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Ticonderoga and the Aegis System


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LAMPS Mk.III205k On 22 January 1983, the Ticonderoga (CG-47), a modified DD-963 hull design with added SPY-1 radar arrays in two enlarged deckhouse expansions, tripod masts later replacing four-legged masts, went to sea, on time and within budget.
The Ticonderoga class performed well at sea.
She retained the original destroyer maneuverability of the DD-963 hull and at 25 knots an Aegis cruiser could turn 90 degrees in two ship lengths. A steel bulwark, switched in later ships to aluminium to reduce top weight, was added to the bow to keep the fo’c’s’le dry in moderate seas, as the cruiser pitched hard in heavy weather.
If the ship took green water over the bow, it acted as a scoop and threw water back to the bridge.
Structural modifications made to ships in service included steel stiffeners in the deckhouses.
Water intrusion damaged windlasses, especially with a full missile load in the high capacity forward magazine.

Two Mark 26 Mod.1 guided missile launchers with 44-round magazines, four missile target illuminators and related Aegis systems such as the new identification-friend-foe (IFF) antenna, an armoured sonar room with anti-fragmentation protection, upgraded LM-2500 turbines, 25,000 hp each, stronger, heavier propeller shafts, two tall uptakes, using the boundary-layer infrared suppression system (BLISS) and ceramic fire insulation added to bulkheads, providing 30 minutes of protection from fire before aluminium melted, electrically operated automatic doors, halon 1301 fire extinguishing gas and very sensitive fire detection, were installed.
Unlike the Spruance and Kidd classes, Ticonderoga was delivered with full armament.
She was the first of a new class of highly automated, high firepower, guided-missile warships, whose multi-mission capabilities were made possible by quick reaction and highly effective firepower in all warfare modes, meaning anti-air, anti-surface and anti-submarine.

Drawing on state-of-the-art technology-particular in digital electronics and radar signal processing, Aegis was designed as a total weapon system, from detection to kill.
The heart of the system was an advanced, high power, automatic, multi-function, detect-and-track phased array radar, the AN/SPY-1A (4mW).
Instead of using a single rotating antenna element, the AN/SPY-1A antennae were composed of 4,000 radiating elements arranged in a 12-by-12 ft array that could direct pencil beams of high power in one direction, jump to another or split the energy in several directions.
In addition, the radar monitored two zones of defence simultaneously for attacking pop-up missiles and in the 175nm SAM belt several times a minute. The AN/SPY-1 was able to perform search, track and missile guidance functions simultaneously with a handling capacity of well over 100 targets. The radar had excellent resistance to jamming with its special design and antennae array as well as its advanced use of electronic counter-countermeasures (ECCM) electronics and techniques.

This sophisticated phased-array radar was complemented by other radars designed for specific jobs. The AN/SPY-49 was one of the Navy’s most popular air search radars and equipped with an IFF system, it complemented the AN/SPY-1A in these roles.
For sea search, especially with small targets, the AN/SPS-55 surface search radar, good at close range, was used with the system. These two added a degree of survivability to the system as it did not rely on a single device.
The Aegis vessel’s brain was the Ship Combat System (SCS). Computer programmes from 25 individual detection, control and engagement elements were structured to form an integrated combat system capable of responding to either a single or a coordinated multiple attack in adverse environments. The Aegis SCS simultaneously and automatically processed data from these elements, directed pre-arranged tactical dOctober rine, coordinated assigned missions, determined modes of operation and controlled target engagements with the appropriate weapon elements.
The heart of the Aegis SCS was the Aegis Mk.7 weapon system, designed and developed by RCA and composed of eight computer-directed elements, each capable of standing alone as fully automatic anti-air and anti-surface systems. As part of the SCS, the Mk.7 performed the principal and surface defence functions. The control elements of this group provided track maintenance, threat evaluation and weapon assignment and control for all warfare operations.
The control centre of the Ticonderoga-class ships was made of RCA’s Mk.1 Command and Decision System and Mk.1 Weapons Control System, both specifically tailored for Aegis. These elements consisted of large-screen computerized displays (status boards) which together formed a nucleus of the Ticonderoga's combat information centre (CIC) and provided overall battle system management and coordination.

