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Lake Erie II (CG-70)

1993-

A squadron led by Commodore Oliver H. Perry defeated a British flotilla commanded by Captain Robert H. Barclay during the Battle of Lake Erie on 10 September 1813. Perry’s victory set in motion United States operations that resulted in the recapture of Detroit, Michigan, by American forces. For additional information on the battle see: War of 1812.

The second U.S. Navy ship named Lake Erie. The one previous vessel, a cargo ship, was launched as War Beaver on 22 September 1917 but subsequently acquired by the Navy for operation in the Naval Overseas Transportation Service, renamed Lake Erie for the lake (not the battle), and, given the identification number (Id. No. 2190), served from 1918-1919.

(CG-70: displacement 9,600; length 567'; beam 55'; draft 33'; speed 30+ knots; complement 363; armament 2 5-inch, 2 Mk 41 Vertical Launch Systems (VLS) for BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-66 SM-2MR Standards, and RUM-139 VL-ASROC Antisubmarine Rockets, 8 RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile canister launchers, 2 Mk 15 Close In Weapon System (CIWS), 4 .50 caliber machine guns, and 6 Mk 32 torpedo tubes, aircraft 2 Sikorsky SH-60B Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System (LAMPS) Mk III Seahawks; class Ticonderoga)

The second Lake Erie (CG-70) was laid down on 6 March 1990 at Bath, Maine, by Bath Iron Works; launched on 13 July 1991; sponsored by Mrs. Margaret T. Meyer, wife of Rear Adm. Wayne E. Meyer (Ret.), who led the development of the Aegis Weapon System; and commissioned without ceremony on 10 May 1993, Capt. William H. Parks in command.

Lake Erie sailed on her maiden voyage when she shifted from the Atlantic Fleet to the Pacific Fleet (10 May-9 July 1993). At 1512 on 10 May she sailed down the Kennebec River, Rear Adm. Wayne E. Meyer (Ret.) standing watch temporarily as the Sea and Anchor Detail Officer of the Deck. Each portion of the transit included a specific training goal, and the crew learned to man their ship through exercises that ran the gamut from tailored ships training to engineering casualty control drills. Lake Erie received over 100,000 gallons of fuel and onloaded ammunition while berthed at Naval Weapons Station Earle N.J. (17-19 May). She visited Naval Station Norfolk, Va. (21-26 May) and Jamaica (5-8 June), and passed through the Panama Canal on 10 June. Lake Erie crossed the equator on 14 June. The ship visited Naval Station San Diego, Calif. (21-28 June), carried out her naval gunfire support qualifications off San Clemente Island and acoustic trials on the Southern California Acoustic Range Facility, and moored at Naval Station Pearl Harbor, Hi., on 9 July. The ship carried out her commissioning ceremony there on 24 July.

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Lake Erie fires a Standard SM-3. (Unattributed U.S. Navy Photograph 080220-N-XXXXX-032, Navy NewsStand)

During the 21st century, Lake Erie became a crucial test ship for the U.S. Theater-Wide Ballistic Missile Defense Program (TBMD). The ship took part in repeated tests to determine the effectiveness of the program’s potential to shoot down enemy ballistic missiles as they hurtled toward the United States, initially operating with the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, and, after it was redesignated in 2002, the Missile Defense Agency. During one such evaluation, Flight Test Mission 04-1, the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hi., launched a target missile simulating an inbound ballistic missile, at 1103 on 24 February 2005. Lake Erie sailed more than 100 miles away but detected the threatening missile and fired a Standard SM-3 surface-to-air missile a minute later; two minutes later the Standard intercepted and shot down the target. Guided missile destroyer Russell (DDG-59) utilized a newly-installed Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Signal Processor to also detect and track the target missile, and to analyze the interception.

“We knew the missile was going to be launched,” Lt. Cmdr. Paul Wingeart, Lake Erie’s combat systems officer, explained. “We just didn’t know when. When we detected the missile, we tracked it, then launched the interceptor and were successful.”

