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Aegis Cruisers

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Aegis Cruisers

Modern U. S. Navy guided missile cruisers perform primarily in a Battle Force role.

Official Navy Photo
Naval warfare was changed forever on Jan. 22, 1983, when the U.S. Navy commissioned the USS Ticonderoga, the first cruiser equipped with the Aegis combat weapons system designed by Lockheed Martin Corp.

The Ticonderoga class of cruisers, mid-size craft that carry guided missiles and guns, was the first to employ vertical launch missile tubes as well as the Aegis system. The class consists of 27 ships, 22 of which are in active service.

Ticonderoga-class cruisers each weigh around 10,000 tons and are about 570 feet long and 55 feet tall at their highest point. They can reach speeds of about 35 miles per hour.

The Aegis system has its roots in the U.S. Navy’s Advanced Surface Missile System, which was established in 1964 after two decades of experimentation. The resulting technology served as the forerunner for the Aegis system’s radar, and the ASMS was officially renamed Aegis in 1969.

The Aegis system was developed in response to the significant air and missile threat Soviet forces posed to U.S. carrier battle groups. The Ticonderoga-class cruisers provided battle group commanders with the weaponry to counter major missile attacks. The ships also could serve as command-and-control platform for anti-aircraft maneuvers during sea engagements.

The Aegis is what gives Ticonderoga-class cruisers and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers their edge, coordinating the operation of all of the craft’s sensors and weapons. The system is keyed off of the AN/SPY-1 radar, which is mounted in the ship’s superstructure and run by a crew of highly trained operators. The system can coordinate the launch of around 20 missiles simultaneously.

Shortly after its commissioning, the Ticonderoga was deployed in October 1983 to waters near Lebanon. Terrorists had destroyed U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, and the Ticonderoga provided American commanders with the weaponry they needed to address the crisis. Aegis-equipped cruisers saw action during the Gulf War, serving as protectors for U.S. and coalition ships in the Persian Gulf. Aegis-equipped cruisers also have played critical roles in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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