Envisaged as a minimum cost, advanced area-defence platform for construction in large numbers, the Ticonderoga class has evolved over the years into what is possibly the most advanced warship ever built. The design was based on the hull of the cruiser-sized Spruance class destroyer. USS Ticonderoga was originally designated as a destroyer, but the design was redesigned as a cruiser in 1980 with the pennant number CG 47. The original number to be constructed was 28, increased by the Reagan administration to 30, and then cut back to 27 and USS Ticonderoga was commissioned in 1983. The last of the class was the USS Port Royal, which entered service in 1994.
The Ticonderogas were the first surface combatant ships equipped with the AEGIS Weapon System, the most sophisticated air defence system in the world. The heart of AEGIS is the SPY-1A radar. Two paired phased array radars automatically detect and track air contacts to beyond 322 km (200 miles).
AEGIS is designed to defeat attacking missiles by providing quick-reacting firepower and jamming resistance against any aerial threat expected to be faced by a US Navy Battle Group. The AEGIS system can control friendly aircraft as well as providing simultaneous surveillance, target-detection and target-tracking in a hemisphere over and around the ship. It also provides a unified command and control platform for all the vessels of a battle group.
The first five ships have two twin Mk 26 missile launchers, firing Standard SM2-MR missiles. These were designed to cope with saturation attacks by high-performance aircraft as well as low-level and high-level air, surface- and sub-surface launched anti-ship missiles in heavy ECM environments.
From USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) onwards, the two Mk 26 launchers and their magazines have been replaced by Two Mk 41 vertical launchers. The 127 VLS cells can be loaded with Standard, Harpoon, ASROC and Tomahawk missiles, giving later vessels the ability to engage targets above, on and below the surface.
Since 2006 all surviving 22 ships of the Ticonderoga class are improved and will receive new ESSM Standard SM-2 Mod 4 surface-to-air missiles, two RAM missile launchers and also new radars.
The Ticonderoga class cruisers were built to support and protect Carrier Battle Groups, Amphibious Assault Groups, and to perform interdiction and escort missions. The class has seen action in most US Navy operations of the last two decades.