notably radar lock-on devised the LRS.1 fire-control system used to target distant targets, like high altitude bombers. Similar programs were ongoing in the USA, soon leading to the development of a the “T” family of missiles (see USN guided missiles cruisers).

The Navy in 1944 decided to combine these reasearches with the British Army project Brakemine, creating the LRS.1’s Type 909 radar. It was to be combined with a missile, provisionally called LOPGAP(“Liquid Oxygen and Petrol Guided Anti-aircraft Projectile”), with a reach of 50,000 ft (15,000 m) at 700 mph (1,100 km/h). No ship was envisioned to carry those at that point, but reconverted cruisers possibly such as the Tiger class in construction.

The first missiles were tested in 1945: Fairey’s own project, Stooge, and the LOPGAP, based in March 1945 on converted QF 3.7-inch air-aircraft gun mounts. However in 1946 to have a better coordination, these competitive projects were unified under the same roof, the Royal Aircraft Establishment’s (RAE). By January, in the 1947 Navy review, the program was for the first time given the name “Seaslug”. It went on in 1947-48 as a single-stage vertical vector with 200 lb (91 kg) warhead and overall weight of 1,800 lb (820 kg). The goal was for it to enter service in 1957, leaving quite a development time. However in 1952-53 specifications started to change: In 1954, another review of the Navy for future operations considered now instead of a “hot” war with the Soviets a series of “warm wars” in the third world (which proved quite accurate). This brought all out cancellation of a future all-gun cruiser classes, conversion of ww2 destroyers to Type 15 frigates, and with an air cover no longer sufficient by carriers a need for missile task-force groups became the new focus. Carrier construction and detention was stopped to four, and so funds were secured to accelerate missile ship development. In October 1954, a new design emerged with only self-defence gund and a single twin launcher for a missile, likely to to be the finalized Seaslug.

Designs were continually modified to find the best arrangements:
-1953 mid-sized cruiser: 15,000 long tons, 60 to 90 missiles, crew 900. Admiral Ralph Edwards peferred smaller ships with 10 to 20 missiles each. However room for these weapons and operating crew needed a larger ship.

-May 1955: New plans for designs were compared: The largest ships were around 9,850 tons, down to 4,550 tons, so destroyer size. After the comparison and revision process, plans finally fell on what became the County-class destroyers. The design was refined time and again and finalized enough in 1957 (the date to reach for operational missiles) to be authorized. However the seaslug program was nowhere complete at that time. The RTV.1 was demonstrated its beam riding in October 1956, but there were concerns about the propellant and safety onboard the ships. Tests went on at the Clausen Rolling Platform at RAE Aberporth, and from the HMS Girdle Ness in 1958, 1959 and until 1961, still nowhere near completion or operational status. At least the choice of radar was fixed on the Type 984 radar in 1955.

A final tests serie at sea (16 successful firings) had the missile cleared at least for service in 1961. 250 launches later saw the Seaslug Mark 1 (GWS.1 for the Royal Ordnance) entering final service in 1962 on the County-class while the earlier Seaslug-armed cruisers were cancelled in 1957 already. In 1958, a class of ten ships was envisaged for about £6–7.5 million each. It was the equivalent indeed of the four large, Seaslug-armed, 15,000-ton cruisers at first estimated at £14 million each. These were based on an upgraded Minotaur-class cruiser (1951), their design finalized in early 1955 (see WW2 British cruisers). The final four County-class ships were delayed in 1960 as discussions went on for a large anti-submarine escort carrier instead. They were approved in 1963 as a stopgap, while the last two were cancelled.

County class design development 1951-1959

Daring class destroyers

The class was designed, in part as a compromise between factions, as a hybrid cruiser-destroyer. Its dimensions were indeed similar to the recent 1951 Mk.3 improved Dido-class cruiser planned for the Korean war emergency. For “destroyers” they were much larger than any previous RN destroyers such as the 1946, 2,800 ton Daring class, themselves considered as “super destroyers” by PM Winston Churchill in 1952. Like Admiral Andrew Cunningham he foresaw in 1944 aa evolution into an hybrid 3,500 ton vessels specialized as AA/AS escorts. The new class was planned as destroyer leaders for aircraft carrier task forces, and to assume a flagship role while dealing with any threats.

In 1955, First Sea Lord Louis Mountbatten specified by April 1955 these new ships would have a displacement of 4,800 ton and would be essentially “fast fleet escort”, with the design DNC 7/959, tailored to carry the Seaslug. The design crearly show the Y launched at the stern and alternative twin 3/70 AA mount on DNC 7/1002 to please those fuestrated by the cancellation of design GW 58A for a 15,400 ton cruiser. The seasllug was to be associated with the Type 984 3D radar, but still the armament of a Tiger-class cruiser forward (6-in twin turret). This evolved in 1956–1958 with a fully alternative all-gun variant called GW Fast Escort. Indeed this light cruiser would have been diven the brand new COSAG propulsion system and essentially was to be a much enlarged Daring class armed with two twin Mk 6 4.5-inch, two twin L/70 40mm Bofors, a single twin 3-inch/70 guns. After the itervention in Suez, the design as revise again and in March 1957 as shown in the Defense Review, the cruiser idea was buried, all prioriity given to a larger new missile destroyer.

January 1955 proposal for a cruiser design

January 1955 proposal for a cruiser design

Hybrid cruiser designs GW93/95 by Tzoli

Small convoy escort destroyer proposal, November 1954

Various designs submitted to the admiralty in 1950-55

GWS 24 design

Left: Venezuela British missile cruiser project. Captions from “The Post War Revolution in Naval Warfare”

Construction would ask for medium tensile steel, and a 505 ft (154 m) long hull. It was tailored to fit 18 Seaslug plus 4 special (nuclear) warhead, the Seaslug being developed as a universal vector also able to perform anti-missile and anti-ship missions. Still, twin Mk 5 Bofors 40mm were kept as an interim while waiting for the “Green Light” (Seacat) missile system still under development. For ASW warfare, a Limbo mortar was chosen. The armament answered on paper all threats and the ship had good potential for upgrade due to its large hull as well as speed and range.

