US Navy (Cold War) 1960-1990

In 1990, at the end of the last century, the United States Navy was still forty-five years after the end of the Great War, which had seen the introduction of a new bipolar equilibrium, more than ever the main naval force representing the camp. from the west, the liberal democracies of capitalist economy.
The Royal Navy, within NATO, has moved to the third rank behind the Soviet navy, but the latter remains quantitatively lower than the US Navy, with in particular the glaring lack of aircraft carriers, the cornerstone of the strategy. United States Navy. The reign of the “gunboat policy” is replaced by the “aircraft carrier policy”; the latter being dissuasive to the exact opposite of the SNLE: By its imposing presence and media.

Reminder of abbreviations for submarines:
SNA: Sub, Nuclear, Attack
SA: Sub, Attack (diesel-electric)
SSBN: Sub-Surface Ballistic Nuclear

Elmo Zumwalt
Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt (1920-2000) was appointed chief of naval operations of the fleet in Viet-Nam and distinguished himself on this theater. His actions are also recognized in the improvement of the living conditions of the sailors and the modernization of the fleet. He was the proponent of the Perry class frigates, one of the best ships created for the US Navy since the Fletchers. (im Wiki DP)

1990 is a pivotal date in world history because it marks the collapse of the Soviet empire, and hence of one of the major poles of the balance of terror that had prevailed since 1947. With the decommissioning more than 75% of the Soviet navy in the space of a few years, with the ecological consequences that we know, the US Navy was with an oversized force at the scale of its former adversary, but at the right scale to ensure its role as “world policeman”, a position that will be clearly reaffirmed after 11 September 2001, with even more virulence.

As a result, and although NATO’s naval forces, mostly North-European, could have a largely sufficient weight to succeed it in this task (lack of closer political unity, and lack of knowledge gradually withdrawing from the American protective cocoon), the United States Navy remains as impressive and the most recent Naval Laws voted have barely begun. We must not lose sight of the famous military-industrial lobby at work behind the corridors of the Congress or in the White House: The arms contracts, since 1941 and the Japanese aggression, have become, like their share of the budget, a formidable mix of billions of dollars, responsible for much of the US abyss deficit and the relative devaluation of the Dollar at the beginning of the XXI century. Since 1941, the USA is almost still, in volume, in a war economy.

With regard to these new constructions, we note the irruption of nuclear propulsion, then the launchers of nuclear devices, a particularly effective couple with the SNLE. This armed arm of deterrence, one of the most effective with the soil-ground component and the one embarked on by the Air Force, is the other side of a military-political interventionism more directly engaged, and resting on the one hand on the nuclear aircraft carriers, and secondly on the huge American amphibious fleet, designed to operate a landing at any time on the Eurasian continent that would have had nothing to envy to Operation Overlord. All the other ships in the fleet are designed either to escort them or to assist them, but they are part of large Task Forces. The principle was established during the Pacific campaign, and only the new means of communication have changed this concept.

USS Lincoln (CVN72, 1988), one of the ten Nimitz class (1975-2006) that makes the US Navy backbone nowadays.

Strength in 1990

15 Aircraft carrier

Still the cornerstone of the surface fleet, the new standard imposed in 1960 by the Enterprise, will define the Nimitz class, a kind of equivalent of what was in the past the Essex class, but “super aircraft carrier heavy “and very spread out in time. This series ended in 2006 with the launch of CVN77 Georges H. W. Bush. In 1990, there were 5 buildings in use. We are now thinking of a radically new, nature-oriented concept of the multiple and more elusive threats of the twenty-first century. Apart from these 6 nuclear APs, there were also 9 conventional PAs, including the Midway, dating from 1945. These were mostly Forrestal and 4 Kitty Hawks, dating from the 1950s: The 4 Forrestals were in use in 1960. The number 15 is certainly poles apart from what was the American armada in 1945, but these units are worth the financial and military equivalent of one hundred units at the time. They each form a Task Force, and are the center around which everything is organized.

