Nuclear powered cruisers of the United States Navy

The United States Navy at one time had nuclear powered cruisers as part of its fleet. The first such ship was USS Long Beach (CGN-9). Commissioned in late summer 1961, she was the world's first nuclear powered surface combatant.[1] She was followed a year later by USS Bainbridge (DLGN-25). While Long Beach was a 'true cruiser', meaning she was designed and built as a cruiser,[2] Bainbridge began life as a frigate, though at that time the Navy was using the hull code "DLGN" for "destroyer leader, guided missile, nuclear".[3] This was prior to the enactment of the 1975 ship reclassification plan, in which frigates (DLG/DLGN), (which were essentially large destroyers), were reclassified as cruisers, so that the US Navy's numbers would compete with those of the Soviet Navy.[4] Long Beach, the largest of all the nuclear cruisers, was equipped with a C1W cruiser reactor, while all the others were equipped with D2G destroyer reactors.

In the summer of 1964, Long Beach and Bainbridge would meet up with USS Enterprise (CVAN-65), the Navy's first nuclear powered aircraft carrier,[5] to form Task Force One, an all-nuclear powered naval unit. They would commence Operation Sea Orbit, in which they circumnavigated the globe, without refuelling. It was a remarkable achievement for its time, a naval group capable of sailing over 48,000 kilometers (26,000 nmi; 30,000 mi) in just 65 days, without replenishment.[6]

In the spring of 1967 came the Navy's third nuclear powered cruiser, (though initially labeled a frigate), USS Truxtun (DLGN-35), a heavily modified design based on the Belknap-class cruiser. Truxtun would be followed by the 2-ship California class, beginning with USS California (CGN-36) in February 1974 and USS South Carolina (CGN-37) in January 1975. The US Navy was the only fleet in the world with nuclear powered cruisers, until 1974 when the USSR would begin construction on their own nuclear battlecruiser, the Kirov class. The Soviets would build 4 in total, between 1974 and 1998.[7]

The last nuclear powered cruisers the Americans would produce would be the 4-ship Virginia class. USS Virginia (CGN-38) was commissioned in 1976, followed by USS Texas (CGN-39) in 1977, USS Mississippi (CGN-40) in 1978 and finally USS Arkansas (CGN-41) in 1980. Ultimately, all these ships would prove to be too costly to maintain[8] and they would all be retired between 1993 and 1999. A fifth Virginia-class vessel was initially planned but then cancelled.[9]

The US Navy currently has the largest fleet of nuclear powered aircraft carriers[10] and nuclear powered submarines.[11]

List of United States Navy nuclear powered cruisers

Ship Name Hull Number Class Length Displacement Commissioned Decommissioned Service Life Notes
USS Long Beach CGN-9 Long Beach 721 ft 3 in (219.84 m) 15,540 tons 9 September 1961 1 May 1995 33 years, 7 months and 23 days
USS Bainbridge CGN-25 Bainbridge 565 ft 0 in (172.21 m) 9,100 tons 6 October 1962 13 July 1996 33 years, 9 months and 7 days
USS Truxtun CGN-35 Truxtun 564 ft 0 in (171.91 m) 8,659 tons 27 May 1967 11 September 1995 28 years, 3 months and 15 days
USS California CGN-36 California 587 ft 0 in (178.92 m) 10,800 tons 16 February 1974 9 July 1999 25 years, 4 months and 23 days
USS South Carolina CGN-37 California 587 ft 0 in (178.92 m) 10,800 tons 25 January 1975 30 July 1999 24 years, 6 months and 5 days
USS Virginia CGN-38 Virginia 586 ft 0 in (178.61 m) 11,666 tons 11 September 1976 10 November 1994 18 years, 1 month and 30 days
USS Texas CGN-39 Virginia 586 ft 0 in (178.61 m) 11,666 tons 10 September 1977 16 July 1993 15 years, 10 months and 6 days
USS Mississippi CGN-40 Virginia 586 ft 0 in (178.61 m) 11,666 tons 5 August 1978 28 July 1997 18 years, 11 months and 23 days
USS Arkansas CGN-41 Virginia 586 ft 0 in (178.61 m) 11,666 tons 18 October 1980 7 July 1998 17 years, 8 months and 19 days

See also


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