CG-123 Albany Class
usnc-albanysmall.jpg
(some parts and underwater details taken from Shipbucket.com)

Ship Characteristics

Dimensions Length 673.5 ft
Beam 71 ft
Draft 26 ft
Displacement (Standard) 13,700 tons
Displacement (Full Load) 17,200 tons
Performance Speed (max) 34 knots
Speed (Cruising) 15 knots
Endurance 9,000 nm. at 15 knots
Armament Long-range SAMs 96 Talos
Short-range SAMs 80 Tartar
Armor Belt 6 inches
Deck 3 inches

Background

The experimental conversion of the cruisers Boston and Canberra to carry two twin Terrier missile launchers aft had shown grave shortcomings. The ships were redesigned to carry vertical-load magazines but the early conversion work showed this to have been a bad mistake since the depth of the magazines effectively meant the whole rear of the ship had to be gutted. Horizontal-load magazines would be preferred from this point onwards and were used in the definitive "Tall Lady" conversions. Also, it was found that inadequate numbers of missile guidance radars had been provided and there was a gross missmatch between the ship's engagement capability and the number of rounds carried. The magazines were too large and the number of guidance radars too small so that most of the magazine capacity was wasted.

The definitive Albany class conversions addressed these problems. Horizontal-loading magazines were adopted for the Talos missiles. Although vertical loading was adopted for teh tartar short-range missiles, these were much shorter than Terrier/Talos and did not pose any structural problems. The conversions were carefully designed so that all the major construction work was above main deck level. In addition, the new superstructure had a very high aluminum content, this decision being eased by the large numbers of B-36 bombers being scrapped that were swamping the scrap metal market with aluminum and aluminum alloys. This led to a curious development in warship design and construction. The components for the superstructure of the Albany class were produced by aluminum fabricators who had experience in the problems of handling this metal from the B-36 program. This work expanded as the expertise of these companies was exploited and quickly reached the point where the superstructures of the ships were being built in thise companies, many of them far inland. Since the structure of the bridges and other areas were being built at those companies, it made sense to install as much of the equipment as possible in those structures. This ended up with the aluminum fabricators shipping what amounted to complete superstructures to the shipyard. In effect, the work on these conversions took place with the shipyards stripping the original hull to the main deck while the aluminum fabricators were building the ship from the main deck up. At the appropriate time, the completed superstructure modules were delivered, placed on the hulls and the shipyard married the two up. This worked surprisingly well and led to a much wider adoption of modular construction techniques.

The early days also saw an unseemly race between the teams working on the conversions of the CG-123 Albany and the CG-133 Toledo. Knowing that whoever got their ship commissioned first would see the class named after their ship, both groups were grimly determined that it would be theirs that won. This spread to component suppliers and even state governments with, for example, Toledo steel workers rushing through orders for "their" cruiser while taking their time over deliveries for "the other one". In New York, the state government offered economic rewards and state contracts to companies that delivered systems for Albany ahead of schedule while it was quietly made known that the state treasury smiled on companies that delayed deliveries to Toledo. These machinations probably cancelled each other out and in the end, Albany won the race by a mere three days.

Most of the cruisers converted were the later Modified Baltimore class, these having hulls and machinery that was in better condition. By the time the program ran to an end with the 1956 batch of conversions, nine Modified Baltimore and three Baltimore class ships had been converted to Tall Ladies. Plans to convert additional ships were cancelled at this point due to the remaining Baltimore hulls being older and strained by arduous service in the North Atlantic. Ironically, conversion of the older Baltimore class ships proved to be easier than the later Modified Baltimore class since the configuration of the new missile cruisers with their twin uptakes was closer to the original design.

The decision to push through the missile conversions so early in the development of the weapons that armed them was much criticised and several times there were moves to delay the programs while the many and varied problems with the Talos and Tartar missiles were eliminated. The Navy, however, decided to push on with performing the conversions at the maximum rate permitted by construction capacity and allowing the missile problems to surface in, and be solved in, a seagoing operational environment. Throughout the late 1950s, the Tall Ladies were joining the fleet with systems that barely worked at all (it being a common joke that in a shooting war, these ships would have to rely on the Commanding Officer's M1911A1 as the only operational weapon on board). However, with twelve ships working at sea, the problems with the systems were debugged and corrected. Unfortunately, this process also meant that the ever-increasing roll of modifications and alterations meant that no two ships had identical equipment or performance. Finally, in 1962 when the majority of missile problems had been solved, there was a "Project Look-Alike" effort that saw all twelve ships brought up to the standard of the most modern of the class. This was carried out between 1962 and 1966.

By the mid-1970s, the need for conventionally-powered cruisers with the carrier groups was fading quickly as nuclear-powered task groups replaced the older oil-burning groups. The missile crusier conversions were, therefore, transferred to the amphibious fleet, one being assigned to each of the 18 amphibious ready groups. They spent the autumn of their years with those groups, slowly disappearing from the fleet as old age and the growing obsolescence of their systems caught up with them. The last of the CG-123 Albany class cruisers had left the fleet by 1990.

Class Members

Number Name Ordered Conversion started Conversion completed Recommissioned Fate
CG-123 Albany 1953 1954 1956 1956 Decommissioned and scrapped 1977
CG-124 Litchfield 1955 1956 1959 1959 Decommissioned and scrapped 1988
CG-125 Rockville 1954 1955 1957 1957 Decommissioned and scrapped 1979
CG-126 Cambridge 1955 1956 1959 1959 Decommissioned and scrapped 1989
CG-127 Bridgewater 1955 1956 1959 1959 Decommissioned and scrapped 1989
CG-128 Kansas City 1954 1955 1957 1958 Decommissioned and scrapped 1988
CG-129 Tulsa 1954 1955 1958 1958 Decommissioned and scrapped 1989
CG-133 Toledo 1953 1954 1956 1956 Decommissioned and scrapped 1978
CG-135 Los Angeles 1955 1956 1959 1960 Decommissioned and scrapped 1990
CG-136 Chicago 1953 1954 1957 1957 Decommissioned and scrapped 1979
CG-137 Norfolk 1953 1954 1957 1957 Decommissioned and scrapped 1977
CG-138 Scranton 1953 1954 1957 1957 Decommissioned and scrapped 1978
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