In March 1958 the design was revised again: In addition to the Seaslug, Seacat missiles were added, as well as a telescopic hangar for an helicopter. Mountbatten then tried to convince staff and politicians of the new missile destroyr concept by staged an impressive demonstration, firing ten Seaslugs from HMS Girdle Ness, notably shooting down two piston-engine Fairey Firefly radio-controlled drones. This success apare,tly also pushed the MoD Duncan Sandys, to gain production approval from the Cabinet Defence Committee for the Seaslug. While the test was impressive, there were still many issues to overcome, notably the beam guidance system subjected to bad weather. This forced engineers to add eight fixed stabilisers to the design. Internally, the Seaslug still suffered from a reputation of unreliability and inaccuracy, as shown later in Woomera, shich dissuaded Royal Australian Navy officers to purchase it. Only tireless efforts and faith in it had Mountbatten convince everybody the Seaslug was the only viable solution for the County-class.

By late 1958, new revisions led to the adoption of a high flush deck from B turret and cancellation of the nuclear warhead program for the Seaslug, which was also given folding fins for extra storage of 20 more. They were considered as unready reloads and needed some setup. Although the staff argued against it, Mountbatten also pushed for the adoption of a tight fitting fixed side-hangar. It was to house by all weather the ASW helicopter Westland Wessex. Under US influence, the County class denomination became DDGs, the name “escort destroyer” judged less offensive to gain Treasury and political support. In the medias, cruisers now passed for colonial relics. The Royal Navy staff however still seen the County class as cruisers in disguide due to her displacement, some even hoping to retrofit classic artillery if the new missile system was to fail. Soon the name “County”, which still had fond rememberence from nay veterans, was chosen. Staff accommodation was very “cruiser-like”, and there was a dated and short ranged semi automatic, 4.5 inches artillery, plus additional spotting radar. Extra light Bofors and Oerlikons AA guns could be still fitted in wartime if need be (it was the case during the flakland war in 1982). Doubts about the Seaslug were brushed aside in the end, before the ships were operational, proving efficient against jet Gloster Meteor UC15 drones.

❏ Cutaway | ❏ Another Cutaway (Glamorgan)

HMS Norfolk in Amsterdam, 1970s

Design of of the County class

DN SN 97
DN SN 97

The nuclear question

The County class’s raison d’être was its GWS1 Seaslug. They were however seen as interim solutions pending the new new Sea Dart SAM faster and more accurate but not fitted with a nuclear warhead. It was doubted by First Lord Mountbatten already, which he voiced in 1962 due to escalation theories. The Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963 solved the matter. Carrying nuclear warheads on confined destroyers was already an issue, and crews concerns leading as early as 1952 Air Chief Marshal John Slessor to argue his case to PM. W. Churchill in excluding the Navy from nuclear strike. The 1956 Suez operation’s conclusion and British hydrogen bomb tests in 1954-57 however changed British approach to nuclear deterrence and missile submarines were designated for the navy as main carriers, not surface ships. Large cutbacks were made in destroyer and carrier programmes while the RN designated the Blackburn Buccaneer S.1/S.2 as its default nuclear strike aircraft to deter regional powers. Overall, the ship was much larger than any previous destroyers, with two funnels and far apart masts. Its approach was classic with two forward main turrets, one superfiring.

HMS Devonshire in construction, 1961
HMS Devonshire in construction, 1961


The design also included a first attempt of NBC protection and all superstructures were designed to protect the crew from nuclear fallout. The operation rooms were located 5 decks below deep into the ship, to the point it communicated by lift to the bridge, and contained some duplicated command systems. This was the 1960s equivalent to the WW2 conning tower, unarmoured, and counting on a “layered” defense. The Sea Slug itself although for some “already obsolete” in 1957 led to many compromises in the ship design. Its magazine was for example highly vulnerable as well as its missile fuel tanks. However for this, an automatic sprinkler system was in place.

Hull and general characteristics


These larges vessels could have been built with conventional steam turbines but the need for long range and flexibility brought out new propulsion schemes. CODOG and COSOG concepts were already in discussions before WW2, but it’s only in the 1950s that this gained traction. In 1958, Combined steam and gas or COSAG seemed a good compromises before CODOG, some shortcomings were still apparent. On the County, there were two shafts propellers, connected to two transmissions geared by two Metrovick G6 gas turbines each (so four total), for a combined 30,000 shp. Each shaft was also powered by a single set of two geared steam turbines fed by one Babcock & Wilcox boiler which claimed another 30,000 shp (22,000 kW). In all, the County had more flexibility with quick-fired gas turbines which allowed the ship to still be fully operational when anchored, only using classic steam turbines for long cruisers ad speed, and a grand total of abour 60,000 shp. This combination of steam turbines and gas turbines using gearbox and clutches allowed efficient cruising, reliability and rapid acceleration in addition to start-up time and was first-generation also used on the Tribal-class frigate. This allowed the County class a contracted speed of 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph) combined with a range of 3,500 nautical miles (6,500 km; 4,000 mi).


Outside the Seaslug, normally universal missile used primarily as SAMs and antiship to create the long range bubble around the ship, the design still relied on classic artillery with a dual purpose 4.5 in, and trusted Bofors for close range as well as heavy duty torpedoes to deal with closer targets. ASW protection was to be procured by one multirole Wessex helicopter.

