Arkansas, last of class, deactivated in Bremerton

Arkansas, last of class, deactivated in Bremerton

Burgess, Richard R

The last of the four Virginia-class nuclear-powered guided-missile cruisers has been withdrawn from service after 17 years in the active fleet. The USS Arkansas (CGN 41), deactivated at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Wash., is now being prepared for decommissioning, a process that includes the removal of her two nuclear reactors, and later will be scrapped.

Deactivated on 18 October, 17 years to the day after her commissioning, the Arkansas follows her sisters, the Virginia, Texas, and Mississippi, into retirement well before the end of her projected service life. Built by Newport News Shipbuilding, the Arkansas was commissioned in 1980 by President Bill Clinton, then governor of Arkansas. Initially homeported in Norfolk, Va., the Arkansas shifted her homeport to Alameda, Calif., in 1983, and in 1996 moved to Bremerton. The 11,300-ton, 585-foot-long cruiser participated in the 1986 retaliatory strikes against Libya, in Operations Desert Shield/Storm, and in counter-drug operations in the Caribbean.

Capt. Mark Helgeson, acting commander, Carrier Group Three, presided over the deactivation ceremony. Retired Capt. Dennis Read, the Arkansas’ first commanding officer, also spoke at the ceremony. Capt. Thomas M. Kiethly is the ship’s last commanding officer.

The Arkansas’ scrapping process is expected to be complete by 2000. Her two reactors will be buried at the nuclear waste disposition facility in Hanford, Wash.

The retirement of the Arkansas, the last nuclear-powered surface warship built in the United States, leaves only two CGNs in the fleet, the California and the South Carolina, out of the nine that have served since the nuclear-powered cruiser USS Long Beach was commissioned in 1961.

Copyright Navy League of the United States Dec 1997

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