The Navy is clear to decommission five Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers following the passage of the Fiscal Year 2022 defense appropriations bill, USNI News understands.
The overdue spending bill follows the FY 2022 defense policy bill and allows the Navy to decommission five of the seven cruisers originally requested as part of the White House’s budget request.
Congress didn’t spell out which five cruisers will leave the fleet, according to the FY 2022 defense authorization bill that was signed into law in December, and the Navy isn’t sure which ones will go.
“The Navy is moving forward with the formal process outlined in the FY22 NDAA to approve the five Ticonderoga-class Cruiser hulls that will decommission in Fiscal Year 2022,” reads a Navy statement. “The Navy will share the specific hull numbers and plans for the decommissionings as the information is available for release.”
In July, the Navy’s most recent decommissioning memo identified seven ships, two of which were to leave the service in February – Norfolk, Va.,-based USS Vella Gulf (CG-72) and USS Monterey (CG-61).
Vella Gulf and Monterey returned last year from a deployment with the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group.
Vella Gulf was stuck pier-side for two months after the crew discovered a leaking fuel tank while underway shortly after the deployment began. The issue became a visible example of the maintenance issues in the class. Monterey came back from an independent deployment after supporting the Eisenhower CSG in September.
The other ships that were earmarked to leave fleet by April, per the advisory, were USS Lake Champlain (CG-57), USS Hué City (CG-66) USS Anzio (CG-68), USS Port Royal (CG-73). The currently deployed USS San Jacinto (CG-56) was set to decommission at the end of its deployment.
The Navy has 22 cruisers in the battle force that have been part of an extended maintenance plan for the last decade that sought to preserve the cruiser capability for the carrier strike group.
The service’s primary reason to keep the cruisers well past their service lives is to support the air defense commander of the carrier strike group and their staff, as well as the additional vertical launch cell capacity to add to the guided-missile destroyers with the CSG. More than a decade ago, the Pentagon deemed the Navy’s previous attempt to build a replacement cruiser as too expensive. Instead, the Navy developed the Flight III version of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer that will fill in as the platform for the air defense commander, USNI News understands.
Extending the life of the cruisers is proving expensive and taking much longer than scheduled, Navy leaders have stressed to Congress.
“The cruisers right now and the modernization are running 175 to 200 percent above estimated costs, hundreds of days delay. These ships were intended to have a 30-year service life, we’re out to 35,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday told the House Armed Services Committee last year.