USS Iowa (BB61) after modernization making a broadside in 1984

4 Battleships (Conventional/Missile)

The battleships in 1960 had nothing to do with the geopolitical perspectives of the time and the new naval doctrines from the beginning of the nuclear/missile pair. The simple, relatively random nature of the naval guns that had been in effect for centuries seemed definitively condemned by the surgical accuracy of the missile, a vector that was finally not so far removed from the good old torpedo in principle. These are other considerations which are at work in the fact that the USA, which piously preserved their four Iowa from 1943-44, in 1960, still used it in Vietnam under the same conditions as those of the United States. Pacific Forces: For ground support. In 1974, it was thought no longer to see them again and their place in the reserve, then in the case, seemed already acquired. Then in 1978, the Kirov came out of the Soviet arsenals. And when a missile cruiser claims the status of “ship of the line”, what it is in truth, according to a modern definition, is aligned by the sworn enemy, the US has no choice but to consider either building a comparable ship, or using a more economical and surprising roadmap: That of radically modernizing and re-commissioning the four veterans. So that was decided, and after extensive upgrading work, Iowa came out of their reserve, and became credible again in the US Navy of the 80s-90s. In cold weather, it is true that these ships have with their guns means of striking to 40 kilometers which remain formidable while being able, at this distance, to withstand the most massive missile fire thanks to their cuirass.

USS Long Beach
USS Long Beach, 1960, the first nuclear-propelled missile cruisers

42 Cruisers (missile)

The US Navy of 1990 aligns a fleet of only missile cruisers. The last conventional, the Des Moines, joined the museum in 1980. The first pioneers of the genre, the Albany, and even more mixed early, were put in reserve and disarmed. This fleet is largely composed of units from the 60s, 70s and 80s, with two sets of conventional propulsion ships, the 9 Leahy, the 9 Belknap, and 9 nuclear, the USS Long Beach, contemporary with the Enterprise, the Bainbridge and Truxtun, 60s, 2 California and 4 Virginia 70s.

however, with the launch of the Spruance, missile destroyers of a completely new kind, the size of a cruiser, will largely inspire the construction of class cruisers Ticonderoga, classified as such while they have the shell of Spruance. These much more expensive ships equipped with the revolutionary AEGIS system were built up to 15 units until 1990. The series continued thereafter, for a total of 27 in 1995.

61 Destroyers (missile)

In 1990, the 18 Forrest Sherman class (1955-1958) were withdrawn from service between 1982 and 1986. The Charles F. Adams class (1959-63), with 20 ships, was also retired, but precisely year 1990 for the most part. In January 1990, there were only three fewer on the staff, and still 17 on active duty. The same goes for the Farragut of 1958-60, two of which were withdrawn from service in 1989 and the remaining 8 remain active in January 1990. They will be put in reserve in 1990-92. To these old buildings we must add the new class on which so many hopes are based: It marks a definitive break with a design which, in principle, is an evolution of the Fletcher of the Second World War. This is the Spruance, from another famous admiral of that time. These ships, which are much larger than anything built before, were designed to provide a very long service, being easily retrofitted by means of very large and modular superstructures, with many empty rooms. The concept will be repeated later for all others. 35 ships will be built, the last coming into use in 1983. From the USS Kidd (1979), the last 5 will be modified in terms of armament and electronic equipment, forming a sub-class.

USS Conyngham DDG-17, Charles F Adams class destroyers
USS Conyngham DDG-17, Charles F Adams class destroyers

The last class of destroyers currently in service and under construction is the Arleigh Burke class. These ships, the first of which was launched in 1989, incorporate the latest refinements in communications technology, and have surfaces treated for a minimum of stealth, an area that comes from aviation and spreads in the maritime and terrestrial domains. They are more modest in size and do not have a superstructure that can be as radical as Spruance. In 1990, none was in service, but at present, 44 are in service under two variants (flight 2 and 3). They are planned to serve until 2026-2041.

