U.S. Warships Are Set To Retire – And China Is Eyeing The World’s Most Powerful Status

By 2027, the US Navy will be bidding farewell to all its 13 Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruisers and with this closure ends an epoch in the history of not just cruisers but a particular class of them in the US Navy. The Atlanta, which was the first cruiser, came into service during the 1880s— a time when naval technology was taking baby steps into what would later become a revolution. And indeed, with the Ticonderoga-class at its helm, it did represent a zenith; an achievement reached by no other development of cruisers that utilized Aegis combat system as its pioneering technology.

The Ticonderoga-class is armed with 122 missile silos each and was created as a multi-role warship capable of surface strike, anti-ship, anti-submarine, and most importantly anti-air warfare. Since its inception into the fleet from 1983 to 1994, it has served prominently in different theatres across the globe. Yet the high costs associated with sustaining these aging ships coupled with efforts that did not meet desired outcomes have resulted in a decision by the Navy to completely decommission them over the next three years.

The retirement of these cruisers leaves a significant gap in the US Navy’s missile deployment capabilities. With no plans to replace them with like-for-like vessels, the future DDG(X) guided missile destroyers, set to replace them, will only have 96 missile silos compared to the Ticonderoga’s 122. This shift indicates a downgrade in missile firepower and a strategic pivot towards integrating robotic ships with additional missile capabilities alongside DDG(X).

In the wake of this shift, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy stands to gain a strategic advantage. The PLA’s Type 055 cruisers, though classified as destroyers, would be considered cruisers by NATO and the US Navy due to their size and capabilities. These cruisers, known as Renhai-class, are equipped with 112 missile silos each, making them the largest and most powerful guided-missile cruisers afloat once the Ticonderoga-class is retired.

As the US Navy reduces its cruiser fleet, the PLA Navy’s Type 055 cruisers will become the dominant force in this class of warship. This transition underscores China’s growing maritime power and the shifting balance of naval capabilities, reflecting broader strategic changes in global naval power dynamics.

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