First Look Review
USN Cold War CGs
US Navy Cold War Guioded Missile Cruisers
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Guided missile cruisers were the most important surface assets of the United States Navy (USN) during the Cold War. The 38 ships spanned the eras of primitive capability of modified World War II cruisers - some retaining their big guns - to modern electronic-age defenders of the fleet. This book examines the developments, and strengths and weaknesses of the vessels and weapon systems, and their operations in and out of harm's way.

US Navy Cold War Guided Missile Cruisers by Osprey Publishing LTD is a new title - the 278th - in the series New Vanguard. Authored by naval authority Mark Stille and illustrated by Adam Tooby, the book is 48 pages of technical and operational information. Catalogued with Osprey's short code NVG 278 and with the ISBN 9781472835260. The publication date is 20 Feb 2020.

This title compliments Osprey's previous release Soviet Cold War Guided Missile Cruisers (linked below). Osprey introduces this book as such;
    Faced with an increasingly formidable anti-ship cruise missile threat from the Soviet Union in the early days of the Cold War, and with the recent memory of the kamikaze threat from World War II, the USN placed a great priority on developing air defence cruise missiles and getting them to sea to protect the fleet. The first of these missiles were sizable, necessitating large ships to carry them and their sensors, which resulted in the conversion of a mix of heavy and light cruisers. These ships, tasked with protecting carrier groups and acting as flagships, entered service from 1955 and served until 1980.
    The cruisers served in the front lines of the Cold War and many saw combat service, engaging in surface actions from Vietnam to the Persian Gulf. Complementing the conventionally-powered missile cruisers was a much smaller number of expensive nuclear-powered cruisers, including the Long Beach, the USN's largest-ever missile cruiser. Until replaced by the Ticonderoga and Burke classes of Aegis ships, the USN's 38 missile cruisers were the most capable and important surface combatants in the fleet and served all over the globe during the Cold War. Using specially commissioned artwork and meticulous research, this illustrated title explores the story of these cruisers in unparalleled detail, revealing the history behind their development and employment.
This book is interesting to me as a close friend served a tour on a MiG-killing ship in this book.

US Navy Cold War Guided Missile Cruisers presents the story of those warships through seven chapters in 48 pages:
    USN Missile Cruiser Development
    USN Missile Cruiser Weapons
    USN Missile Cruiser at War
    USN Missile Cruisers
      * Boston Class
      * Galveston Class
      * Providence Class
      * Albany Class
      * Leahy Class
      * Belknap Class
    The Nuclear Cruisers
      * Long Beach
      * Bainbridge
      * Truxtun
      California Class
      * Virginia Class
    Analysis and Conclusion
Author Stille is a retired USN Commander with over 30 years in military and intelligence experience. His text is clear and well organized. Not only are the ships and weapon systems detailed, so is information such as expenditures by Fiscal Year to fund the ships.

Introduction begins with USN's concern with growing Soviet air threats, with memories of Japan's Kamikaze fresh on the mind. World War II cruisers were converted to sling new guided missiles - some retaining their big guns - while purpose-built guided missile cruisers (USN designation: "CG") ships were developed, including the new class of guided missile frigates. Two callouts focus on supporting information:
    a. USN Cruiser Designations
    b. The Missile Frigates
Political and economic affects upon type are discussed, along with the concept of the Strike Cruiser.

USN Missile Cruiser Weapons explores the types raison d'Ítre, Surface-to-air Missiles (SAM). USN's first-generation SAMs were the Tartar, Terrier, and Talos. They were replaced by the versatile family of enhanced missiles - Standards. The text also includes surface-to-surface missile armament. Also covered are the big cruiser guns retained on WW2 conversions and the smaller guns equipping all the CGs.

USN Missile Cruisers At War begins with the developing Soviet threats of surface-to-surface, air-to-surface and submarine-launched missiles, and USN's efforts to counter them. Improvement programs are detailed including the Admiral Zumwalt reforms. A brief overview of combat against Vietnam and Iran is included.

Next, USN Missile Cruisers and The Nuclear Cruisers examines the 11 classes of CG ships, with separate chapters covering the vessels of each class, their armament - surface-to-air, surface-to-surface, anti-submarine - and operational histories. Electronic suites and radars are discussed along with other technical characteristics, i.e., nuclear powerplants, and ship configurations and appearance.

Analysis and Conclusion reviews all of the prior information. It considers the possible effectiveness of USN CGs should the balloon have gone up with the Soviets, and ends with the view of the successor ship - the Aegis system.

