Albany class (CG) Missile Cruisers (1962)

US Navy Project SCB 172. 1962-80: USS Albany, Chicago, Columbus (CG-10, 11, 12).

The “Tall Ladies”

Last US cruiser missile conversions
The Boston class (1952) were the first missile cruisers conversions of the USN, an interim measure before tailored cruisers were built, like the USS Long Beach (nuclear powered) and the smaller conventional Leahy class. Soon after the Bostons, the admiralty tried the same concept on six of the numerous Cleveland class light cruisers available and the result was the Galvetson class, not very successful. Thus a return to the Baltimore class heavy cruiser was chosen for the next class, initially six conversions, and this time a full one (not keeping artillery). The result was the Albany class, perhaps the most umpressile missile cruisers anywhere in the world and complementary to the costly and complex USS Long Beach. #usnavy #USN #missilecruiser #albany #tartar

USS Albany in Mayport, FL, 1973

Design of the SBC 172 conversion

The earliest and most advanced missile conversion ever

USS Albany in her original configuration in 1955
This was perhaps the most extensive conversion of a conventional to a missile cruiser anywhere in the world with in Europe the Italian Giuseppe Garibaldi and the French Colbert only comparable in scope.

USS Albany taken in hands for conversion at Boston Naval Shipyard in 1959, gutted from her superstructures but the turrets still in place.

The hulls were stripped down of any superstructure and gutted two decks down in some parts forward and aft to accomodate the massive Talos missile system. USS Albany (CA-123) was from the sub-class Oregon City and different from usual Baltimore class heavy cruisers, having a single funnel and reworked superstructures already. She was taken in hands at Boston Naval Shipyard starting by January 1959.
There are little details about how development of this progral went on.

Ongoing conversion (navsource), 14 June 1960, Pier 5, Boston Naval Shipyard. U.S. Navy photo, Boston NHP Collection, NPS Cat. No. BOSTS-10186

The basic idea behind SBC 172 was to give the cruisers both missile systems, the Talos and Tartar on a single platform (some initial studies even planned to have the Terrier as well), which necessary obliged to make a full conversion, no longer hybrid configuration. The choice of USS Albany was important, as the ship was completed well after the end of WW2 and had a relatively sparing and cushy career unlike her WW2 sister ships, pretty worn out. That was a good way to prolongate her career. Her two sisters Chicago and Columbus were chosen for the same reasons, and general good state overall.

Progress photograph, 5 May 1961, Pier 5, Boston Naval Shipyard. U.S. Navy photo, Boston NHP Collection, NPS Cat. No. 15926

The conversion is detailed further down. It was the largest conversion of any US cruiser ever. It took over four years for the lead ship (three for the others), 66 million man-hours, a projected cost of $ 170 Million dollar oto make her the prototype of a new class and world’s first ship in the world to undergo the complete conversion from conventional to guided missiles form. The results included two distinctive mast/stacks towering 193 feet above the sea, a 90-foot high superstructure, and the world’s most powerful missile armament to date, with a TALOS anti-aircraft missiles (range 65 miles) installed forward and aft and a TARTAR SAM ranged 10 miles port and starboard, plus for the first time, an ASROC system ASW roounded later by TT installations.
In addition to this, Albany was decommissioned again on 1 February 1967 until 20 April 1969 for yet another complete Modernization upgrad worth $ 21.5 Million dollars prolongating her life until the late 1970s, so another decade.

Impressive ships, but too costly

USS Albany at anchor in Grand Harbour, Valetta, 10 April 1971
After Albany was recommissioned as CG-10 on November 3, 1962, USS Chicago, also chosen (CA-136) was converted at San Francisco Naval Shipyard from July 1959, recommissioned as CG-11 on May 2, 1964. USS Fall River (CA-131) was originally CG-12 but USS Columbus (CA-74) took her place, for unclear reasons. She was converted this time at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard from September 1959 until December 1, 1962, so about three years also. USS Rochester (CA-124), USS Bremerton (CA-130) were also proposed as CG-13 and CG-14, but those plans were dropped due to rising cost/capabilities compared to maintenance costs ratio. With all six being completed, the USN would have had a total of 12 large missile cruisers in 1963.
For reasons alread explained on the previous Galveston/Bostons, these conversion on paper saved time, allowing to rapidly build a missile platform to protect the fleet notably against the threat of high altitude Soviet bombers, but overall, between the cost and time of conversion, and the high mainteance costs and large crews, these large WW2 were not see as the best adapted on the long run to the need of more missile cruisers.