4.5-in Mark N6

The The QF 4.5 inch gun was the standard medium calibre naval gun of the Royal Navy during WW2, designed as the basic dual-purpose, QF which development started in 1938. This led to a whole family of 45-calibre used up to the 1970s. The QF Mk I has an actual calibre of 4.45 inches (113 mm), and the version used by the new destroyers was the Mark N6, or QF Mark V using the twin mounting UD Mark VI, later renamed gun Mark 6. It became quite widespread, used also by the Battle-class destroyers and “Australian Battle” classes, Daring class DDs and the Type 12 Whitby-class, Rothesay, Leander, Van Speijk, River, Condell, Leopard and Salisbury-class frigates.

Derived from the Mark V, it was designed from the outset for anti-aircraft use. It was given a remote power control (RPC, guns automatically trained and elevate towards the target as enslaved to the director) plus the highest rate-of-fire because it was assisted by automatic ramming. The mounting UD Mark VI had separate high-angle and low-angle hoists for two ammunition types, the AA and SAP/HE plus a third for cartridges. The rate of fire of the Mk V went up to 24 rounds per minute when power-loaded. It used a vertical sliding bloc for quick reload, semi-automatic, above 24 RPM recorded, power-loaded, 14 human loaded, 18 in burst mode, on the Mk VI UD mount, and a muzzle velocity beyond 2,449 ft/s (746 m/s), max range of 20,750 yd (18,970 m) at 2,449 ft/s (746 m/s) and a 41,000 ft (12,500 m) ceiling. The mount allowed a +80° elevation.

Seaslug GWS SAM

Seaslug ramp and reloading system in 1972.

The Sea Slug was 1st gen, beam riding anti-aircraft missile system designed to hit high altitude fast flying targets such as Soviet nuclear-armed bombers but also track and deter Tupolev Tu-16 “Badger” and Tu-95 “Bear”. They were also intended to deal with other missile destroyers and cruise missile-armed submarines as “universal” weapons. SAM role came first as it was found more challenging to hit a target evolcing at 572 mph (921 km/h) up to 7.5 miles (40,000 ft; 12,100 m).

The Mark 1 barely managed to reach these requirements, but the improved Mk2 reached an extra 10,000 ft (3,000m) at greater speed. To launch these, a large weapon system occupied most of the aft part of the ships. Each missile by itself measured 6 m (19 ft 8 in) long for two tons, with equally large handling arrangements and electronics. This was a challenge for engineers to cram all this and 30+ spare missile in a County hull, even though it was rather large. The solution found was to have the missiles stowed horizontally in a long unarmoured magazine above the waterline (causing some vulnerability issues). To have more carried, on the last batch, it was decided to store some disassembled in the forward end of the magazine. This did not meant lowing the firing rate since others “ready missiles” could be fired when it would have been decided to assemle them as future reloads. 30 missiles left a margin.

The limitations of the beam riding guidance method however, plus no homing head however affected the Mark 2 too and conducted experts that adoption nuclear warhead would largely compensate for the lack of accuacy at first. However nuclea warheaded needed an extra dedicated crew member plus extra space and extra security in a rather busy hull already, and the whole program was cancelled in June 1962 notably over naval budget concerns British limitations in tactical nuclear warheads.

sea slug Mark I

Seaslug Mark 1 (*: Mk.2)

Dimensions 6 x 0.42 m (*6.1 x 0.41)
Weight 2,080 kg (*2,834)
Propulsion 4 solid fuel jettisoned boosters & solid fuel sustainer
Top speed 685 mph or 1,102 km/h (*1,370 mph/2,200 km/h)
Range/Ceiling 30,000 yds/55,000 fts (*35,000/65,000 fts)
Warhead 200 lb (91 kg) blast (*rods warhead)
Guidance Beam riding, ship controlled

Seacat GWS-22 SAM

Seacat system onboard HMS Glamorgan

The Seacat was a short-range surface-to-air missile designed by Short and in service in 1962, so County class ships in construction could be completed by two systems installed on the broadside, each with four missiles. They were light enough to be reloaded by hand. Contrary to the Sea slug they enjoyed a considerable export success.

Seacat Mark 1

Dimensions 1.48 x 0.22 m (58 x 8.7 in)
Weight 68 kg (150 Ib)
Propulsion 2 stage motor
Top speed Mach 0.8
Range/Ceiling 500-1,000 m (1,600-16,400 ft)
Warhead 18 ks (40 lb) continuous rods warhead, fuse pr.
Guidance CLOS, radio link

Torpedo Tubes

Classic 21 inches (533 mm) either the old dependable Mark 8 Mod 4, last iteration of a 1925 design, absolute standard of WW2, carrying 805 lbs. (365 kg) Torpex at 5,000 yds and 45 knots, or the Mark 12 (Ferry) with its HTP engine (60 knots), and more likely the Mark 20 E (Bidder) of 1955 when entering service. The latter was battery-powered and weighted 1,810 lbs. (821 kg), 254.5 in (6.464 m) long and carrying 196 lbs. (89 kg) at 12,000 yards (11,000 m) and 20 knots. The Mark 21 (Pentane) was cancelled as the wire-guided Mk.22.

The ships should have been upgraded with the Mark 24 Tigerfish in the 1980s, but immediately after the Falklands War, two out of five Mod 1 fired at a target hulk failed due to batteries issues and the others due to accuracy, so the Mark 8 was maintained during that war, notably sinking the ARA General Belgrano. Only by the time the ship were decommissioned, the torpedo was considered operational.

Wessex HAS Mk 3 helicopter

Although this model will be treated in detail in a future post, this licence-built turbine-powered Sikorsky H-34 was a dependable beast of burden qualified for SAR, missile datalink, and ASW warfare.