Photographs, Artwork, Graphics
Each class of CG is represented well with numerous photographs and artwork. Tables impart technical data and trivia not apparent in photographs.

The photos are crisp and expertly developed, providing a great deal of detail of the subjects. Modelers can easily see weapons, electronics, and other external details in most of the images. With the exception of two photos, the images are 'glamour shots' of whole ships. The two exceptions are a closeup of a Terrier battery on a Mk 10 launcher, and a deck view of a Talos launch at sea. Informative captions accompany each image. I didn't count them but about a quarter of the photos are in color.

Artist Adam Tooby enriches the book with excellent detailed color artwork.

A. Artwork
1. In-action scene, Operation Praying Mantis: USS Wainwright engages Iranian ships on April 18, 1988.

2. Heavy Cruiser Conversions, profiles:
    a. Boston with 8-inch and 5-inch turrets, and Terrier missiles.
    b. Albany, 1976.
3. Light Cruiser Conversions, profiles:
    a. Galveston in 1970 with 6- and 5-inch turrets, and Talos missiles.
    b. Little Rock, 1960, with Talos and gun turrets, fitted as a flagship.
4. Leahy and Belknap Classes, Profiles:
    a. Leahy-class CG late in career.
    b. Bainbridge, original configuration.
    c. Belknap-class, original configuration.

5. Cutaway centerfold, Long Beach, keyed to 14 components.
6. In-action scene, Long Beach Talos launch scores first USN SAM MiG kill, May 23, 1968.
7. The Nuclear Cruisers, profiles:
    a. California after all modifications.
    b. Virginia in final configuration.

For brevity I list the format of tables, combining those that describe multiple subjects. The data presented is interesting for historians.

1. USN Cruiser Surface-to-air Missiles by missile, purpose, range and ships fitted on:
    RIM-8 Talos
    RIM-2 Terrier
    RIM-66 Standard (SM-1MR/SM-2MR)
    RIM-67 Standard [sic] SM-1ER/SM-2ER
2. USN Missile Cruiser Guns (system, shell size, rate of fire, maximum range, fitted on):
    5-inch/54 Mark 42
    5-inch/54 Mark 45
    Mk-15 Phalanx CIWS
3. USN Cruiser Classes by ship, date when first commissioned, where converted at, recommissioning (when appropriate) and fate, for:
    * Boston Class
    * Galveston Class
    * Providence Class
    * Abany Class
    * Leahy Class
    * Belknap Class Conversions
4. USN Cruiser Class Specifications - each class is described by displacement, dimensions, machinery, performance, and crew compliment.

5. Leahy Class Construction, each ship of the class is listed with:
    a. Name
    b. Built by
    c. Laid down
    d. Launched
    e. Commissioned
    f. Fate
6. Belknap Class Construction, each ship of the class is listed with:
    a. Name
    b. Built by
    c. Laid down
    d. Launched
    e. Commissioned
    f. Fate
7. Long Beach Construction: Built by; Laid down; Launched; Commissioned; Fate.
8. Bainbridge Construction: Built by; Laid down; Launched; Commissioned; Fate.
9. Truxtun Construction: Built by; Laid down; Launched; Commissioned; Fate.
10. California Class Construction: Built by; Laid down; Launched; Commissioned; Fate.

There is a great deal of useful information conveyed through those graphics.

Like Osprey's companion book Soviet Cold War Guided Missile Cruisers, US Navy Cold War Guided Missile Cruisers is a detailed text that provides a great deal of interesting material. The supporting photos, artwork and graphics enrich the text.

Forty-eight pages certainly cannot offer a comprehensive history of this subject, nor does this overview attempt to. As such, I have no meaningful complaint about the text.

This book is a good informative concise volume for modelers, students and enthusiasts of American CGs and Cold War navy. Recommended.

Please remember to mention to vendors and retailers that you saw this book here - on Model Shipwrights.
Highs: Fact filled and well presented text. Wonderful gallery of illustrations and photographs.
Lows: I have no meaningful complaint about the text.
Verdict: This book is a good informative concise volume for modelers, students and enthusiasts of American CGs and Cold War navy.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: NVG278; 9781472835
  Related Link: Soviet Cold War Guided Missile Cruisers
  PUBLISHED: Feb 16, 2020
  NATIONALITY: United States

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Model Shipwrights. All rights reserved.


When I was in my teens, I was in an organization known as "Sea Cadets", and I was aboard the Harry E Yarnell (CG-17) for a couple of weeks one summer. Imagine my surprise to see in the photos of this book's review, a picture of the HEY! Brings back some memories. Tim
FEB 19, 2020 - 05:30 AM

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