At least all three saved time and tested concepts, provided that capability, until fully tailored “fleet escorts” (cruisers) would be designed. This went into two directions as planned in 1957(58 already: A serie of missiles frigates, late missile cruisers, nuclear powered. In the end only one was built: USS Long Beach. The latter proved also way too costly and the idea of having fleets of nuclear-powered escorts died with her. The ten Leahy class were less than half their tonnage, still well armed, just a third in crew, and far smaller operating costs for the same result. It was in the mid-1960s showing the way forward, as well as missiled destroyers of the same generation, the Adams and Farragut class. They multiplied the numbers of missile platforms at sea, focusing on SAM, while WW2 Fletcher, Sumners and Gearings provided ASW platforms (DDE, FRAM I/II). The era of experimentation was over.

USS Albany at sea in 1965
USS Albany at sea in 1965

The USN will came back to nuclear powered cruisers though after a massive rethinking and the experience of Vietnam, with the Six California and West Virginia, and the prototypes Bainbridge and Truxtun. Ultimately the last missile cruisers (so far as they are decommissioned), the Tinconderoga class went for a destroyer hull adaptation (The Spruance) showing a clear downgrade in capabilities and need of cruisers. Indeed even the release of the Soviet Kirov class did not triggered more than a conversion of the Iowa class battleships as answer.
Perhaps with today’s Chinese Type 055 “super-destroyers”, the resurrection of the concept is perhaps not over.

Detailed design

Hull and general design

USS Oklahoma City and Chicago side by side, showing immediately the differences in size.

The hull was still the same as the orginal Baltimore class. Flushdeck with semi-transom stern (since the Brooklyn class) they had a raise prow with bulwark to improve seakeeping. The general design outline evolved dramatically during the redesigns (no online blueprints shows the evolution), but it seems the forward and aft main Talos missile mounts were placed over the former “A” and “C” gun mounts to save some of the process, however much of the new superstructure constructed above was made from aluminum in order to save weight, and in some place 3-in thick, less for protection than sturdiness. Areas of the structure subject to blast from rockets, so lower, were made of steel. Talos magazine was mostly buried in the Hull, which obliged to gut the decks deep. All this contributed to the expense in cost, since aluminium was not cheap either. Previous conversions like the Providence/Galveston CLGs had their magazines on the weather deck.

Overview of the class

The superstructures were tall but also narrow, and due to this, the macks (mast-stacks), also lightly built, were even taller. There were reasons behind it: The fore and aft Talos needed their own tracking radar each, which were superfiring, as well as other radar system. They were already placed high, and not over the roof of the bridge but directly behind the launchers. As a consequence, the bridge was pushed further back, and since these ships needed to act as flagship, they had an extra admiralty bridge, which both were located above the tallest radar. This accounted for this tall structures. The main radar were placed over the already tall macks, making the structures even taller. In the end, the ships looked dramatic but totally unstable, and despite the extensive use of almunium, not only the large surfaces acted as sails in crosswinds, but the conversions had indeed undeniable topweight issues, even with the missile located down into the hull, they were not buried that deep in the hull and still above the waterline. Overall, they stayed at 17,500 tonnes in full load, not far from the original cruisers. The Oregon city displaced for example 13,260 long-tons standard versus 13.700 tons for the Albany as completed, not much more.


USS Albany in trials, October 1962
This was unchanged since the Baltimore class: Four shafts, driven by each by a General Electric geared turbines and each was fed by a single Babcock & Wilcox boilers, or a grand total of 120,000 shaft horsepower, and a top speed of 32 knots (59 km/h). This machinery was well protected, given the amount of armour dispensed on the hull: A Belt armor of 4–6 in (102–152 mm) and armoured deck above machinery space, at waterline level, of 2.5 in (64 mm). It is unsure if the armored well for the main turrets A and C were still present. The Conning tower were removed, and but Bulkheads, 6 in (152 mm) thick, still present. This level of armour somewhat a bonus of these conversions and certainly unique among missile cruisers of the 1970s, an additional guarantee of survivability.


USS Columbus firing a RIM-24 Tartar during weapons qualifications in 1965

RIM-8 Talos

Each Albany class cruiser received two Mk 12 twin RIM-8 Talos SAM launchers (51 for each, for and aft, and 104 missiles total). Each system comprised an autoloader with two hatches and conveyor belt located below the weather deck, beneath the superstructure, unlike previous designs.
Part of the mythical “Three Ts”, early beginnings of US missiles, the Talos was certainly the most impressive, a beast of a missile, only suitable for a cruiser as with its booster, it was longer than a fighter. The RIM-8 Talos was installed first in USS Galveston in 1958. It used semi-active homing, and with its evolution went to 2.5 Mach, 100 nautical miles or range and 80,000 feet of ceiling. This was the Navy’s “bomber killer”.

