Home » Budget Industry » Guided Missile Cruiser USS Cowpens Ceremonially Enters Modernization Period, USS Gettysburg to Follow This Week

Guided Missile Cruiser USS Cowpens Ceremonially Enters Modernization Period, USS Gettysburg to Follow This Week

USS Cowpens (CG 63) returns to San Diego following a deployment to the western Pacific in 2014. US Navy Photo

USS Cowpens (CG 63) returns to San Diego following a deployment to the western Pacific in 2014. US Navy Photo

The first in a planned series of contentious modernizations to the Navy’s guide missile cruiser fleet formally began in a Friday ceremony in San Diego, Calif.

The ceremony inducted USS Cowpens (CG-63) into the CG Phased Modernization Program — a plan that the Navy says well extend the service life of the fleet of 22 cruisers to preserve capabilities for Navy carrier strike groups into the 2040s.

“We are saving money, preserving force structure, and generating options for leadership,” said Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet in a Navy statement.

The Navy plans to have a similar ceremony for USS Gettysburg (CG-64) later this week.

While the ceremony transferring control of the ship from Naval Surface Forces command to Naval Sea Systems Command occurred on the Sept. 25, the work to modernize Cowpens  and Gettysburg has been progressing for months.

“The modernization process will include major upgrades, including the AEGIS weapon system with naval integrated fire control-counter air (NIFC-CA) capability, SPQ-9B multipurpose radar, electro-optical sight system, AN/SQQ-89A(V)-15 anti-submarine warfare (ASW) suite with multi-function towed array (MFTA), and significant hull mechanical and electrical (HM&E) upgrades,” read a description of the modernization.

Late last year, the service told USNI News it was preparing the modernization for the two cruisers as part of the service’s cruiser modernization plan.

“The ships would be minimally manned while in that reduced status and, as the other 11 active cruisers reach the end of their service life, cruisers in lay-up would be modernized and returned to operational status,” read a 2014 description of the program from the Congressional Budget Office.
“Using that approach, the Navy would be able to maintain at least 11 operationally active cruisers (1 for each of the Navy’s planned 11 carrier strike groups) through 2034, with the last cruiser retiring in 2044.”

The Navy and Congress have been at odds over the modernization program with some on the House Armed Services Committee suspicious the program was a decommissioning by another name.

Instead of approving the Navy’s original plan to immediately sideline half of the cruiser fleet, Congress instead offered alternatives that put limits on how many ships could be in reduced use as part of the modernization.

As part of the FY 2015 budget law, Congress allowed the Navy to move ahead with a plan that would put two cruisers into modernization a year, with work lasting no longer than four years and with no more than six ships in a work availability at a time – the 2/4/6 plan.

As part of the FY 2016 budget deliberations, Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) put forward a plan to acceleration period in half, as part of a 2/2/6 plan.

However, the future of the cruiser modernization program is far from certain as Defense Department’s budget is currently still under deliberation between the Senate and the House in conference committee.

  • Marjus

    Still a band aid because we need more than 3 Zumwalts, new cruisers, a real Frigate and more carriers and subs, once can’t overlook the small amphibious fleet and the ever stretched supply ships. Oh but we have LCS coming online, so we’re good. Sad to see those Ticos laid up in Philly every time I drive by, just wasted years, money and effort on those ships. Smallest fleet since before WWI, sad and scary.

    • publius_maximus_III

      More destroyers, more destroyers, more Arleigh Burke DDG destroyers — no more Zoomies. Use the LCS fleet for target practice.


      • Curtis Conway

        Well, we own them now. If they were to be upgraded with the AMDR Lite and some ESSM in self defense VLS cells installed, at least they would be able to defend themselves. I am not impressed with a 25 lb blast frag at a couple of miles being the best ASCM defense on any platform. The idea that ‘everyone is a shooter, even the amphibs’ is a step in the right direction. All vessels with the SSDS can handle the new systems installed. It’s just hardware, training and maintenance.

  • Curtis Conway

    It strikes me as being beyond the pale that everyone is in such a hurry to get rid of the most capable platforms in the fleet, that still have a lot of years on them, and they are unique on the planets oceans. It is true there are other Aegis platforms in
    the navies of the Japan, South Korea, Spain, Norway, Netherlands, and Australia. However, none of them are double-enders (two guns) as the Ticonderoga Class Cruisers are, and just require an upgrade to improve them to a DDG-51 Flt III Plus capability. What is everyone thinking with? We can upgrade many for the cost of a single DDG-1000 or DDG-51.