USS Fife, DD991 Spruance class
USS Fife, DD-991 Spruance class

99 Frigates (missile)

In 1990, the US Navy still had considerable strength based primarily on two classes: Knox and Oliver Hazard Perry. The first, born after the 17 Garcia (1963-65), based on the two Bronstein of 1962, is immediately recognizable by her “mack”, characteristic high mast/stack, while the Perry have more to do with the Spruance with their large superstructure versatile and scalable. The Bronstein were in service in 1963, and also in 1990. They will be disarmed in December of the same year. The Garcia, in service in 1964-67, gave so little satisfaction that they would be withdrawn from service and put in reserve in 1988-89. They no longer appeared on the lists. They were however resold in Brazil and especially in Pakistan, which still use them. The following Knox, launched in 1966-73, were 46, withdrawn from service in 1991-93, and then made the happiness of Brazil, Turkey, Greece, Thailand or Taiwan. Finally the O.H. Perry, 51 vessels launched in 1976-88 are currently spearheading the fleet of American frigates. It was planned to transfer the first to several countries, but this project was canceled in order to maintain the American presence on all the seas. His replacement was decided during the 90s for a new Stealth model.

USS Connole - Knox class
USS Connole – Knox class

132 Submarines

96 SSNs

USS Greenville, Los Angeles class, equiped with a DSRV, deep underwater salvage sub.

With the deactivation of the latest “fleet snorkels”, the Gato/Guppy II and Guppy III even modernized, the American force of SSNs and SSBNs entered a configuration “all nuclear”. Some veterans who used this propulsion, prototypes, were deactivated in 1988: it was the famous Nautilus (1954), became a museum in 1982, the USS Seawolf (1955), the 4 Skate (1957), first operational SSN class, or experimental diesel-electric SA USS Albacore (1953). In 1990 there remained on the lists only two SA, the Barbel and Blueback, about to be reformed that same year. The old SNAs of the Skipjack class were also for two of them still active, with retirement still this year. Regarding the Tresher/Permit, 5 was also in service out of 11 (1960-66). But the armed arm of the submarine attack force was formed in 1990 by the 42 Sturgeon (1963-74), and the 42 Los Angeles (1974) whose series continued until 1995. Much larger, the latter incorporated much more significant modernization capabilities. 20 others were built from 1990. Their replacement is currently played by the series Virginia (2004), preceded by the 3 Seawolf (1994), the rest of the class was canceled in favor of a new design. Finally, we must add the three former class Ethan Allen reconverted in 1980-81 in SSNs.

Blind’s man bluff, History Channel documentary made from the 1988 book about spy USN submarines

Pacific Ocean (Jul. 29, 2003) — Crewmen aboard the Los Angeles-class nuclear powered attack submarine USS Asheville (SSN 758), man the topside navigation watch as the submarine operates at high speed near San Diego. U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 2nd Class Thomas C. Peterson. (RELEASED)

36 SSBNs

With regard to carriers of nuclear vectors, the oldest class was that of George Washington (1959), all of whom were in reserve in 1981-83. They had been preceded by three prototypes, USS Grayback (1954), USS Growler (1957) and USS Halibut (1959). The Ethan Allen (1960-62) were five more boomers, retired altogether since 1983-85, or reconverted (for three of them) in SSNs. The real strike force is embodied by the 31 Lafayette class (1962-66), who, ageing, were retired from 1986: In 1990, there were still 26 still on active service.

In 1995, they had all been reformed. Their replacements, the Ohio class, had a tripling of the offensive capacity, thanks to 24 silos instead of 16, and larger rockets with smaller and more numerous heads. These ships, by far the largest submarines built in the US, 170 meters long and 18,700 tons fully loaded, will be built from 1979, and in 1990, 10 were in service. The series continued until 1997, with the commissioning of the Louisiana and 18 units in total. The series has stopped, and we do not envisage new class before long. The end of the Cold War has all the other units canceled.

USS Lafayette, SSBN 616

Miscellaneous ships

In 1990, the American amphibious fleet was singularly modernized: it has almost no more than large assaulting ships to erase, with tracks and hangars for helicopters. The Korean War and Vietnam have borne fruit and this strength remains unparalleled in the world in volume and quality of buildings. Assault aircraft carriers are not taller because of their hybrid nature, but they have nothing to envy to those of the last world war.