Its warhead used a continuous-rod system, each wrapped around an explosive charge, making a deadly metal circle cutting through any airframe and fuselage like butter on a large radius. Before nuclear tactical warheads were thought of, this was seen as a good way to disrupt formations, with four missiles capable collectively to down about a least a dozen planes at one.
It was however slow to reload, about 2 missiles per rail per minute, needed finning and depending on the availability of fire control channels. In comparison a Tartar was c7-8 missiles/minute.

Talos fired by USS Albany in 1977

The Talos was also costly and needed a large dedicated space to operate, only suitable for heavy cruisers. It was only installed on USS Long Beach and conversions such as Albany and the CLGs. The cheaper Terrier and Tartar were deployed more frequently. The Vietnam war saw the Talos claimed three MiGs and it stayed in service until the late 1970s, transformed into drones in the 1980s.
They were associated to the four single channel SPG-49/SPW-2 fire control radars, recoignisable by their dishplate antenna. The Talos could also be used as antiship missiles if needed (of last resort), however with far less efficiency than a conventional dedicated one. Rods were only capable of destroying radars with luck, but that was about it.

However it was completely different in case it carried the W30 nuclear warhead. Measuring 22 inches (56 cm) in diameter, 48 inches (120 cm) long for 438, 450, or 490 pounds (199, 204, or 222 kg) depending on the version, it had a yeld of 4.7 to 5 Kt. The Talos production (1959 to 1965) comprised 300 modified to carry missile warheads. An undiclosed number was carried by Albany class ships, both capable of deleting an entire surface fleet or a bomber formation in one go if WW3 was at hands… Their live use was conditioned on principle by president’s approval.

RIM-24 Tartar

Tartar Mark 11 Mod 2 aboard USS Chicago, 1970s
Each ship had two Mk 11 twin RIM-24 Tartar SAM launchers (42 each, 84 missiles total), installed on sponsoned platforms each side of the hull, close to the amidship section. They were small enough to be reloaded vertically. This was the “second échelon”, a short range weapon (shorter than the Terrier), also widely deployed by missile destroyers, Frigates onn its Mk 11 twin-arm launcher, later replaced by a single one. This missile, at the basis of the Standard, was capable of Mach 1.8, had a 18 miles range, and still 65,000 feet ceiling, just 15,000 feet shy of the mighty Talos. It’s CNO Admiral Arleigh Burke, Mister “31 knots”, famous ww2 destroyer veteran, which pressed the case and urged development. The last version was much closer to a RIM-2C Terrier but without the secondary booster. It was associated with four fire control radars of the SPG-51 type.

Albeit early proposals went for installation of the Terrier as well, there just was no room for it, and electronic management would have been difficult. In case of a full on attack indeed, the ship had to manage already eight different channels at once. No us cruiser ever sported more than two SAM missiles systems. The Terrier was present on missile destroyers already so this was seen an unnecessary complication in a task force approach.


ASROC in USS Columbus (CG-12) as completed.
Each ship also had a single Mk 112 ASROC octuple-tube missile launcher. It was installed between the two macks and thus could only fire on a limited angle both sides. The same configuration was used for USS Long Beach. Combined with the torpedoes this rounded up its ASW capabilities.
RUR 5, Anti-Submarine ROCket, this was the golden child of the Rocket Assisted Torpedo (RAT) program at Naval Ordnance Test Station China Lake, 1950s. This was missile torpedo delivered. The system used on the Albany was likely the latest RAT-C operational in 1960 with its armoured MK-112 “Matchbox” launcher. Torpedoes can even carry if needed the 10 kt yield W44 nuclear warhead, which lacked precision but its blast radius guaranteed a 100% kill. Torpedoes could be self-guided or using active or passive sonar. Each of eight missile along (without the torpedo) weighted 1,073 pounds (487 kg) for 14.75 ft (4.50 m) a Diameter of 16.6 inches (420 mm), Wingspan of 26+7⁄8 inches (680 mm) and using a solid propellant rocket motor for a range of 6 miles (9.7 km), sending the Mark 46 acoustic torpedo to target. The latter was using active homing, carrying a 96.8 Ibs PBXN-103 high explosive warhead.