This operations room had its operators monitoring the main radar, the sonar via warfare screens, a full electronc management systel to also deal in deal time with communication and computer links. The electronics specifically dedicated for the Sea Slug comprised a large Type 901 fire-control radar and the Type 965 air-search radar. They were relatively heavy and needed to be placed high up and as such affected ship layout. The better 984 3D radar was rejected only because it was even heavier and and needed to drop a twin turret forward, curtailing gunfire support to deal with surface vessels.

The Action Data Automation Weapon System (ADAWS) was devised to deal with initial problems with the sea slug, and it was tested on HMS Norfolk in 1970.

The failed Australian order, US missiles and British construction

In 1960 as US missiles were seen as superior at the time compared to the Seaslug, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) wanted for its fleet a County-class, but armed with the Tartar missile plus more hangar space for three Westland Wessex helicopters and full steam propulsion system. In the end, after studies has been made, the Australian government changed it smind and ordered the US-built Perth class (Charles F. Adams variant). Among argumets to drop negociations was that redesign a steam-propelled variant of the county would be opposed whereas the cost of the redesign for the Tartar missile would have been too much. Reminsiscent of more recent endeavours ?

The Terrier was also not excluded in UK either and had some in the RN that argued to built a licenced version instead of the Sea Slug, and it was even considered for the second batch. But it was chosen otherwise to project the latest innovations of the British missile and aerospace industry and adopt instead the much awaited Sea Dart…

Modifications and modernization (1966-78)

The second batch of four County class vessels (Antrim, Fife, Glamorgan and Norfolk) were given an improved air warning and target indicator 965M radar called “double bedstead” plus a revised 992 radar for close range tracking in addition to surface warning. It acted as sea-skimming missile detectors. The Seaslug Mk2 replaced the Mark1, and capable of hitting targets up to 30 km. ADWAS command and control system now was greatly enhanced, able to combine data from the 965 and 992 radars and link with similar systems on other RN warships. It became vital as those installed (Type 984 3D processing systems) onboard the HMS Victorious, Hermes and Eagle, were removed and this affected the first batch greatly. So the Batch 2 vessels were now independent in firing and guiding their seaslug missiles.

The initial pair of twin QF 4.5-inch turrets forwards had magazines carrying 225 shells and it was still less than the Leander-class frigates with their single turret. Batch 2 did not improved on this point but instead removed ‘B’ turrets in the late 1970s to make room for four single MM38 Exocet surface-to-surface anti-ship-missile canisters, making the County-class the first and only Royal Navy warships with three missile systems. The Exocet had the advantage of a “fire and forget” approach and did not need much in terms of ship’s guidance. Until the 1970s the ships were quite unique in the Royal Navy, bearing their original designation of DLGS, derived from the American Treasury term of ‘Destroyer Leader, Guided Missile’, applied to the new generation of big US and British fleet escorts. In 1972–73 currency the ship’s cost was estimated £500,000 and their average annual maintenance cost was in 1981–82 worth £7.0 million.

Assessment of the County class in combat (1982)

Battle damage on HMS Glamorgan in the flaklands

In the mid-1960s the County-class destroyers were considerable assets for the RN, with an undeniably impressive appearance, modern data links feeding the Type 984 radar. They projected an effective detterent during the Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation and the Mark 1 Seaslug was reasnably reliable in operationally, proving later a good target for the new Sea Dart missiles in the late 1970s. The Mark 2, which was supersonic still however has issues, notably related to the possible breakup when the boosters separated. Inaccuracy was still there on the Mark 1 in the 1970s, with a primitive beam-riding guidance, lack of infrared homing, lack of proximity fuze. By all means, this limited the County class overall operational value. However with the adoption of short-range air defence GWS-22 Seacat system, the County class became the first Royal Navy warships with two guided missile system, even three systems when the Exocet was adopted in 1980.

Apart the tour of duty and a few rounds fired during the Indonesia–Malaysia conflict, the only serious combat test of the class came with the Falklands War in March 1982.

HMS Glamorgan was the only one hit by an exocet missile. Lessons learnt was she has no countermeasures, and her captain decided to brace for impact basically, making a speedy hard turn to try to avoid a direct collision. This partly deflected the missile, which caused less serious destruction than on other ships hit in this war. Still, the fire spreading into the magazines and missile fuel tanks could have been catastrophic. It showed that a ship the size of a County class could survive such impact. Although she was no longer fully operational, in more severe circumstances she could have been deployed on site, largely still offensive.

HMS Antrim show what an helicopter can do, participating in the sinking of the submarine Santa Fe, and first ASW “kill” by helicopter. In San Carlos she was repeteadly attacked by Argentine Skyhawks and took 12 near-misses, one hit, fortunately failing to explode. She was operational under ten hours and back in action firing her Sea Slug on an incoming A-4 Skyhawk, but missing. This did not contributed to the reputation of this weapon system. However no Sea Cat was fired.

The Egyptian order (1977-78)

Consideration for sale of HMS Antrim to Egypt after conversion was issued in 1977. The ships sold would have been converted as helicopter destroyers, modified to carry six Lynx helicopters in the former missile loading space aft. This fell through in 1978, so HMS Antrim went on the disposal list. HMS London had been earmarked also to be fitted with a lighter tubular foremast supporting a Type 992Q radar scanner, and that modification was subsequently to be extended to HMS Antrim, Fife and Glamorgan, scheduled also to receive the Exocet missiles while older ships were refitted with GWS-22 Seacat systems.

Under other flags: Chile and Pakistan

Pakistani Babur (1982)

The 20 years old HMS London was sold on 23 March 1982 to Pakistant, recommissioned as Babur, under Captain Mukhtar Azam. D-84 PNS Babur was in service for another decade, eventually decommissioned in 1993; She was sold for scrap in 1995 and BU afterwards. It is not known if she was modernized in any way. Her last British updgrade was still “fresh”.

