U. S. Navy ships continued to change with even
greater momentum, ushering in another new erathat
of nuclear propulsion, jet power, rockets, and guided
missiles. New types of ships have emergedships
such as guided-missile cruisers, tactical command
ships, and helicopter flattops. The era of the 50s, 60s,
70s, 80s, and on into the 90s has seen the emergence of
the nuclear Navy.
The heart of todays nuclear fleet is a highly
complicated unit known as the nuclear reactor, which
offers the following advantages:
Almost unlimited steaming endurance at high
speed. Nuclear ships have increased flexibility;
an ability to obtain ammunition, aviation fuel,
and other supplies from remote places in a
minimum amount of time; and an attack ability
in a much greater area.
Reduced vulnerability. Nuclear ships need not
remain exposed as long as nonnuclear vessels
during replenishment. They can maneuver to
Reduced dependence on logistic support.
Nuclear ships require fewer mobile support
Greater attack effectiveness. Nuclear ships can
remain in battle areas for a greater length of time
and have a greater ability to exploit weather
conditions to their advantage.
Elimination of huge funnels. That provides more
room for such items as a big, powerful radar.
Power available upon command. Nuclear
reactors eliminate the need to order more
boilers on the line a half hour before full power
is desired. Heat is produced in the nuclear
reactor; in turn, steam and power is produced
with little delay. Reduction from full power to
one-third or stop is equally responsive.
Reduced maintenance. The absence of corrosive
stack gases cuts down on the wear and tear of the
ships and a lot of at-sea and in-port repairs.
The Navy has been advancing in other areas of the
surface fleet as well. An example is the new amphibious
assault ships (LHAs). The LHAs are the largest and
fastest amphibious ships in the Navy inventory and offer
the greatest operational versatility in the history of
The size of the LHAs alone is impressive. The first
of the LHAs, the USS Tarawa, is 820 feet long and 106
feet wide. The high point of its mast is 221 feet above the
keel, and it has a full displacement of 39,300 tons. It can
carry a large landing force with all its equipment and
supplies, landing them either by helo or amphibious
craft or both. The primary advantage of these
g e n e r a l - p u r p o s e
a s s a u l t
s h i p s
t a c t i c a l
integritygetting a balanced force to the same point at
the same time.
Spruance-class ships are the Navys prime ASW
destroyers. They are fitted with our most powerful
sonar, helicopters, our best ASW weapons, and the
Harpoon surface-to-surface missile system.
The most recent additions to the surface fleet are the
Ticonderoga-class cruisers and the Arleigh Burke-class
destroyers. Both are powered by gas turbines and are
capable of high-speed transits. They are also outfitted
with the Navys new Aegis weapons system. That
system has the capability to track and engage multiple
targets, using a complex system of radars, missiles,
guns, torpedoes, and self-defense systems. These
capabilities make these cruisers and destroyers the most
survivable units of todays surface fleet.
Our ability to quickly deploy large carrier battle
groups and surface action groups quickly will assure our
allies of our ability to exercise sea control. That ability,
coupled with the U.S. submarine forces strategic
deterrence objective, will allow the United States and its
allies the ability to deter further hostile action