5-in guns

Two 5-in (127 mm) guns Mark 38. At the time the Albany class was built, it was so radical a design, that like USS Long Beach, no guns was even considered. They were “pure” missile cruisers in the strict sense. There were at worst the crew’s own personal weapons… and potatoes. This was long before the introduction of CIWS and the return of 20 mm or 0.5 in HMGs for close-in defence to deal with asymetric threat.
However like for USS Long Beach, It’s ww2 navy vet president John F. Kennedy which allegedly was worried about this absence and asked for installations of such systems. Whatever the truth, the Albany class were retrofitted with dual purpose surplus open-mount Mk 24 mount 5-in/38 dual purpose (many were retired from Fletcher class destroyers during their DDE and FRAM modernizations), installed on the port and starboard sides close to the aft exhaust mack. See more. This was a “minimal guarantee” if an aircraft went through, as well against ships.

Two triple Mk-32 torpedo tubes

They were installed on deck amidships, in recesses of the structure to make a 90° traverse. These tripled banks with one above the others became widespread in the USN as the standard ASW weapon for close range, aside the ASROC. Manually trained they can fire the 12.75-inch (324 mm) torpedo Mark 44 or Mark 46 and fired remotely with manual backup. The tubes, made made from fibreglass used compressed air in rear flask. Muzzle velocity was 123 metres per second (400 ft/s). The torpedoes are fire-and-forget, active homing type, Helix search type. The Mark 44 torpedo available at completion had a, electric 30 hp engine and carried a Mk 101 Mod 0, HBX-3 75 pounds (34 kg) warhead with a Mk 19 type Mod 12 contact exploder to 3.4 miles (5.5 km) at a max depth 1,000 yards (910 m) at 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph).

Mark 46 torpedoes prepared by the crew on USS Albany c1977

Aviation facilities:

Kaman UH-2B Seasprite of HC-4 lands on USS Albany in 1965
Flight deck only. A large spot was painted on the stern deck, and the deck was reinforced to support all sorts of helicopters, but there was no hangar, it was a feature (for Vought Kingfisher observation seaplanes) in 1942’s Baltimore design but removed at completion from later ships in 1946.
This was not a resident helicopter, and if it was, this was mission-based. It was mostly used for transportation, liaison and occasional ASW patrol.

A “rock and roll landing” of a HO-3S on the aft turret of USS Albany prior to conversion in 1951.


SPS-8 (at completion)

A 1952 2D air search radar working on Frequency S Band at 1000 Hz with a beamwidth of 3.5°, pulsewidth of 2 µs and range of 111 km (60 nmi), Power 650 kW. Frypan 360° fixed type.

SPS-10 (at completion)

1959 2D surface search radar working on C Band at 650 Hz, bwt 1.9° × 16°, pwt 1.3 µs, power 280 kW.


Large (41 ft/12 m) rectangular 1961 2D air-search radar working in VHF at 0.2 GHz, Range 250 nmi (460 km), 360°, 180 kW.


Secondary 140″ x 214″ 1961 2D Air-search radar working on 400-450 MHz, UHF band at 7.5 rpm in long-range mode and 15 rpm in low flier detection mode, Range 250 nmi at 360° azimuth, with vertical beam width 19° and precision in horizontal beam width of 10.5°. Power: 200 kW-300 kW


A thee guimbal system designed to guide the Talos missiles. Worked between 5,400 and 5,900 MHz on C-Band at 3 MW with to a beamwidth of 1.8° at a range of 275 km, 150 nm, at a resolution of 150 ft with an accuracy of 0.025%; or 0.25 miles.


Tartar guiding radar (later upgraded for the Standard SM-1). Pulse-Doppler model working at 10.25-10.5 GHz as illuminatir and 5.45 GHz – 5.825 GHz as tTracking Radar with a PFR of 4100 pps (surface) and 9600-16700 pps in the air Beamwidth respectively of 0.9° (horizontal), 0.9° (vertical) and 1.6° (horizontal) 1.6° (vertical) when tracking, pulsewidth of 2.1-3.2 μs and 100 nmi (190 km) range, so well beyond the actual missile range at 360°, traverse of 12°/s, elevation of -30° to 83°. Power depending on the use, 4000 W for illuminating the target, down to 81-1600 W for tracking.