“I spotted the missile on our [AN/SPY-1B] radar and called away the track number,” the cruiser’s Fire Controlman 2nd Class Dennis Nystrom elaborated. “That started everything in motion. We were all really anxious just before the captain gave us permission to launch the SM-3. When we hit the ballistic missile, it was a great feeling. We were all jumping for joy. You know when you put two or three months of work into a project whose end result is over in just a matter of seconds, it’s an adrenaline rush.”

The ship continued to participate in the program, and on 24 May 2006 she fired a Standard SM-2 Block IV that shot down a target missile in its terminal phase (the last few seconds) of fight, while she sailed in Hawaiian waters. During Flight Test Standard Missile-13, the Pacific Missile Range Facility launched two target missiles, at 1812 on 7 November 2007. Lake Erie sailed in an area about 250 miles northwest of Kauai, used her 3.6 Aegis BMD shipboard weapon system to detect and track both missiles, and then fired two Standard SM-3 Block IA missiles that intercepted and shot down both targets at an altitude of more than 100 miles. Japanese guided missile destroyer Kongō (DDG-173) performed long-range surveillance and tracking exercises during the interceptions.

Lake Erie, Capt. Randall M. Hendrickson in command, shot down a non-functioning National Reconnaissance Office satellite from her operating area in the Pacific Ocean, on 21 February 2008. The satellite proved an especially challenging target because it traveled in orbit rather than a ballistic trajectory, and at a high speed. Sailors and civilian technicians consequently modified the ship’s Aegis weapon system and Standard SM-3s, and the crew repeatedly rehearsed intercepting the satellite. “By the time we did this, we had seen it a hundred times,” Lt. Cmdr. Drew Bates, the cruiser’s weapons systems officer, asserted. “We were practicing what to do in case things go wrong. Fortunately nothing went wrong. This went just the way it was designed to happen…”

During the forenoon watch on 21 February Lake Erie received Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates’ approval to splash the satellite. The ship launched a Standard that hit the satellite at an altitude of approximately 153 nautical miles as it hurtled toward the earth at 17,000 mph. Hendrickson recalled that when the missile’s seeker opened its eyes it had the satellite “right dead center,” and that many of the crewmembers cheered when the Standard struck the satellite. The missile ruptured the fuel tank, dissipating the nearly 1,000 pounds of hazardous hydrazine propellant. Video depicted the missile hitting the satellite, and a fireball and vapor cloud or plume erupting from the impact. “The intercept occurred…We’re very confident we hit the satellite,” Gen. James E. Cartwright, USMC, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters during a press briefing at the Pentagon. “We also have a high degree of confidence that we got the tank.”

“The radar scope went wild,” Hendrickson elaborated. “At that point, there was a lot of debris, a lot of pieces and…we thought we had a pretty good impact.” Aircraft and additional radars and sensors ashore confirmed the hit. Radar sweeps of the satellite’s debris field revealed that no objects larger than a football survived the explosion, and these burned up as they fell into the earth’s atmosphere. Guided missile destroyer Decatur (DDG-73) also took part in the operation.

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Lake Erie returns from a four-month deployment to the Western Pacific and moors at Naval Station Pearl Harbor, Hi., 1 April 2010. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mark Logico, U.S. Navy Photograph 100401-N-7498L-286, Navy NewsStand)

During Flight Test Standard Missile 21, Lake Erie detected and tracked a complex separating short-range ballistic missile using her Aegis BMD 4.0 weapon system, and fired an SM-3 Block 1B that intercepted and shot down the target over the Pacific Ocean, during the afternoon watch on 18 September 2013. The ship fired two Standards and the first missile intercepted the target. The test marked the 27th successful interception during 33 flight test attempts for the Aegis program since 2002, and the 63rd of the 79 total flight endeavors since 2001.

Detailed history under construction.

Mark L. Evans

29 September 2014

Published:Tue Jul 28 20:55:06 EDT 2015