American cruisers and destroyers
American amphibious assault ships
Soviet/Russian cruisers and destroyers
Kirov class battlecruisers
Mk 45 127-millimeter cannon
Mk 15 Vulcan Phalanx 20-millimeter cannon
ASROC missile launcher
Harpoon antiship missile
Mk 32 324-millimeter torpedo launcher
The USS Long Beach was one of those revolutionary designs of the postwar years; she was the first surface ship propelled by a nuclear
propulsion plant and also the first one whose armament comprised exclusively missiles. As counterpart, she was the last cruiser on the
United States Navy built with a traditional cruiser hull (and a really large one), being not only larger than any subsequent cruiser,
but larger than any cruiser of the World War Two era. She was the larger cruiser ever built until the arrival of the Soviet Kirov class,
twenty years later.
She was single in her class, because she was an experimental platform for the SCANFAR system, based in a new type of phased-array radar
using planar antennas, which was the predecessor of the AEGIS Combat System, installed much later on the Ticonderoga and Arleigh Burke
classes. Similarly to the AEGIS, the radars of the SCANFAR system were installed on the walls of the bridge superstructure, and due to
their large size the USS Long Beach had such a bulky and characteristic bridge, whose only equivalent could be found on the aircraft
carrier USS Enterprise.
The overall length of the USS Long Beach was 220 meters, while beam was 21.8 meters and draft was 9.3 meters, being her normal displacement
around 14400 tonnes. The propulsion plant comprised two nuclear reactors Westinghouse C1W, two steam turbines General Electric and two
propellers. With a power output of 80000 shaft horsepower she could reach a maximum speed over 30 knots.
The distinctive silhouette of the main superstructure hid an ensemble of planar antennas and diverse radars (six exploration and tracking
radars type AN/SPS and six fire control radars type AN/SPG). The complex electronic dotation was completed by an electronic warfare system
AN/SLQ-32 and a sonar AN/SQS-23. The ship had also a large complement: 1160 crewmen.
The USS Long Beach (CGN-9) was commissioned in 1961 and she remained in active service until 1994. In 1964, the Task Force 1, which comprised
the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise and the escorting missile cruisers USS Long Beach and USS Bainbridge, and was the first
all-nuclear battle formation in the History of naval operations, started a two-month unrefueled cruise around the world. The nuclear engine
of the USS Long Beach was refueled for the first time in 1966, after five years of service.
She provided support during the Vietnam War, shooting down two MiG fighters with her missiles RIM-8 Talos, and during the
First Gulf War of 1991, which was her last important action. Precisely due to the cuts in the defense budget after this war, it was
decided to decommission every nuclear cruiser as soon as their reactor cores ran down. So, the "heart" of the USS Long Beach was
deactivated in 1994, after 33 years of service.
The armament onboard the USS Long Beach had a long history of modifications and upgrades. The nuclear cruise missile Regulus initially
introduced in the design was never installed. The ship was completed with two twin launchers for the medium-range surface-to-air missile
RIM-2 Terrier, one twin launcher for the long-range surface-to-air missile Talos, one octuple launcher for the antisubmarine rocket
system ASROC and two triple torpedo launchers Mk 32 for the 324-millimeter antisubmarine torpedo Mk 46. A landing pad for a helicopter
was included from the beginning, but because of the lack of a hangar no helicopter was ever carried.
Shortly later, two 127-millimeter cannons installed in single mountings were added to counter the threat of low flying planes and fast
patrol boats. The Talos was later removed, when this missile was declared obsolete, and replaced by two launchers for the long-range cruise
missile Tomahawk. Launchers for the cruise missile RGM-84 Harpoon, capable of destroying ships located beyond the horizon, were later added
as well. On the bar to the right they can be seen various weapon systems that were installed on the USS Long Beach along her service
The photographs presented below are more recent than the photos shown above; they allow to see the two Terrier launchers placed
on the bow, the ASROC launcher behind the bridge structure, the two 127-millimeter cannons just after the ASROC, and two Vulcan Phalanx
CIWS 20-millimeter Gatling cannons, watching like sentinels upon the landing pad and the Harpoon launchers astern. These weapons are the
antithesis of missiles; they protect against incoming misiles by using the traditional formula of a cannon, but one capable of a high rate of
fire - thanks to its multiple barrels - and of a great precision - thanks to its incorporated radar, which is able to track and correct
the trajectory of the projectiles as needed -.
In the time when the USS Long Beach was designed, military experts were so enthusiastic about missiles that they believed these would render
artillery pieces useless on the battlefield; but they were totally wrong. Missiles obviously have great advantages, but they also require
a minimum distance to be guided towards a target, their sensors have wide blind angles and, because of their guidance systems, they can be
"deceived" and deviated from their path by electronic countermeasures. None of these shortcomings is present in an artillery piece.
Note: a conceptual illustration of the USS Long Beach armed with the nuclear missile Regulus is available in the