Bow-mounted AN/SQS-23 Sonar

5 Khz 1958 radar installed on destroyers, low frequency to provide data to the ASROC and Mk32 Torpedo Tubes. Long range, azimuth-scanning type, with a massive transducer (20 feet in diameter) for a range of 10,000 yards (9,150 m).

Conway’s profile of the class

⚙ Albany specifications 1960s

Displacement 14,394t light; 18.777t full load
Dimensions 202.4m, 205.8mn x 21.3m x 7.9m or 664ft wl, 674ft 1lin oa x 69ft 9in x 25ft 9in
Propulsion 4-shaft GE geared turbines; 4 Babcock & Wilcox boilers, 120,00Oshp
Speed 32kts (59 km/h)
Range 7000 nm at 15 kts
Armament 2×2 Talos SAM (52×2), 2×2 Tartar SAM (42×2), 2x 5in/38, ASROC, 2×3 12.75-in Mk 32 ASW TT
Sensors Radar SPS-43A (in place of original SPS-29), 2 SPS-30, 4 SPG-49/SPW-2, 4 SPG-51, sonar
Protection As Baltimore class, see notes
Crew 1222 in normal conditions, more as flagship (72 officers, 1150 ratings)

The conversion of USS Chicago at San Francisco NyD. Four years at great cost, but she made four tours of duty in Vietnam.

Read More/Src

The tall lady and the girl, USS Columbus and Robison at San Diego, June 1965


Friedman, Norman (1984). U.S. Cruisers: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, NIP
Moore, John (1991). Jane’s American Fighting Ships of the 20th Century. Mallard Press.
Conway’s all the world’s fighting ships 1947-1995
Wright, Christopher C. (1977). “The Tall Ladies…Columbus, Albany & Chicago”. Warship International. XIV (2)



By Dr. Alex Clarke, and comment response

Model Kits


USN – Albany class guided missile cruiser (LS)

US Navy ww2 USS Albany CG-10 (rec. 1962)

Note: USS Albany’s career before conversions will be seen on a future article on the Oregon City class. USS Albany was built at Bethlehem Steel Company, Quincy, Massachusetts, laid down on 6 March 1944, Launched on 30 June 1945 and Commissioned on 15 June 1946. Sher served for more than a decade when decommissioned on 30 June 1958 at the Boston Naval Shipyard for her conversion. She was redesignated CG-10 in November 1958. But after her official recommissioned followed four years of fitting out, on 3 November 1962. First commander was Captain Ben B. Pickett and after shakedown cruise and weapons qualifications she made fiver yealy alternated deployments to European waters in Mediterranean and North Atlantic. When closer to home and in between crew’s rest and maintenance, she trained along the east coast and in West Indies.

USS Albany firing missiles in 1963

She visited many foreign ports (making quite an impression along the way) and took part in many NATO exercises. On 1 March 1967, she was decommissioned at Boston Naval Shipyard for another rpound of extensive modifications over 20 months. This only concerned her and Chicago. Thus was classed as major engineering overhauls under SCB 002 program. Both the missile systems received new digital fire control system to deal with new Soviet anti-ship cruise missiles and aircraft. Only USS Albany received the “full monty”, it was less extensive on USS Chicago and Columbus was denied these upgrades due budget retraints forcing her decommission in 1976. The Talos system was deactivated in 1976, leaving her with only her Tartars for a few extra years.

USS Albany in 1971
USS Albany in 1971

Recommissioned on 9 November 1968, Albany tested her new systems under command of Captain Allan P. Slaff. By 1973 she was decommissioned for overhaul at Philadelphia until May 1974, homeported in Norfolk, under Captain John J. Ekelund. She became flagship of the 2nd Fleet. Between 1976 and 1980, she became also flagship of the 6th Fleet homeported in Gaeta, Italy.
In late 1979 USS Chicago and Albany were scheduled for massive overhauls, notably with the SM-1 (MR) missiles to replace the Tartar, two Phalanx CIWS, two four-cell Harpoon launchers and complete overhaul of their machinery, structure and electronics. There again, budget priorities had this prospect cancelled and the ship were decommissioned in 1980.

