USS Spruance (DD-963) Destroyer Warship
Authored By JR Potts, AUS 173d AB; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
By 1965 the United States Navy was ready to choose a new destroyer to replace the Gearing and Sumner class destroyers. Both classes were World War 2-era designs and had been upgraded and modified over their 30 year life span. The Navy had developed a new philosophy of ship design embodied in the idea that upgrades and modifications needed to be less costly allowing for the anticipated 30 year life span. A three point program was settled on, first large hulls with a block superstructure allowing for a large internal area. The second was for hardware combined with power and fuel economy allowing easy maintenance and easy replacement of parts and systems. Third was a weapon system with a modular design for technology and combat effectiveness allowing for cost saving easy replacement of systems.
The answer was the Spruance class and thirty-one destroyers were built for the primary mission of anti-submarine warfare, that complimented the attack carrier forces. The Spruance class were more than twice as large as a World War II destroyer and as large as a World War II cruiser. When launched in 1973 Spruance lack of guns as compared to previous destroyers drew concern and criticism. On Spruance's deck were two 5-inch guns one forward and one aft, the Gearing class had six 5 inch guns, 12 x 40 mm anti-aircraft guns and 11 x 20mm anti-aircraft guns. At first glance the comparison to the deck armament and the small amount of radar arrays as compared to the Soviet destroyers seemed to make the Spruance less capable. At a closer look the large amount of 127 mm ammunition storage below decks for the two 5 inch guns made her as viable and the smaller radar mast was superior to her Russian counterparts. Also was one 8 cell ASROC missile launcher carrying an acoustic homing torpedo, a nuclear depth bomb (NDB) that could be directed towards submarines and 8 cell Mark 29 Launcher for NATO Sea Sparrow SAM for aircraft suppression.
Remembering the mission of the Spruance DD-963 was one of pure submarine suppression not as previous destroyers provided an anti aircraft and anti submarine platform. This limited self defense against air attack and the nuclear arms deterrent agreement between the US and the USSR required the removal of the nuclear ASROC.
Spruance's first operational deployment was in October 1979 to the Mediterranean Sea, with Saratoga Battle Group. During this cruise, Spruance made a transit into the Black Sea to conduct surveillance on the new Soviet helicopter carrier, Moskva, as it sailed to join the Soviet Red Banner Fleet. During this cruse Spruance lost one of her LM-2500 Gas Turbine Main Engines. Now the Navy's new philosophy would be put to the test needing to replace an engine while deployed. This successful refit was a testament to that new philosophy that built the Spruance.
Spruance was the first gas turbine-powered ship in the American fleet. When she had completed receiving fuel or supplies at sea she would pull away at flank speed while she unfurled a large flag that said, "Beware Jet Blast" while playing the theme music from Star Wars.
Spruance made a brief yard stop in 1983, when she received the CIWS and TAS Mk 23 radar system. Spruance deployed for a six month period in January 1983 to the Persian Gulf where she received VLS, Towed Array, and the SH 60. She deployed on 26 May 1993 to the Red Sea where she spent over three and a half months to board and search operations in support of United Nations sanctions against Iraq. In July 1994, as part of Operation Restore Democracy, she helped to enforce the United Nations embargo of Haiti. However, so many Haitians were needed to be picked up from the sea that Sprunace took nine hundred Haitians onboard for the trip to Guantanamo Naval Station.
She decommissioned 23 March 2005. Spruance was a cold warrior and helped the conflict between the US and USSR not to become hot. She was sunk as a target for Navy aircraft that launched Harpoon missiles at her on 8 December 2006.