13 Assault Carriers
The prototypes are the Iwo Jima (LPH), 7 helicopter carrier buildings widely used in Vietnam and which were in active service in 1990. They will be decommissioned from 1992. Next are the 5 Tarawa, real aircraft carriers. assault since they can operate ADAC / V takeoff devices of the AV8 Harrier II type. Launched in 1973-78, they are still in use. Finally, in preparation for the replacement of the Iwo Jima, another class of LHA was built, the Wasp, the first of which was launched in 1987 and was operational in 1990. 6 ships were planned, the last one entering service in 2002. These are real doors -We had 30 helicopters and 6 Harrier fighter jets. New ships are currently being studied to replace the Tarawa, these are the LHXs. Their design oscillates between a ship of 25,000 tons or 40,500 tons, for an entry into service in 2010.

USS Saipan
USS Saipan, LHA-2 (1978), Tarawa class.

Assault transports
Under the name of LSD and LPD, these ships are currently represented by the 8 old Thomastons (1954-56), still in service for 6 of them but in the process of being put in reserve, what the three others in 1987-89. They are also the 3 Raleigh (1962-63), the 12 Austin (1964-70), the 5 Anchorage (1969-72), the last class being Whidbey Island, launched in 1983 and built since 12 units, the last, USS Pearl Harbor, was launched in 1998. In 1990, there were 6 in service. The Newport class tank transports (1968-71) had 20 units, still in active service and recognizable by their large bow ramp. All of the World War II and Fifties-era cargo ships, such as the Francis Marion Tulare / Paul Revere Class, were retired and the first of this type that was not converted, the Charleston, will be launched. 1967-1969. (5 ships). They were in service in 1990.

USS Austin

Light Landing Ships
More modest because transported by those seen above are classic barges: The LCU will be built in 1954-60, then again in 1967-76, up to 52 other units. There were about 50 in 1990. These ships have the distinction of having two ramps, openings at both ends. Their successors, the LCAC (Landing Craft Air Cushion) are provided with greater autonomy, and also able to land at the inland, since they are hovercrafts. 91 will be built from 1983 until 1993, 108 planned in total, of which 34 were operational in 1990, since 16 participated in the Gulf War. Smaller and more modest, the LCM (8) were enlarged to be able to carry an M60 tank. Between 1949 and 1967, 217 were built, and another 93 between 1967 and 1980. In 1984-86, 21 more will be built with some improvements, and another 20 planned for 1991-92. When old LCM (6) designed in 1944, they were produced punctually until 1980, for 824 units of which about sixty was operational in 1990, the others in reserve.


Finally, small LCVP who participated in all the Allied landings during World War II and again in Korea and in Vietnam continue to be produced from 1954 to 1966 up to 1552 copies in the reserve in 1990 except 200. LCPL, heirs of the “Ducks” had no ramps, but also among the infantry transport widely used in Vietnam: Until 1967 we built and used Mk1 103, 233 Mk4 194 Mk11. The Mk12 will be built in 1981-88 (213), followed in 1990 by 8 Mk13.

Fire support vessels
The USS Carronade built in 1953 and based on the LSM (R) of World War II had served on various occasions in Vietnam, and subsequently set aside.
36 Motor Boats
The relative lack of US experience in this area (none since 1945 and PT-boats) led them to buy 19 units from Norway in 1962-68, forming the Nasty class. The first 13 will be built in Norway and the others locally licensed. They were followed by the Osprey 4, improved versions of 1967, used by the “Special Forces” in Vietnam, as well as the Nasty (PTF). Tacoma Shipyard also issued a prototype patroller in 1974, the CPIC. It was sold to Thailand, then returned to the US in 1980 for extensive testing. The standard patrol boats of the US Navy, class Asheville, will be 17 ships built in 1966-69, all resold in the years 70-80. The Patrol Gunboats 84-90 served in Vietnam.