The engagement of air targets was conducted through a separate unit, the Mk.99 Fire Control System, which employed four Mk.80 directors (illuminators) used mainly in the final intercept phase. The four illuminators could cover each direction and allowed for simultaneous multi-mission firing.
The total engagement process was therefore automatic. In fact, the whole Aegis ship could be put on automatic mode and intercept aircraft without human intervention but in practice only semi-automatic modes were employed. In most cases, employment of the system dictated increased alert zones in the directions from which an attack would most probably be launched against the battle group; here the highest degree of autonomy and automation was given to the system (save for firing approvals), while semi-automatic zones were preset according to a carrier’s flight paths to prevent the interception of incoming and outgoing CAPs. (combat air patrols)

These elements, together with the uplink midcourse command guidance function of the AN/SPY-1A radar system, allowed Aegis to rapidly fire and control more missiles with greater accuracy than any other system operational at that time. To keep this complicated system ready, a built-in operational readiness test system was installed, constantly checking and monitoring the ship for malfunctions.
Although the AN/SPY-1 radar was adequate, the initial ships used the Mk.99 missile control uplink and the SPQ-9A fire control radar which had very good resolution but a limited range. Later ships featured Doppler techniques and track-while-scan capability. The two systems augmented the basic radar and could also be used as backup systems.
The initial two ships, built with the twin-arm Mk.26 launchers, one launcher forward and one aft, equipped with the Block II SM-2MR (medium range) standard missile, were known as Baseline 1.

Baseline 2

Beginning with the sixth ship, Bunker Hill (CG-52), a Martin Marietta Mk.41 Vertical launch System (VLS) replaced the twin-arm Mark 26 missile launching system. Magazine capacity increased from 88 to 122 Standard-2 missiles and vertical-launch ASROC rocket thrown torpedoes.
VLS offered better reaction time by eliminating the need for a mechanical alignment of weapons in the threat direction, better use of deck area and allow more missiles to be carried. The system was simpler to maintain and missile reload was faster.
Secretary of the Navy John Lehman ordered the depth of the VLS increased to carry Tomahawk cruise missiles. (96 Standards and 26 Tomahawks) Tomahawks supported the Maritime Strategy. For close-in defence the ship used its two Mk.15 (V) CIWS Phalanx automatic radar-directed Gatling guns. This weapon, firing 3000 20mm round per minute with a range of 1600 yd, was tested before against the world’s best sea skimmers and scored direct kills.
Although the ship had been primarily designated for anti-air warfare, it also had advanced capabilities to detect and fight enemy surface ships and submarines. Its antisubmarine warfare (ASW) equipment was based on four systems, all controlled from the command information centre.

One system was the hull-mounted AN/SQS-53 sonar, built to detect enemy ships at medium range without necessitating the parent vessel to slow down in order to deploy sophisticated sonar. This was a constant-alert system which gave the crew its first warning of a submarine’s presence on their periphery. A more complicated, more capable and accurate system was AN/SQR-19 Tactical Towed Array Sonar (TACTAS), fitted to later vessels, designed to give ASW detection at longer ranges, required because of increasing weapons range of enemy submarines.
TACTAS also served as the primary ASW sensor to trigger a ship’s SH-60B Seahawk LAMPS III. All Baseline 2 ships carry two of these helicopters and received RAST tracks, SRQ-4 data link receivers and SQQ-28 sonobuoy processors. A complete SQQ-89 ASW system was added to all Aegiscruisers starting with San Jacinto (CG-56), including the SQR-19 and SQS-53B hull mounted sonar.
In 1985, during BaltOps”85, Ticonderoga operated two LAMPS I, Kaman HS-2F Seasprite helicopters, equipped with sensors such as AN/ASQ-81 and ASW weapons like depth charges and MK.46 torpedoes, from an aft hangar and landing pad. At closer range, submarines could also be engaged by Mk.46 torpedoes launched from ASROC weapons fired by the missile batteries. For surface warfare, the ship was also equipped with two 5-Inch, 54-caliber guns. To augment surface strike power, above-deck Harpoon missile canisters were installed.
Ticonderoga deployed on her first cruise in October 1983, as part of the Independence carrier battle group sent to a station off the Lebanese coast. The Sixt Fleet chief of operations described the Ticonderoga as having “provided to the Eastern Mediterranean Task Force an impressive new tactical dimension which included 100 percent weapon availability and a totally coherent air picture allowing anti-air warfare capability to manage rather than react to difficult situations.”

Upon her return from the Mediterranean, the ship was put through a final live fire test in the Caribbean. At that stage, the second Aegis cruiser, Yorktown (CG-48), a twin of the Ticonderoga, began her sea trials and prepared for her first cruise. Ticonderoga was involved in the interception of the Achille Lauro hijackers in 1985 and was in the force that operated against Libya in 1986.
The Aegis system proved highly capable in wartime-like environments such as in the Baltic’s in 1985. This class and the Maritime Strategy, an obstacle they could not overcome, enormously complicated the Soviets’ problem of seaward defense against naval strikes. Soviet submarines might make simultaneous torpedo attacks against air defense escorts, especially the Ticonderoga class Aegis cruisers, to reduce the defenses facing their first-strike missile attacks on aircraft carriers. The capability to detect and destroy ambushing submarines had the strategic deterrent value of depriving the Soviets of the opening they needed to attack the aircraft carriers. Soviet leaders feared a breakthrough in anti-missile defense under the Strategic Defense Initiative, an indicator less of SDI’s prospects than of the Soviets’ dependence on military power.
Photographs & text courtesy of Pieter Bakels.

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