Capitán Prat class destroyers (1982)

Chilean destroyer Blanco Encalada 1999

In the 1980s, four County class destroyers were sold to Chile, an arch-rival of Argentina: HMS Fife became Blanco Encalada in August 1987, Glamorgan Almirante Latorre in September 1986, Antrim Almirante Cochrane in June 1984 and the lead ship, HMS Norfolk was Sold to Chile as Capitán Prat in April 1982. Here are their story:
– Capitán Pra: She was recommissione din “stock condition” with the latest British upgrades. In 1996, her Sea Cat launchers were replaced by an Israeli Barak SAM. In 2001 also her old her Sea Slug system was removed to make room for a new large hangar as an Helicopter Destroyer, eqipped with up to three multirole Cougar attack helicopters. On 24 February 2006 she was laid up, decommissioned on 11 August 2006 and later scrapped in Mexico.

– Almirante Cochrane: She underwent the same refit as Blanco Encalada, with no Sea Slug, extended aft deck, new helicopter hangar. In 1996 she also received the Barak SAM. She was decommissioned on 7 December 2006 and on 11 December 2010, towed to China for scrap.

– Almirante Latorre was sold on 3 October 1986, renamed and seeing her Sea Slug system retained but reset to only fire on surface targets. She received a single, small MBB Bo 105 helicopter but in September 1995 she was refitted (until August 1996) her 40mm Bofors replaced by two 16-cell launchers (Barak system), and Chilean SISDEF-100 combat system, but after tests and fixes she ws not recommssionned before late 1998. She was decomm. in 2004, sold, and sank on 11 April 2005 while under tow to be broken up.

– Blanco Encalada was refitted at Talcahuano right after her arrival and her Sea Slug was entirely removed, her aft deck was extended while a new and larger hangar was constructed, all work completed in May 1988. In 1996, Blanco Encalada saw also her old Sea Cat launchers removed, received instead an Israeli Barak SAM system. She was decommissioned on 12 December 2003, sold by November 2005, BU in Turkey in 2013.

Blanco Encalada (FF-15) at Teamwork South, 1999

Chilean missile DD
Chilean missile DD

As Capitan Prat, D11, in 1991

County (1st batch) specifications

Dimensions 158.54 x 16 x 6.4 m (520.16 x 54 x 21 ft)
Displacement 6,200t; 6,900 t FL
Crew 471 (33 officers, 438 ratings)
Propulsion COSAG two B&W boilers, GS turbines, 30,000 shp
Speed 30 Noeuds (56 km/h; 35 mph)
Range 3,500 nautical miles @10 knots
Armament 2×2 4.5-in, 2x 20mm AA, Seaslug SAM (24), 2×6 Seacat, 2×3 21-in TTs
Aircraft Wessex HAS Mk 3 helicopter + facilities




Specs Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1947-1991.
Colledge, J. J.; Warlow, Ben (2006) [1969]. Ships of the Royal Navy: The Complete Record – Chatham Publishing.
Marriott, Leo, 1989. Royal Navy Destroyers since 1945, Ian Allan Ltd.
McCart, Neil, 2014. County Class Guided Missile Destroyers, Maritime Books.
Brown, D. K.; Moore, G. (2003). Rebuilding the Royal Navy: Warship Design Since 1945. Chatham
Friedman, N. (2006). British Destroyers and Frigates: The Second World War and After. Chatham
Hall, N. (May 2008). “County Class Missile Destroyers”. Ships Monthly.
Hall, N. (December 2008). “County Class Missile Destroyers, HMS London role in Confrontation and Aden crisis as HMS Eagle escort 65-7”. Ships Monthly
Marland, P. (2016). “Postwar AIO & Command Systems in the Royal Navy”. In Jordan, John (ed.). Warship 2016. Conway
Marriott, Leo (1989). Royal Navy Destroyers Since 1945. Shepperton, Ian Allan.
Moore, G. (2005). “From Daring to Devonshire”. In Jordan, John (ed.). Warship 2005. Conway
Lord Earl Mountbatten (1989). Ziegler, Philip (ed.). From Shore to Shore: The Final Years. The Tour Diaries of Earl Mountbatten of Burma, 1953–1979. Collins.
Preston, A. (1980). Warships of the World. Jane’s.
Purvis, M.K., ‘Post War RN Frigate and Guided Missile Destroyer Design 1944-1969’, Transactions, Royal Institution of Naval Architects (RINA), 1974
Wise, Jon (2007). “Girdle Ness: Seaslug Missile Trials”. In Jordan, John (ed.). Warship 2007. Conway
Wilson, Ben (2013). Empire of the Deep. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
Seldon, A. (1981), Churchill Indian Summer. Conservative Government 1951-5, Hodder & Stoughton
Grove, E. (2005), “The RN Guided Missile”, in Harding, R. (ed.), Royal Navy 1930–2000. Innovation and Defence
British Guided Missile Destroyers: County-class, Type 82, Type 42 and Type 45 (New Vanguard)

Ships logs
IWM Photos coll.
GW series postwar cruisers
about cruisers concepts
about the class (wiki)
about the seaslug


Brief about the class
Brit. Pathé HMS Glamorgan – Computer Ship Of The Future (1967)
About the seacat

The models corner

3D model shapeways Decapod 1:600 batch 2
On scalemates: All references
Detailed plans on
Fleetscale 1:72 hull (fiberglass)

The County class service records

While lacking the spares of a traditional cruiser, the Director of Naval Construction wrote them as usable in the cruiser role with just enough space for Flag staff offices and the admiral’s barge accommodation. During their first decade of service nonetheless, these modern guided-missile destroyers, quasi-cruisers with big missiles gave the Royal Navy sufficient deterrent to quell insurrections by their sole presence in Indonesia, Malaysia and Borneo. Apart of course the Falklands, where three participated in 1982, the next decade was quieter, but with a soviet threat still going high. They did not saw the end of the cold war, but missile tech aged far faster than gunnery. They were just too big as destroyers and the format of the next vessel was much reduced, with the notable exception: HMS Bristol, RN’s white elephant of the 1970s.