Little Rock and Albany in Gaeta, Italy, 1976

USS Albany was decommissioned on 29 August 1980, laid up on the Elizabeth River (Norfolk Navy Yard) in a semi-mothball, then stricken on 30 June 1985 still at berth. At that stage, the USN had the practice of holding selling of old ships to demolition, to allow time funding their preservation as museum ship. Her name sake city tried to gather funds for 5 years and there were serious interest in saving her but in that time of economic hardships, it never was feasible. The time expired and she was sold for scrapping on 12 August 1990, seeing the end of the cold war.
Now a portiong of her bow is displayed at the Albany County Fairgrounds, Altamont, New York.
The original yard model, 14-foot-long (1:48 scale) was fully restored in 2013, now at the Albany Heritage Area Visitors Center. Other equipments such as the wheel, clock, window, telephone, dining silver sets, items from crew members, shipbuilder plaque, bell, are also displayed.
For her long service, she was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation with 2 awards, Navy “E” (excellence) Ribbon with 3 awards, the World War II Victory Ribbon (even if she was completed postwar) and National Defense Service Medal with 2 awards.

USS Albany laid up in 1989

US Navy ww2 USS Chicago CG-11 (rec. 1964)

Chicago during her commissioning ceremony in San Francisco in 1964, following her massive, five-year rebuild as a guided missile cruiser
USS Chicago had certainly a longer and more intesting career than USS Albany. Unlike her sister she was already a WW2 veteran, she was laid down on 28 July 1943 at Philly NyD, Launched on 20 August 1944 and Commissioned on 10 January 1945, then Decommissioned on 6 June 1947. More on her ww2 career.

A long test campaign in the Pacific/West Coast

USS Chicago moore in Seattle, summer 1971
On 1 November 1958 she was exhumed from the mothballs to be converted, reclassified CG-11, towed to San Francisco Naval Shipyard for the longer conversion of the class, no less than five-year as Guided Missile Cruiser. Like the other she received deep down a brand new and improved Naval Tactical Data System (NTDS), combat information center. She also received at completion her two 5 in/38 cal guns (added for the others). She was allegedly also operating two Seasprites parked aft as antisubmarine helicopters.
Recommissioned at San Francisco on 2 May 1964 she was assigned the Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla Nine (CruDiv 9), 1th (West Coast) and later 7th (Pacific) Fleet. After acceptance trials this summer she joined the 1st Fleet, performed sonar calibration in Puget Sound before being homeported to San Diego for weapons systems qualifications until 2 December, at the Pacific Missile Rang, southern California.
On 4 January 1965 she was homeported at Long Beach for shock tests off San Clemente Island, Equipment tests, damage control exercises until mid-January, then fixes at San Francisco and receive her upgraded Tartar and electronics. After shakedown training and drills aby mid-June she worked woth the Naval Electronics Laboratory for guidance improvements and missile replenishment at sea.
She took part in fleet exercise “Hot Stove” in August–September and later a competitive missile firing exercise winning the “E” for her Tartar battery. By October she short down two high-speed, high-altitude drones with Talos and Tartar.
She cruised to Hawaii from 19 October to 3 November, escorting USS Kitty Hawk and Mahan, and completd training in the San Diego area, and more until 1966, and fixes at San Diego, in April Exercise “Gray Ghost” as tactical flagship with Rear Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr. on board.

USS Chicago in Vietnam

USS Chicago underway in the early 1970s
On 12 May 1966, she sailed to Pearl Harbor and Yokosuka, (seeing a new radar antenna installed) and her new wartime HP, Naval Base Subic Bay, on 12 June, seeing her helicopter detachment departing to join TF 77 on Yankee Station. This summer she tested her electronics, in PIRAZ, for “positive identification and radar advisory zone” off Da Nang in South Vietnam. On 5 July she received a Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King for SAR, which rescued an A-4E Skyhawk pilot from USS Constellation on 4 July. She visited Hong Kong to avoid a typhoon on 17 July.
She made a second PIRAZ tour from 29 July to 11 August, and later made a Talos missile test off Okinawa on 27 August. She visited Keelung in Taiwan and made a third PIRAZ station until 29 September. She became the main source for the fleet, for MIG warning information, and was entrusted aerial denial for the whole North Vietnamese-Chinese border. Her fourth PIRAZ was between 25 October and 12 November, refining her skills.

She made another test at the Okinawa Missile Range and was in Yokosuka by 19 November, then headed for home on 27 November in rough seas until 7 December to San Diego.
In January 1967, west coast routine resumed, she was the First Fleet flagship, trained with USS Constellation, and a Talos campaign in April-May. From 6 June she departed for a cruise to Alaska with the Commander of the First Fleet aboard. She visited Juneau in Alaska on 10 June (largest warhips ever in that port) and back to San Diego. In July she broke record by shooting down a drone at 96 miles and visited Seattle, Vancouver, and Esquimalt.

