CGN-166 Portland (Improved Long Beach Class)
USNC-IMPLONGBEACHsmall.jpg
(Note: drawing contains some parts and lower hull details taken from Shipbucket.com)

Ship Characteristics

Dimensions Length 925 ft
Beam 95.5 ft
Draft 35 ft
Displacement (Standard) 26,500 tons
Displacement (Full Load) 31,200 tons
Performance Speed (max) 33 knots
Armament Strategic missiles 10 Regulus 3
Long-range SAM/ABM 52 Talos
Medium-range SAM 120 Terrier
Short-range SAM 32 Sea Falcon
ASW Missiles 24 ASROC
Aircraft Kaman Defender Rotodynes 4

Background

The Portland Class originated as a modified Long Beach class with the original change simply involving the redesign of the after superstructure to incorporate a hangar and flight deck. This plan was then ammended to include the new AEGIS air warfare defense system and a much-improved command and control facility. A further addition was the provision of an effective ASW capability by the addition of the very powerful SQS-26 bow sonar and the enlargement of the forward missile magazines to include ASROC missiles in addition to the normal Terrier loadout. By the time all the necessary work had been completed, the ship had gained almost 200 feet in length and doubled in displacement. This led to the cruisers bearing their first nickname in U.S. Navy service, the "Cunning Bastard Class" reputedly the comment made by President Lyndon Johnson when he realized that the U.S. Navy had bamboozled Congress into authorizing these huge cruisers by pretending they were just a "modified Long Beach class". The ships, larger in size that an Iowa class battleship, stretched the definition of cruiser almost to breaking point and for many years the naval reference book "Dane's Frightening Slips" referred to them as "battle-cruisers." In later years, when cruisers in other navies caught up with the CGN-166 in size, this definition tended to fade away.

In appearance the Portland class were much more conventional than the Long Beach. They even appeared to have a funnel amidships although this was actually just a deckhouse to carry the two aft phased array SPY-1 antennas for the AEGIS radars. The hangar aft was capable of housing four rotodynes which usually carried out anti-submarine duties but could also serve as airborne radar platforms for command and control purposes. In this configuration, the Portland class could use their nuclear-tipped Talos missiles to hit targets over 150 miles away. It is interesting to note that the two Portland class cruisers assigned to escort each nuclear-powered aircraft carrier carry as many nuclear warheads between them as were used against Germany in 1947.

The first four ships launched carried no point defense systems but the fifth ship onwards were equipped with four eight-round box launchers for Sea Falcon point defense missiles. These were refitted to the first four ships in yard periods early in their career. It should go without saying that the Sea Falcons also had nuclear warheads. The Regulus launch system amidships was modified, the hangar being enlarged to accommodate 10 missiles and the launchers themselves simplified. The Regulus 2 was replaced by Regulus 3, essentially the same missile as the earlier version but with its warhead section modified to a multi-role bay that could accommodate reconnaissance or electronic warfare packages as well as the standard 350 kiloton nuclear warhead. Later in the ship's career, regulus 3 was replaced by Regulus 4, a re-engined and redesigned missile that could achieve Mach 3.6 at 95,000 feet, this being the maximum performance achievable without relying on scramjets. Regulus 2 and Regulus 3 had ranges of 1,380 nautical miles, Regulus 4 could reach out to 1,600 miles.

The first pair of Portland class cruisers were ordered in 1964. The original plan was to build six ships of the CGN-166 class with production then shifting to a further improved design with a larger hangar. However, at this point financial realities (not to mention common sense) cut in and the design was frozen at the existing Portland stage. 12 more cruisers of this class would be built to the same design, the standardization thus achieved greatly reducing unit costs. After the 18 Portland class cruisers had been completed, the design shifted to the new Phoenix Class class that replaced the existing rail launchers with vertical launch silos but otherwise remained identical to the Portland class.

In 1974, the Portland class started entering the shipyards for mid-life upgrades. This saw the Talos and Terrier missiles replaced by the new Standard-ER and MR missiles while the radars and combat systems were upgraded. The rail launchers were replaced by vertical launch silos, this increasing the missile load to 160 Standard MR/ASROC and 64 Standard ER. This modification effectively merged the Portland and Phoenix classes and the two became regarded as a single entity.

Despite their huge size and capital cost, the Portland class proved to be economical ships. The firepower they packed into a single hull meant they replaced large numbers of older screening ships and this reduced total crew requirements by an order of magnitude. This proved to be a vital concern in a volunteer force era where manpower was a significant cost factor. In effect, two Portland Class cruisers and four destroyers replaced two battleships, six to eight gun cruisers and up to 16 destroyers - yet offered much greater defensive firepower to the carrier they were assigned to protect. As a result, as the new nuclear-powered task groups joined the Navy and the old war-built ships were retired, the number of ships in the U.S. Navy plummeted. By the time the "nuclear navy" was completed in the late 1980s ("nuclear navy" was a misnomer since the amphibious fleet remained fossil-fuelled) the numerical number of combatants had dropped to less than 300. Of course, those 300 outgunned the old fleet by orders of magnitude. It is a common war-gamers scenario to put a single modern nuclear-powered carrier battlegroup into the Battle of the Orkneys in place of Halsey's Armada. The modern group wins of course, every time.

Class Members

Number Name Ordered Laid Down Launched Commissioned Fate
CGN-166 Portland 1964 1964 1967 1969 Decommissioned and scrapped 1999
CGN-167 Juneau 1964 1964 1967 1969 Decommissioned and scrapped 1999
CGN-168 Montpelier 1964 1964 1967 1969 Decommissioned and scrapped 2000
CGN-169 Sacramento 1965 1965 1968 1970 Decommissioned and scrapped 2000
CGN-170 Austin 1965 1965 1968 1970 Decommissioned and scrapped 2002
CGN-171 Little Rock 1965 1965 1968 1970 Decommissioned and scrapped 2002
CGN-172 Mongomery 1967 1967 1970 1972 Decommissioned and scrapped 2003
CGN-173 Denver 1967 1967 1970 1972 Decommissioned and scrapped 2003
CGN-174 John C Stens 1967 1967 1970 1972 Decommissioned and scrapped 2004
CGN-175 Dover 1968 1969 1973 1974 Decommissioned and scrapped 2005
CGN-176 Atlanta 1970 1970 1973 1975 Decommissioned and scrapped 2005
CGN-177 Honolulu 1971 1971 1974 1976 Decommissioned and scrapped 2006
CGN-178 Boise 1972 1972 1975 1977 Decommissioned and scrapped 2006
CGN-179 Springfield 1973 1973 1976 1978 Decommissioned and scrapped 2007
CGN-180 Indianapolis 1974 1974 1978 1979 Decommissioned and scrapped 2008
CGN-181 Des Moines 1975 1975 1979 1980 In service as of 2009
CGN-182 Topeka 1976 1976 1980 1982 In service as of 2009
CGN-183 Baton Rouge 1978 1978 1982 1983 In service as of 2009
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