    Now if I owned a ship yard I would probably want to park them and replace them with something new, like the US government is made of money. Well, I went into the bathroom and looked into the mirror and asked myself (a part of the US government for we govern ourselves) If it’s a good idea to park the Aegis Cruisers . . . and the
    answer to anyone with the most cursory appreciation for our Defense status of
    forces today is NO!

    The force is too small as it is and the frigate replacement cannot defend itself from an attack by a determined enemy. Something here is VERY wrong, and we can’t
    get these cruisers upgraded fast enough.

    The United States Navy needs 50+ Aegis Guided Missile Frigates that possess the capabilities of the original USS Ticonderoga (CG-47) utilizing the 3D non-rotating 9-module AMDR radar, will have a limited magazine size, and introduce Directed Energy Weapons and a comprehensive passive detection, tracking, and direction system to the fleet for the first time.

    Four more USS America (LHA-6) Class Light Carriers would really come in handy too. The US Navy should release the US Marine Corps of its requirement to buy F-35C(s) and restore the original planned buy, and full complement of, F-35B STOVL Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters. Even the US Navy is not in a hurry to acquire a full complement of F-35C(s).

    Just my 2ȼ.

    • publius_maximus_III

      “Free men will disagree” — but I agree with you, Curt.

      • Curtis Conway

        I think USNVO disagrees.

    • USNVO

      You will need a lot more than $.02 to pay for that.

      So let’s see, you will need an increase in the budget, figure $10 Billion or so a year just for hardware, probably another $10billion or more for O&M, an increase in the authorized manpower by probably 20,000 or so which is probably another $3-4 Billion not county increasing recruiting. To quote Aesop, anyone can think of an impossible plan.

      The Navy has almost a hundred AEGIS ships in service or under construction. That is 5 per CSG and 3 per ARG and still 20 left over for BMD and other missions. It really doesn’t need anymore, at least I haven’t heard of any compelling reason why. Although the Navy could have used a Frigate, they bought DDG-51 Block IIAs instead, and it is not like they need anymore of those.

      Your rant reminded me of the retired “big thinkers” that were invited to speak at the War College when VADM Cebrowski was the president. They would always start with something like, “If we didn’t have the force we have today, …,” then launch into some new idea. I generally quit listening because the simple fact was, we have the force we have today, so the basic premise was flawed and everything that doesn’t address that is wasted effort. The Navy has the budget it has, it has the manpower it has, those are cold hard facts. If anything, manpower has to go down to achieve the force required. If you don’t address those two points, you are merely background noise.

      • Curtis Conway

        Well let’s see, the numbers you quoted are not far from what the US Navy used to have before the cuts started as a budgetary requirement because
        we were putting about 20 million in the un/under employed category (placing them in the taking rather than the paying taxes category), and increasing Food Stamps and all kinds of benefits for those who (may be paying now via taxes on purchased goods) but did not pay into the system for any length of time. We will have to GROW out of this problem by stimulating the economy, and the current administration has demonstrated clearly it, or the system it represents, is not up to the task.

        Sixty three (63) DDG-51 destroyers and twenty two (22) cruisers do not make a force almost of a 100 Aegis surface combatants, but I can understand how that math is difficult given your relativistic understanding of economics indicated above. We will not have 100 Aegis platforms for some years. As indicated by testimony to congress by every Unified Commander this last year, the BMD mission requirement is ballooning very quickly, primarily because of the proliferation of Tactical Ballistic Missiles (TBMs) across the planet, and the unfettered or restricted development, and deployment of said systems by the Chinese. That TBM defense capability should be the floor [minimum] for the capability of any surface combatant in the US Navy, otherwise they cannot be certain of survival near any belligerent country, even in international waters, and the rule is ‘better safe than sorry’ instead of ‘let’s gamble with our forces’.

        As for manning, technology is slaying most of those dragons via automation and software doing the job of console operators and technicians, who mostly did the same thing in the same circumstances, and today we have better and more reliable equipment with automated test and readiness built in. We have better information and sensors, and shared information via our network, than ever before which makes that possible. The next generation of DDG-51s (Flt IIIs) will require a somewhat smaller crew, and the cruisers do about the same savings via automation. The next Aegis Frigate should do even better. Manpower, retirement, and healthcare cost, are a huge cost factor, and we must meet those obligations for those who have sacrificed so much. I hope you served, or I will be taking your comments with a different salt shaker. I invested decades to watch it all go down the tubes, thank you very much.

        I remember VADM Cebrowski. His comment was dead on, and the proof is the current global situation for anyone who has the eyes to see the truth and reality. Retired 4-Star U.S. Navy Admiral James A. “Ace” Lyons recently spoke of this current reality and how we got here. The administration’s new realativistic reality is going to get us in WWIII and that equation has already started in the Middle East because, once again, THIS administration decided that evil should prosper by giving it sway via removing our stabilizing influence in the Middle East we had spent decades perusing, and invested so much blood into, and that THIS administration decided that sacrifice meant NOTHING!