Then she was deploted for the 2nd time in Vietnam, departing Pearl Harbor on 18 October, still vectoring aircraft and performing another pilot rescue. PIRAZ on the Gulf of Tonkin she also went to Yokosuka, Okinawa, and Subic Bay and relieved on station the brand new cruiser USS Belknap (modern missile cruiser, almost dwarved by her), until 14 December. She visited Hong Kong from 16 to 21 December, was in Subic Bay for availability, then Singapore for rest and back to PIRAZ station until 28 January, then she joined TG 70.6 as for Operation Formation Star against north Korea (Pueblo affair). Then in Februiary she was back until 6 March in PIRAZ duties, Gulf of Tonkin.

She made a final PIRAZ cruise on 23 March-17 April and was back in San Diego on 15 May. She made tests at the Pacific Missile Range, and received an overhaul at Long Beach Naval Shipyard. After new qualification tests on 31 January 1969 she departed on 13 February for her third Vietnam TOD, Subic Bay, PIRAZ on 11 March, SAR duty and a sweep in the Sea of Japan off Korea joinung TF 71. After an EC-121 was shot down by North Korean fighters on 14 April she provided PIRAZ for the carriers before upkeep in Sasebo.

She made another PIRAZ/SAR tour (23 May-1 July), upkeep in Yokosuka, visit to Hong Kong (typhoon evasion) and another PIRAZ in the Gulf of Tonkin until 25 August, back to San Diego on 17 September.
She had Zuni chaff dispensers installed, and resumed training routine followed by a 4th Vietnam deployment on 9 September 1970. PIRAZ and search coordination, and fleeing super typhoons Joan and Kate (14 and 26 October) saw her implicated in a RAS accident on 27 October (several injured), she left the Gulf of Tonkin on 1 November for upkeep in Yokosuka on 7 November. PIRAZ again on 20 November to 19 December, spent Christmas 1970 in Hong Kong and NY in Subic Bay. Then PIRAZ station until 18 February.

She went back to San Diego on 24 February with the frigate USS Knox which rescued one of her sailors who jumped overboard on 26 February. When Knox lost power after a JP-5 fire on 3 March she took her in tow until a tug came from from Pearl Harbor. She was back in San Diego on 11 March and the routine resumed, but she would departed for a 5th Vietnam depoyment on 6 November 1971 (Captain Thomas William McNamara, not the one at the White house). In Pearl Harbor, she laded the secretary of the Navy and staff, and via Guam and Subic Bay proceeded to the Gulf of Tonkin for several rounds of PIRAZ station, the first on 6 December. Another on 18 January where she launched four RIM-8H Talos against North Vietnamese shore-based radar stations in February and March (no hits). Another PIRAZ station 3-21 March, visit to Hong Kong and last PIRAZ on 3 April 1972 recalled after the new North Vietnamese Army massive push south.

In April and May her intercept controllers directed both Navy and Air Force aircraft on CAP mission shooting down 14 MiGs including one by Navy aces Randy Cunningham and William P. Driscoll.
Her forward Talos battery also shot down a MiG over Hai Phong harbor on 9 May. She teams with USS Long Beach protecting A-6 Intruder and A-7 Corsair mining Hai Phong harbor at low altitude (Operation Pocket Money). They tracked bogeys approaching the coast from Phúc Yên and Kép airfields, near Hanoi. Chicago was once targeted by a North Vietnamese coastal artillery battery but took no hits. She returned to San Diego on 21 June 1972.

Post-Vietnam Career

USS Chicago’s WestPac of March 1978
Back home on 8 July, entered Long Beach Naval Shipyard on 25 August for her “Complex Overhaul” and all out modenrization, unlike her sister Columbus but less extensive than Albany.
On 15 May 1973 started six months of sea trials and she made another WestPac from 21 May 1974. From Subic Bay on 15 June she started a long cruise escorted by the frigate USS Fanning, destroyer USS George K. MacKenzie, and auxiliary USS Passumpsic. The objective was to shadown and deter Soviet Navy’s presence in Somalia and Aden, as well as in the Indian Ocean, including port visits to show the flag. The small task group centered around the cruiser passed the Straits of Malacca on 2 July to Karachi before a cruise in the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden, stopping at Mombassa, Kenya (9 August) and brought their weight during the Mauritius negociaitons. She even embarked several Mauritian government officials on 21 August for a short cruise to Rodrigues Island. She was back to Subic Bay on 11 September. After visiting Hong Kong in October she trained in Philippines and Guam and proceeded in November for San Diego (14 December) for upkeep and leave until March 1975.
After tests and fleet exercises with the Pacific fleet, she visited Seattle, Vancouver and started a late overhaul at San Diego from 9 September to 24 October mainly directed at her propulsion plant and electrical network. By February 1976 she resumed operations, taking part in exercise “Valiant Heritage” in March with with four navies.

