The U.S. Navy Plans to Retire Five Ticonderoga-Class Cruisers

March 24, 2022 Topic: U.S. Navy Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: Ticonderoga-classU.S. NavyCruiserAnti-AircraftGuam

The U.S. Navy Plans to Retire Five Ticonderoga-Class Cruisers

The ships are far from the newest in the U.S. Navy, though they retain a robust air-defense capability.

The U.S. Navy appears set to retire five of its cruisers, pending the approval and passage of the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) defense appropriations bill. The bill would allow the U.S. Navy to retire five Ticonderoga-class cruisers, down from a total of seven in the White House’s budget request.

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,” according to a U.S. Navy statement cited by USNI News. “The Navy will share the specific hull numbers and plans for the decommissionings as the information is available for release.”

The Ticonderoga class is rather old by the Navy’s standards, and the first of the class entered service in 1983. As originally designed, Ticonderoga-class ships accompany amphibious ready groups and carrier battle groups, leveraging their powerful radars and anti-aircraft and anti-missile weaponry to protect the accompanying ships. Despite the Ticonderoga-class’ relatively advanced age, the ships still have a powerful anti-air capability.

A paper published by the Heritage Foundation argued that the Navy’s Ticonderogas could serve as a robust and viable ersatz air defense platform capable of protecting Guam.

As one of the United States' westernmost outposts in the Pacific Ocean, the island would play a vital role as a resupply and refueling station thousands of kilometers west of Hawaii. In addition, the island is well-positioned to serve as a hopping-off point—and for that reason would also be a target of very high importance to China.

“Ticonderoga-class cruisers were designed to provide air defense to carrier strike groups, with later upgrades that enabled ballistic missile defense. As retired Admiral and ex-Commander of INDOPACOM Harry Harris recently argued, any future defense system for Guam must be integrated across numerous systems—these cruisers do that already,” the paper explains.

By leveraging the class’ robust air defense capability, the Navy could permanently anchor Ticonderoga around the island of Guam and significantly augment the protection of Guam. Once decommissioned, the Ticonderoga-class air defense role will be compensated for by Flight III Arleigh-Burke-class destroyers.

Caleb Larson is a multimedia journalist and defense writer with the National Interest. A graduate of UCLA, he also holds a Master of Public Policy and lives in Berlin. He covers the intersection of conflict, security, and technology, focusing on American foreign policy, European security, and German society for both print and radio. Follow him on Twitter @calebmlarson.

Image: U.S. Navy Flickr.