        The Cop is not on the beat! Evil prospers thanks to relativistic thinking like yours. The Budget the US Navy is living with, is a creation of this administration, and they own everything that is going on . . . on the planet where we COULD have been a force for good, but are not there thanks to . . . the author of Sequestration? Why? So we could make our poor, who live like kings next to most of the population of the planet. Now due to our lack of presence real EVIL is prospering and killing the innocent . . . which we prevented before.

        The United States Navy needs 50+ Aegis Guided Missile Frigates and six USS America (LHA-6) Light Carriers with augmented Marine Air Groups (Super MAGs) of F-35Bs with which to deploy. The USMC should not have to buy a SINGLE F-35C, but rather own, operate, service and employ a single attack platform in the form of F-35Bs (PERIOD)! Anything else is a waste of money, time, and resources.

        Without a Vision the people perish. What’s yours?

        Is that enough of a RANT for yah?

        That was my $ Buck + 98Ȼ argument.

        • USNVO

          The Defense Budget is what it is, it doesn’t matter how we got here or how much something else is. There are no do overs, mulligans, or whatever or I get to axe 40 or so DDGs and get 60 frigates instead. There is also no topline personnel relief, at least for the next two years, regardless of what would fit the Navy’s desires. And no, automation will not fix it, they are already adding serious billets back into DDGs (lots of people there) and where did they come from? CGs being upgraded and not in service!

          For that matter, the Navy already has more VLS holes than missiles to fill them!

          22 CGs, 75 DDGs purchased (through DDG-126), plus 3 DDG-1000s which aren’t AEGIS but close enough. That equals 100 by the math I was taught, and the number is going up. As to the Combatant Commanders asking for more ABM ships, tell them no. Problem solved! In fact, I would bring home the 4 DDGs in Spain as soon as the AEGIS ashore is ready if not before. Have you looked at any of the requests that come out of the Combatant Commanders? They want everything under the sun (since they don’t pay for it). Remember two carriers in CENTCOM? How the world would end if one left even though there had only been two for a couple of years? They have, it hasn’t. They are requests, inform them they don’t get them.

          As to the rest, it would be great if you could get them. However, within the current share of DoD resources, that just isn’t possible. Just a note, the USMC is planned for F-35Cs because they embark on carriers. I am all for axing the Marine F-35Cs along with the squadrons they are planned for and bringing back an additional 5 Navy squadrons flying the F-35C, but that is a net zero proposition.

          As for the Vision thing, the Navy has a pretty good strategy in Seapower 21 part deux. I would make a few changes around the edges, but nothing substantive. Decide what is really important, then do that. Sadly, DoD seems to work like Dogbert from the Dilbert comic strip, “Prioritize everything 1, 2 or 3. Then do everything you slacker!”

    • PolicyWonk

      We are now on-track to retain/upgrade the Tico’s, which is a good thing. I entirely agree with the notion of building more LHA-6 class small-deck/light carriers – which by themselves aren’t hard to pay for: they cost just over a quarter of what it costs to build a Ford-class CVN (not including escorts, etc.).

      The USN is also going to find itself lacking in the frigate space now that the last of the OHP’s is retired, and its supposed replacement, by not being built even to the Navy’s level 1 standard, nor having any room for growth, isn’t going to help much since they are all but unarmed/unprotected if/when it comes to tangling with a naval adversary.

      • Curtis Conway

        AND it goes too fast and puts up too big a wake to Ski or Wake-board behind!

        • PolicyWonk

          And that makes it all but a total loss for the US taxpayer ;-(

          • Curtis Conway

            Amen. Don’t know if we can fix this.

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  • publius_maximus_III

    FYI — the USS Cowpens (the Mighty Moo) was not named for a slaughterhouse in the Midwest. She was named after an important battle in SC during the Revolutionary War. I know, I’ve visited the National Park site there.

    In the battle, using a collapsing defense strategy still taught today, some Continental regulars, State troops, Militia men, and volunteers gathered together and for the first time, soundly defeated the British in their southern campaign, during their march northward from the port of Charleston. The campaign ultimately ending in a British surrender in VA, at the Battle of Yorktown (another great ship, BTW) — with the help of a French naval blockade of that seaport.

    • On Dre

      Its just a good thing they fought on a cow pasture and not a hog farm. The “USS Pigpen” just doesn’t have quite the same ring.

      • publius_maximus_III

        Or worse yet, it could have been fought at a popular local sporting venue — and we’d be discussing upgrades to the USS Cockfight today.

