USS Belknap (CG-26)
USS Belknap (CG-26)
|Namesake:||Rear Admirals George E. Belknap (1832–1903) and Reginald R. Belknap (1871–1959)|
|Ordered:||16 May 1961|
|Builder:||Bath Iron Works|
|Laid down:||5 February 1962|
|Launched:||20 July 1963|
|Acquired:||4 November 1964|
|Commissioned:||7 November 1964|
|Decommissioned:||15 February 1995|
|Struck:||15 December 1995|
|Fate:||sunk as a target on 24 September 1998, SINKEX|
|Class & type:||Belknap class cruiser|
|Length:||547 feet (167 m)|
|Beam:||55 feet (17 m)|
|Draught:||31 ft (9.5 m) (maximum navigational)|
|Propulsion:||Two sets GE or De laval steam turbines. total 85,000 shp (63 MW)|
|Speed:||maximum speed 34 knots (63 km/h)|
|Complement:||64 officers and 546 enlisted|
|Armament:||one Mark 42 five-inch / 54-caliber gun, two three-inch (76 mm) guns, one Mark 10 Mod 7 Missile SystemTerrier missile / SM-2ER , six 12.76-inch (324 mm) torpedo tubes, Harpoon missiles, Phalanx CIWS|
USS Belknap (DLG-26/CG-26), named for Rear Admirals George E. Belknap (1832–1903) and Reginald Rowan Belknap (1871–1959), was the lead ship of her class of guided missile cruisers in the United States Navy. She was launched as DLG-26, a guided missile frigate under the then-current designation system, and reclassified as CG-26 on 30 June 1975.
Collision, fire, and reconstruction
Belknap was severely damaged in a collision with the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy on 22 November 1975 off the coast of Sicily. A fire broke out on Belknap following the collision, and during the fire her aluminium superstructure was melted, burned and gutted to the deck level. Seven personnel were killed on Belknap and one on Kennedy. Shortly after the fire began, boats from other vessels operating with John F. Kennedy and Belknap began to pull alongside the burning ship, often with complete disregard for their own safety. Ammunition from Belknap’s three-inch ready storage locker, located amidships, cooked off, hurling fiery fragments into the air and splashing around the rescue boats. Undaunted, the rescuers pulled out the seriously wounded and delivered fire-fighting supplies to the sailors who refused to surrender their ship to the conflagration. The guided missile destroyer USS Claude V. Ricketts and destroyer USS Bordelon moved in on both sides of Belknap, their men directing fire hoses into the amidships area that the stricken ship’s crew could not reach. Claude V. Ricketts moved in and secured alongside Belknap’s port side, and evacuated the injured while fragments from exploding ammunition showered down upon her weather decks. The frigate USS Pharris closed in the carrier’s port side to provide fire-fighting assistance. The ammunition ship USS Mount Baker was involved in the rescue of the Belknap, escorting her to an ammunition depot and then providing electric and water services as the Mount Baker's Explosive Ordnance Disposal team retrieved all of the remaining ammunition from the Belknap. Mount Baker also assimilated most of the Belknap crew until they could be transferred to a way station for re-assignment. The fire and the resultant damage and deaths, which would have been less had Belknap's superstructure been made of steel, drove the US Navy's decision to pursue all-steel construction in future classes of surface combatants. The first USN combatant ships to revert to all steel superstructure were the Arleigh Burke class (DDG-51), which were commissioned beginning in the 1990s. Belknap was reconstructed by the Philadelphia Navy Yard from 30 January 1976 to 10 May 1980.
She played again a role in the Malta Summit between US President George H. W. Bush and Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev on 2 December and 3 December 1989. The US President, along with his advisors, James Baker, John Sununu and Brent Scowcroft, had their sleeping quarters aboard the Belknap, whereas the meetings took place (due to the stormy weather) on the Soviet cruise ship SS Maxim Gorkiy. Engineers from the Navy Ship Systems Engineering Station devised a mooring arrangement for this event, and despite the worst-case 100-year storm event, the ship held its ground using emergency operating procedures as outlined by the engineers.
Belknap was decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 15 February 1995 and sunk as a target on 24 September 1998.
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