She left San Diego on 13 April for another WestPac off Pearl Harbor, Yokosuka, exercises with USS Midway and “Multiplex 2-76”, “Multiplex 3-76” in the South China Sea, port visits in June, midshipmen cruise from Yokosuka, then “Multiplex 1-7T”, visit of Hong Kong (typhoon cover), and joined USS Enterprise for another exercise. She left Guam to refuel, Pearl Harbor and home, San Diego on 16 October.
After another machinery refit, she trained off San Diego and sortied for an eighth WestPac tour via Subic Bay on 30 September, then a round of operations with the 7th Fleet.

She trained in and around the Philippines and visited Yokosuka, Keelung, and Hong Kong as well as escorted USS Kitty Hawk in the Sea of Japan. They were closed by two Soviet Tupolev Tu-16 “Badgers”. Back in Subic Bay she proceeded to sonar exercises with submarine Queenfish and spend Xmas in Singapore, but visited Phattaya Bay, Thailand on 30 December for the new years.
From Subic Bay and Hong Kong she made a new rounds of training in the Philippine Sea. She was back in Pearl Harbor on 31 March and San Diego on 7 April, upkeep and overhaul in Long Beach until 18 October. She trained with the destroyer England and submarine Darter and more training until February 1979, earning her 11 consecutive Missile “E”.
She departed next for her 12th WestPac with USS Kitty Hawk’s battle group to Pearl Harbor and Subic Bay, Okinawa, Pusan, and the South China Sea. She also started helping rescuing Vietnamese refugees. On 6 October she sailed for Australia (memorial services, Solomon) and the Coral Sea followed by ANZAC exercize. She was back at San Diego on 17 December.

USS Chicago berthed at Puget Sound on 25 January 1990, pending scrapping.

With FY 1980 funding a major overhaul/modernization she was decommissioned in March and towed to the Inactive Ship Facility at Bremerton, but reserve until 8 February 1989, her modrdernization not funded eventually. Stripped on 11 August she was sold for scrap to Southwest Recycling, Inc. in California on 9 December 1991. Only her anchor survived at Chicago’s Navy Pier. Among other awards, she earned the Meritorious Unit Commendation for developing the PIRAZ concept in Vietnam along with a Navy Unit Commendation, Arleigh Burke Fleet Trophy, and 7e “E” in missilery among others.

US Navy ww2 USS Columbus CG-12 (rec. 1962)

USS Columbus training in the Pacific, May 1963

USS Columbus was a “standard” Baltimore class cruiser, ordered 9 September 1940, laid down 28 June 1943, launched on 30 November 1944 and Commissioned on 8 June 1945 so her career in WW2 was pretty short, she was caught training at V-Day. Spared, she served once as conventional cruiser both in the Mediterranean and Pacific before being taken in hands for conversion.
On 30 September 1959 the process started, as CG-12, recommissioned on 1 December 1962 she shortest of her sisters, but followed by 1.5 years of hard testing before she could be assigned to the pacific fleet, making her forst WestPac from August 1964.

USS Columbus in the 1960s and 1970.

She also served as Flagship from Hawaii and she made a cruise with the 1965 Pacific Midshipman Training Squadron, served with COMCRUDESFLOT in 1966, but was reassigned to the Atlantic Fleet at the start of 1967 and until 1974. She was never deployed to Vietnam and instead made seven touts of duty in the Mediterranean, between September 1966 and March 1967, January 1968 and July 1968, December 1968 and May 1969, 8 October 1969 and 18 March 1970, 6 September 1970 to 1 March 1971, 17 May 1972 to 18 October 1972 and 2 November 1973 to 31 May 1974.
Unlike her sisters her upgrades were limited due to cutbacks so this eroded her capabilities gradually. She still had a well-needed 5-month overhaul of machinery, electric heavy maintenance, hull structure, for anither five years of service and a last Mediterranean deployment on 31 May 1974. When decommissioned after 29.5 years on 31 January 1975, she was stricken on 9 August 1976 and sold for BU, 3 October 1977 (Union Minerals & Alloys Corp), scrapped in Port Newark in New Jersey. None of these ships were preserved.

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