    • Curtis Conway

      Battle depicted in THE PATRIOT?

      • publius_maximus_III

        Roger that.

  • Curtis Conway

    Don’t forget, we have to replace the Cruisers in the future.

    • johnbull

      You are exactly right. They are the most capable ships we’ve got and are getting “long in the tooth” as they say. We need to be looking at a high end surface combatant (cruiser) of at least the Tico’s size or a little bigger, and then just after that a lower end combatant to replace the Burkes when they start to decommission.

    • Secundius

      @ Curtis Conway.

      Unfortunately the next Scheduled Cruiser Building Competition won’t be until 2050 or 2055…

      • Curtis Conway

        Way too late.

  • Jack May

    It seems to me, that we might be better off thoroughly replacing the cruisers, frigates, and destroyers in service with an updated single class of high intensity combat surface ship that can act independently or as part of networked battle group.

    If you have something with the specs of being capable of the following:
    State of the art ASW suite
    State of the art ASuW suite (LRASM’s, radar, close in weapons systems)
    State of the art ABM/ACM/AA suite (A large vls with SM-3’s/6’s
    Reasonably stealthy.
    Very high electric power for modular weapons.
    Advanced Gun System.
    Capable of Scalable networking or acting independently.
    Capable of ASAT warfare.
    Modular capacity.
    Helicopter, drone, or F-35B housing capable for advanced surveillance capabilties.

    You may not need three classes of ships, but could in theory build one type of ship that functions as a classical battlecruiser, light cruiser, and destroyer to save alot of money based on the laws of industrial engineering and operations research.

    Or in other words, find the smallest ship that you can fit all these capabilities, a nuclear reactor, and a reasonable price tag and just produce “that” as the combat ship for the 21st century.

    One way to keep prices under control is through mass standardization.

    • Curtis Conway

      Budget will always be a concern and a hi-lo mix makes sense. Even the USAF figured this out, and our USN Surface Combatants cost a lot more. Operational budgets have dictated sending FFG-7s in the past to do a job I would send a cruiser to do. So multi-warfare . . . you bet! One class, even if we could afford to build, at some point in the future the operational budget will not support the deployment.

      Minimum Mission Set is the issue. Every US Navy Surface Combatant has to be able to defend itself from a Supersonic ASCM!!!

      If survivability is to be measured by the capability of the weapon system, and not watertight integrity and compartmentalization, then YOU GOTTA PUT THE WEAPONS ON IT!!!!! And if the admirals reading this aren’t cringing . . . then I’m . . . ASHAMED OF YOU!!!

  • Charles Walker

    As a retired Sonar Senior Chief, the Spruance class destroyers were sacrificed and eliminated instead of updating them. The Burkes are good ships but history has shown us that a destroyer or cruiser with forward and aft guns is the best platform. The Spruances shared the same hulls as these cruisers. The flight deck is closer to the centerline making them much safer for helo operations than the Burkes. Forward and aft VLS launchers (which could have been incorporated into the Spruances) allow the ship to take hits and keep on fighting. Cruisers are needed to protect high value targets such as the carriers. We need all of these ships to remain in service until the government gets their heads out of their *sses and builds efficient new destroyers and cruisers. Gas turbine power is the best option for propulsion especially when used with biofuel. Additional automation can reduce the amount of crew members needed thus saving additional funding. Keeping these ship in service is a must and I believe that a revitalization of the Spruance class destroyer is needed to fill in the gap the Burkes have presented. A single gun destroyer is an easy target to make her unable to defend herself. Redesigning a Burke Flight III is not the answer, in my opinion. We need double ended destroyers who can adequately defend themselves and the fleet. History has proven that destroyers and cruisers working together make a formidable force and having a lot of them reduce forward deployment requirements. Just one sailors opinion…..

    • Curtis Conway

      Like the Double Enders with the Mk 45 Guns made for guided projectiles, then they curtailed the guided projectile program for decades.

  • disqus_zommBwspv9

    It appears that No hindsight was involved with the Spruance and the Kidds . From what I heard they were retired prematurely. Maybe the Navy could have kept the hulls and do a new redesigned Aegis cruiser superstructure. Something like a Burke

    • Curtis Conway

      The CG-47 hulls for the first units are parked and waiting the breakers. The hull and spaces already exist. Just needs new equipment and a paint job and a fully capable BL-9 IAMD vessel is out the door in much less the time than a new construction. Can you imagine the AMDR on the CG-47 platform? There are three of them parked in Philly.

  • Richard Sadler

    They want to get rid of the CG’s so they can build more Latoral combat tri hulls . The navy seems to be moving away from blue water opps these days

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