USS High Point

It was when they saw the Soviets and the Chinese align large quantities, and after losing the destroyer USS Maddox because of one of them (a North Vietnamese P4 in the Gulf of Tonkin), the Americans began to to look into the design of prototypes. The first, the USS High Point, was the work of the French engineer J.M. Martinac. He left in 1962, followed by Flagstaff in 1968, another prototype, while the Chinese Hufeng had just been put into operational service. The Tucumcari in 1967 also remained for research, but both were used operationally in Vietnam. The only operational class, the Pegasus, were operational in 1981-82. These were 6 ships built by Boeing following the Tucumcari. They have been in reserve since 1993 and did not have descendants.

Tonnage 1990
Aircraft Carriers: 15
Battleships: 4
Cruisers: 42
Destroyers: 98
Frigates: 99
Submarines: 400
Miscellaneous: 90+1296+832

Ships of Viet-nâm

During this conflict (1965-74), which remained a gaping wound in the collective memory of a whole generation of Americans currently in command of the country, the veterans remember having boarded small plastic buildings that were massively used on the Mekong and its many tributaries.

The PCF (“Swift”), steel boats were 193 small stars derived from civilian models used to supply oil facilities in the Gulf of Mexico. They were built in 1965-66 in Louisiana.

-The more famous PBRs (see “Apocalypse now” by Coppola) were made of plastic, and better armed but slower than the first ones. They will be built in mass from 1966 to 1972, and others only for export. 487 will therefore be used. Light (6-7 tons) they could be brought to work by planes or helicopters. The vast majority was resold to Southeast Asian countries after 1973. Their descendants (1990-92), will be fourteen first-class units of the Stinger class, made of aluminum, and launched by transport in a C130 Hercules. Others follow.

RPCs were derived from LCVPs, but criticized for their slowness, their ease in catching mines, and their poor weaponry. 34 will be built in 1964, resold to Thailand and South Vietnam.

PBs were generally enlarged “Swifts”. A total of 200 were built in 1965-73, some for the civilian, others for export and only 36 for the US Navy in 1973. From 1973, until 1977, others will be built. , all kept in reserve. The MkVs were a stealthy special version intended to replace the Seafox to infiltrate the SEAL commandos, implemented from a C5 cargo plane. They are contemporary and have given rise to other very special ships (see below)


ASPB: These are Assault Support Patrol Boats, widely used in Viet Nam. Based like the others on landing craft of the LCM type (6), they were heavily armored (against anti-tank rockets) and equipped with turrets of heavy machine guns, mortars, guns and even sometimes howitzer and flamethrower. Painted in green with visible white stars, these ships escorted armored personnel carriers and ATC armored personnel carriers (6). Their number remains a mystery, but we know that 84 will be transferred to South Vietnamese in 1973. (Code Alpha)

The Monitors: The first ones as well as the last ones are also based on the LM (6). They are also heavily armored. The monitors had an impressive arsenal. At least 50 were built, as 49 were delivered in 1973 to South Vietnam.

ATC (Armored Troop Carrier): Based on LCM (6), these are heavily armored river vessels with a roof and turrets at the stern. Code: Tango. A special version was used to destroy the river bunkers on the banks, using a powerful jet of high-pressure water, the “shower” -boats. (French “shower”!). Another version, the “Zippo” named after the lighter-fetish of the American soldiers, had an M130 A1 flamethrower.

HSSC, two ships built in 1967 for Seal fire support, based on LCM barges (6).
LCMs (6). Standard landing craft. Code “mike”.
LCM (C). (For combat), armored and better armed version of LCM (6). At least 44 converted.
LCPL. Ships landing without ramp. Close to the “Ducks” of the Second World War.
LCSR. Diving recognition vessels. The LSCCs of SEAL are much lighter.
MCSS. Medium fire support vessels of the SEALs. 10 built in 1964
The CCBs (Control and Command Boats): These few buildings are real floating HQs, well equipped in communication and well armed.
The Skimmers were small flat-bottomed boats and outboard motors. They offered no protection to men aboard because of their low freeboard. 68 built.
STAB (Strike assault boats). Very fast, but also flat-bottomed and heavily armored, they are ships intended to operate in operations “punch”. 22 built, two more, lighter, for SEAL.