HMS Devonshire 1962-1984

HMS Devonshire, Fitting out in 1962

In 1962 Devonshire was commissioned as the first of the class, soon to become the first RN ship to fire a Seaslug missile (outside the test ship). Her first long range operation was in the Mediterranean, and back to Portsmouth. She also sailed that year for Bermuda and the US east coast, and back to Portsmouth for the new year. Captain George Cunningham Leslie OBE took command of the ship, from 1965 to 1966. On 31 August that year she collided with the tanker British Sovereign, off the mouth River Elbe mouth, there was some damage but no injuries. Captain Peter Buchanan took command in 1973, until 1974 when she was patrolling the Persian Gulf and Caribbean Sea. She was present at the 1977 Silver Jubilee Fleet Review off Spithead, representing the First Flotilla. Budget cuts that year meant she was not upgraded like the Batch 2 and drastic budget cuts by the new gorvernment meant she was scheduled for decommission sooner than expected, in 1978. There was an opportunity of sale to Egypt but it did not go through. For six years she was mothballed in Portsmouth ad towards the end, used as a target for the Sea Eagle anti-ship missile. She was sunk for good by HMS Splendid on 17 July 1984 in the North Atlantic, by a single Mark 24 Mod 2 Tigerfish torpedo.

HMS Devonshire firing her sea slug in 1962

HMS Hampshire 1963-1979

HMS Hampshire at Kiel week 1974

HMS Hampshire was commissioned on 15 March 1963, second ship of the first batch, with Captain Robert White RN in command fro the start of her completion to 1964. She was the cheaper County class ever built, valued at £12,625,000 for her construction cost. From her third Commission in 1967 she became flagship for the Western Fleet (United Kingdom). In July 1969 (Captain R A Trowbridge) she was present at Torbay, for the Royal Review and presentation of a new colour to the Western Fleet (United Kingdom). In 1969-72 Captain R P Clayton too command but she was soon placed in refit. Plans to upgrade HMS Hampshire and her sister ships with Seaslug Mk 2 and a the new digital combat system being of Batch 2 was cancelled for Hampshire and Devonshire, on 31 March 1967 because of the decommission time for the fleet was judged too great. The remaining two upgrades were cancelled as well in 1968. She was nevertheless in refit in 1970-1973 and recommissioned under Captain I F Beeson RN (until 1975) and Captain Michael C Henry until 1976 with no notable event. In 1976, she was the first of the County-class decommissioned. Decision was made by the Labour Government making drastic budget cuts, under pressure from the International Monetary Fund. By that time she barely had 12 years of service. She was cannibalised for spares, allowing her sister ships to live longer and when this was done, she was sold for scrap in 1979 and broken up by Thos W Ward, at Briton Ferry.

HMS Hampshire scrapped at Wards Scrapyard, Briton Ferry, 1979

HMS Kent 1963-1998

Kent as completed 1963

Commissioned in 1963, HMS Kent was affected as an escort for the British aircraft carrier fleet. She sailed with HMS Victorious, Eagle, Hermes in the Atlantic but also the Indian, and Pacific Oceans. She notably hosted negociations for the Withdrawal in Gibraltar, suffered a fire during a refit in 1976 and assisted to the Silver Jubilee fleet review of 1977. As upgrades were cancelled in 1967–68 she received some batch-2 improvements, notably an upgrade to the GWS22 Seacat system, Type 992Q target indicator radar. She returned in operations by December 1972 until decommissioned in the summer of 1980 (17 years of service).

Portsmouth Navy Days 1980

Kent in 1982

Kent in portsmouth Navy Day 1982

She was tasked as replacement for HMS Fife as Fleet Training Ship in Whale Island, Portsmouth Naval Base. As the Falklands War started it was discussed her possible fully recommission, bit two years of loose maintainance mant a refit which was rejected as it was dubious the war would last long. Until 1984 she was used for artificer and mechanic training with HMS Collingwood and HMS Sultan. In 1984 she became a harbour training ship (Sea Cadet Corps), paid off in 1987, training hulk at Portsmouth, stricken 1993 and mothballed until 1998, sold to Indian shipbreakers.

Kent in portsmouth 1987


July 1989

HMS London 1963-1982

HMS London was commissioned at Swan Hunter’s yard, Wallsend, on 14 November 1963; Her first captain was J.C. Bartosik. The following weeks and months were dedicated to qualify the whole crew with the armaments and electronics. She mde her first live missile fire of her Sea Slug off Aberporth in April 1964. She carried the Duke of Edinburgh when crossing the Atlantic in September 1964, stopping in the Bermuda and Houston, then joined Vice-Admiral Sir Fitzroy Talbot’s squadron making visits of South America and crossing Panama, the pacific coast: Peru, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil and Simonstown where she spent Christmas. Next she sailed to Mauritius, to lease her helicopter to erect a TV mast. She departed for the Far East, stopping in Hong Kong, Bangkok, Subic, Singapore and in Malaya. At that time the fleet presence became a deterrent for President Indonesian Sukarno to intimidate the young Federation of Malaysia. HMS London then headed back home via Aden but stopped to assist the adrift Adrian Augusta in the Red Sea. She stopped in Gibraltar before reaching Portsmouth in time for Navy Days, 1965. The next years were uneventful.