SEAL vessels:
The special operations of these naval commandos (since 1944) have provided material for many American B series. In reality, these elite men currently have night-time electric motorboats, the Sea Fox (1965), followed by stealth PB MkV Sea Specters. They also benefited in 1994 from 40 XFPB type aircrafts, also transportable by air. The CRRC and RIB are two types of “zodiac” (inflatable boats) of different size. Finally, since 1993 they have been enjoying the Sea Stalker, a catamaran derived from the British Cougar. Patrol PBLs and PBRs are also in use in modernized versions. The Cyclone (PCC) is also used to transport a squadron of Seals in operation.

USS Inflict MSO-456
USS Inflict MSO-456


Mine warfare led to the creation of the Avenger, a large, modern, specialized ocean vessel that is much more efficient than conventional minesweeper fleets such as the Agile. Many of them were retired in this regard before 1990, as well as coastal draggers of the Adjutant type.

CIA vessels

The CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), the American ‘external’ secret services (the internal investigation service being the FBI) had a few ships in operations, for covert ‘spec ops’ and gathering intelligence. However for the task Navy submarines are usually used. Nevertheless, the most impressive of these ships was, without a doubt, the Glomar Explorer.

Glomar Explorer

Behind this photo lays one of the best secrets of the cold war. How to capture a sunken Soviet submarine incognito. It was one of the most hardy, costly operation of the CIA, as the ship alone costed $350 million (1974), today $1.41 billion. The 189 x 35 x 12m (619ft x 116ft x 38ft) Glomar Explorer was built at Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. under the control of the CIA. It was named after the previous Glomar Challenger, first dedicated ship for deep sea drilling and exploration for more coherence.

Over the water, it has to look like and be equipped as a massive drill ship, with the cover story of exentric billionaire Howard Hugues financing deep mining operations (For polymetallic and manganese nodules on the ocean floor and along the rifts). Incidentally the idea became wildly influencial, even trigerring in the 1980s-90s a wave of movies about deep sea industrial potential (such as Cameron’s “The Abyss”).

And it all started with the loss of Soviet submarine K-129 of the Pacific fleet, in March 1968, compounded with the location of its wreck 16,500 feet deep, 1,560 miles NW of Hawaii. Although the idea of extracting a 1960s 2700 tons submarine of the Golf II class, early Soviet SSBN from the bottom of the sea seemed ludicrous, it did not prevented the CIA to mount Project Azorian.

As we now know as information filtered about it despite the strict secrecy policy after the end of the cold war. However operation Azorian itself was judged a failure. The immense clutching arms of the giant pincer failed to retain the hull which broke up during the lifting, and only a small portion of the Soviet boat arrived inside the belly dock of the Glomar Explorer.

Nevertheless, six bodies were uncovered and a burial at sea was performed and filmed on September 1974. Later the film was revealed to President Boris Yeltsin in 1992, also revealing the operation. The film is now declassified and can be seen on the official CIA Youtube Channel. However the nature of the information gathered is yet to be declassified.

The Glomar Explorer was soon mothballed after the operation, waiting to be sold in auction as its maintenance cost was deemed prohibitive by the General Services Administration (GSA). Seven unsufficient bids were received and in September 1974 she was transferred to the Navy for storage. After drydocking she became part in 1977 to the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet.

Next year the Ocean Minerals Company consortium of Mountain View, California announced the leasing of the ship for prototype drillings. In 1997 Glomar Explorer was taken in hands to be converte to a dynamically-positioned deep sea drilling ship. The conversion lasted from 1996-1998 and the ship was leased to GlobalSantaFe Corporation, and later Transocean Inc. in 2007 renamed as GSF Explorer, acquired in 2010 for US$15 million. In 2013 she operated from Port Vila, Vanuatu but in 2015 it was announced she would be scrapped, which happened in Chinese Zhoushan Yard on June 2015.