London at the Kiel week, 1972

HMS London in Amsterdam, 1977

On Easter Monday 1969, HMS London departed for another cruise, starting with the Far East with Admiral Sir Varyl Begg on board, recently appointment as Governor and C-in-C Gibraltar. She was there on 17 April, then headed for Simonstown, later taking the Beira Patrol, then sailed to Gan and Singapore. Until September she was in the South China Sea (Hong Kong, Manila, Subic Bay, Japan, Singapore). In September, she teamed with HMNZS Otago off New Zealand and visited Auckland and Gisborne for a celebration Captain Cook’s landing. She sailed for Wellington and Lyttleton, crossed the Tasman Sea to Hobart and Melbourne and then two weeks in Sydney. She headed back to Singapore in December. In Januay 1970 she sailed through the Indian Ocean but veered south to the Cape of Good Hope and went into the Atlantic for Sea Slug missile firings with the US Navy. She stopped in St Vincent and Puerto Rico before going back to Portsmouth.

London close to USS Albany and Lawrence in Malta, 1971
London close to USS Albany and Lawrence in Malta, 1971. A good way to campare her relatively low and elegant profile to the isanely tall and “busy” profile of the rebuilt Albany class. Behind, her equivalent in the USN, a Charles. F. Adams class missile DD.

There ensued drydock maintenance and fixes followed in Portsmouth. By October 1970 she was back at sea, visiting to Greenock and in February 1971 started for another nine-month Mediterranean mission. She stopped in Leghorn, her crew visiting Pisa and Florence, and she also stopped in Civitia Vecchia to visit Rome, Pompeii and Naples, and she stopped in Trieste, the crew visiting Venice. She was in Crete for the 30th anniversary of the WW2 battle then headed for Cyprus and Istanbul, crossed the Black Sea and stopped in Samsun. She was back to Portsmouth in early November 1971. She also made missile firing practice at Aberforth. Years of hoeme waters routine exercizes followed, until London in July 1976 was chosen to represent UK for New York City Indep. Bicentennial celebrations. There, she hosted several diplomatic and social duties but her crew was frequently on leave in NYC also. In 1977, she was back in the Mediterranean, the last ship to leave Malta as the British RN base was closed. She also attended the 1977 Silver Jubilee Fleet Review off Spithead.

London in 1981

1979-81 were uneventful but she became the last RN vessel firing the Mark 1 Sea Slug, spending her last 17 Mk 1 seaslugs on 9 December 1981 to train HMS Cardiff and Glasgows with their Sea Darts, or gunnery practice for HMS Brilliant. She also fired her Seawolf and on 10 December 1981, made a final twin turret broadside. She was decommissioned in late December 1981, her last trip being a West Indies as Belize Guardship duty, seeing the independence to Antigua. She was decomm. but no BUT, sold instead to Pakistan as PNR Babur.

London in 1982, her last operational year

HMS Fife 1966-1987

HMS Fife was commissoined in June 1966, under command of Captain Robert H Graham. She took part in a world cruise, in a large group deployment, leaving Portsmouth on 1 April 1970 starting with the Mediterranean and stopping in Safi, Morocco, Lagos, Nigeria, Simonstown in South Africa and briefly took part in the Beira Patrol off Rhodesia after its independence. The naval blockade was part of sanctions inflicted on the regime. While in the Indian Ocean she stopped at the NATO base on Gan on her way to Singapore. For 6 weeks she was immovbilied for her Assisted Maintenance Period (AMP) and departed for the South China Sea and her first live firings. Back home, she was refitted in Portsmouth to carry more missiles.

hms fife at Tirpitz Mole, Kiel Week 1972
hms fife at Tirpitz Mole, Kiel Week 1972

Fire trials were successful against US targets while in the Philippines, the only failure due to a telemetry beam mutating waveguide and one booster motor failing to disengage. She also stopped in Hong Kong and Kobe for Expo 70, then Pearl Harbor (where the local medias were bemused by the mock burial of rhum, as she was the last RN ship to abolish the traditional rhum issue), Long Beach (California), Acapulco (Mexico), the Panama Canal, Puerto Rico and back to the Mediterranean, stopping in Toulon and Malta, Gibraltar, a long trip for her captain David Scott, ww2 hero captain of HMS Seraph.

During her 1977 maintenance she had her ‘B’ turret removed, replaced by Exocets. The same year she attended the Silver Jubilee Fleet Review in the 2nd Flotilla. In 1979, she assisted the island of Dominica after Hurricane David, later awared for this the Wilkinson Sword of Peace. Refit lasted from October 1980 to December 1982 so she was not in the Falklands. She gained notably a Westland Lynx Helicopter and satellite communication plus modern ASW torpedo tubes. Recomm. on 31 March 1983, she was refitted again in 1986.

HMS fife in Portsmouth, 1980

Fife she was converted as a mobile training ship, her Seaslug and magazine removed and the free space used for accomodations. By June 1986, she was trialled with her new mess decks and classrooms and in September made a Dartmouth Training Ship (DTS) deployment in the Caribbean Sea and off Florida with the Frigates HMS Diomede and Apollo. During this, she was shadowed and photgraphed by a Russian Kashin-class destroyer. She made her second deployment in January 1987 via Brest, and into the Mediterranean Sea with HMS Intrepid. Her last was off North America with HMS Juno, both sailing into the Great Lakes. By June 1987 she was sailed to Portsmouth to be decommissioned, with almost 30 years of service, the longest of any of these destroyers.

HMS Glamorgan 1966-1986

HMS Glamorgan was commissioned on 14 October 1966, as D19, second ship of the second batch (sometimes called Fife class). In October 1968, she took part in Exercise Coral Sands, joint amphibious operations off Queensland, Australia with New Zealand, the RAN, RN and USN. She visited Australian ports and in March 1976, took part in the multi-national exercise Valiant Heritage, simulated amphibious assault against San Diego. She made live-fire Sea slug exercise. But her serious test was in the Falklands:

Glamorgan in 1976

At the start of the campaign on 2 April 1982 she was already mid-way, off Gibraltar and about to start exercises whe she was called upon, immediately diverted to the task force. She became flagship, Rear Admiral Sandy Woodward, of First Flotilla, Commander Carrier Battle Group until 15 April. The flag was transferred to the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes. Her role early on was to shell enemy objectives inland with her 4.5-inch (114 mm) guns and she was even first in action on the evening of 1st May 1982 with the frigates HMS Arrow and HMS Alacrity.

They shelled Argentinian positions around Stanley until three IAI Dagger fighters were spotted incoming, dropping two 500 lb (230 kg) bombs. Two were near-misses for Glamorgan. Two weeks later, on 14 May, she carried and supported a SAS Raid on Pebble Island (west of the Falklands). She was regularly called for shore positions shellings east of the islands notably as a diversion for the main action in San Carlos Water. She also rained death on the airfield at Stanley and on 29 May fired a Seaslug missile at the airstrip, landing close to the radar, proof the primitive beam riding tech could be used to repurpose the missile.

In Kiel week, 1974

By June, the task force was detached to protect the Towing, Repair and Logistics Area (TRALA) area setup 200 miles (320 km) away but was soon recalled in the evening of 11 June as the Royal Marines were engaged in the Battle of Two Sisters. On 12 June 1982 in the early morning HMS Glamorgan was attacked with a single MM38 Exocet missile fired from an improvised shore-based launcher, formerly one the destroyer ARA Segui, installed at Puerto Belgrano, previusly brought by a C-130 Hercules and the position of the British destroyer was provided by a A RASIT radar from the Army.

When this happened, she was steaming at 20 knots 18 nm (33 km) offshore. Three missiles were launched. The first misfired, the second failed to find her, the third however made a lock. The incoming Exocet was tracked on Glamorgan and before the missile impact, she made a highspeed turn away. The missile struck her port side, close to the hangar and stern. The high speed turn allowed to deflect partly the missile. Instead of striking perpendicular, it hit the deck coaming, skidded on the deck before detonating. This made a 10 x 15 feet hole in the hangar deck and torn open the galley area below. Fire was put of, but nit before spreading rapidly and dangerously into the missile reload space. The Wessex helicopter exploded and the hangar was soon ablaze. In all she lost 14 KiA and perhaps 20-25 injured. They were buried at sea that evening. Fires were only mastered at 10:00. Combat operations were over for Glamorgan. After repairs at sea, she departed, learning underway the the Argentinean surrender on 14 June. She was repaired more extensively in San Carlos Water and departed for home on 21 June.

The post-Falklands was the occasions for a refit at Portsmouth in late 1982. She received two sets of STWS-1 triple anti-submarine torpedo tubes (Mark 46 torpedo) her Seacat launchers removed and replaced by Bofors 40 mm guns, her new Wessex replaced by a Westland Lynx. Back in service in 1983 she was last deployed on the Armilla Patrol with HMS Brazen. Bound for the Far East plans changed en route after departing Gibraltar as bases of the US Marines and French forces in Beirut were suicide bombed by the Hezbollah on 23 October. In Lebanon she evacuated the British peace-keeping troops with her helicopter and joined the rest of her group down to the Straits of Hormuz. From there, she went home. She was decommissioned in September 1986, and soon sold to Chile.






HMS Antrim 1970-1984

HMS Antrim in the Mediterranean, 1972

In 1940-71 HMS Antrim’s first captain was H W E Hollins RN. She alternated between cruises and home waters exercizes, between the north sea and north Atlantic. In 1982 she was called to be part of the task force for sent in the Falklands, as flagship of Operation Paraquet: This was basically an operation to retake South Georgia in April 1982. She took part in a round of shelling, expending 400 of her 5.5 inches stocks. Her helicopter was the famous Westland Wessex HAS.Mk3 that rescues 16 SAS from Fortuna Glacier after their successful raid, as well as the crew from two previous crashed helicopters. She also took part in the detection leading to the sinking of the Argentinian submarine Santa Fe, first ever ASW operation by helicopters. Captain Lagos surrendered in HMS Antrim’s wardroom. Later she took part in the supporting force during the landing in San Carlos and was bombed by Argentine Skyhawks: 12 narrowly missed her, but one 1,000 lb (450 kg) bomb penetrated her decks, but fortunately failed to explode. After 10 hours she was disabled and removes, while HMS Antrim fired her Sea Slug on an incoming A-4 Skyhawk, missing. She went back home a hero but spent inly two more years in service. She was decommissiond and later sold to Chile, on 22 June 1984.

HMS Antrim in 1982, Falklands war

HMS Norfolk 1970-1982

Norfork as lead ship in 1976 Standing Naval Force Atlantic.

HMS Norfolk was first commissioned on 7 March 1970, participating in Portsmouth Navy Days. In 1972 a refit saw her ‘B’ exchanged for four Exocet launchers, the first RN warship to be so, and first with three missile systems. Recommissioned in 1974 she started the first of numerous deployments to the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South Pacific. Still fitted with the Mk 2 Sea Slug she never received new computer command and control fitted on the second group and went to third line roles. In September 1976, she flew the Queen’s Colour in Sweden. Aslo she took over the UK’s commitment to Standing Naval Force Atlantic. She visited Fremantle, Australia in 1979, holding there a Court Martial and commemorating 150 years of the founding of Western Australia. She was decommissioned in 1981 and took on the Dartmouth Training Ship role. Close to be BU she was offered as sale, proposed to New Zealand in 1981, but in 1982 she was sold to Chile instead, one of four of the class, and the first in that case. Other were sold in 1984, 1986 and 1987.

HMS Norfolk in Amsterdam, 1976