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Mobile Bay (CG-53)

1987-

The first ship named for the Battle of Mobile Bay, Ala., fought between Union and Confederate forces on 5 August 1864. For additional information please see The Battle of Mobile Bay.

(CG-53: 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, 1 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)

Mobile Bay (CG-53) was laid down on 5 June 1984 at Pascagoula, Miss., by Ingalls Shipbuilding Division, Litton Industries; launched on 22 August 1985; sponsored by Mrs. Jane M. Denton, wife of Rear Adm. Jeremiah A. Denton, Jr. (Ret.); and commissioned on 21 February 1987 at Mobile, Ala., Capt. F. Richard Whalen in command.

Mobile Bay (CG-53) 1987-
An aerial view of Mobile Bay around the time she was commissioned displays her sleek lines. (Mobile Bay (CG-53) Commissioning Book, Ships History, Naval History & Heritage Command)

During the spring and summer of 1990, Mobile Bay became forward-deployed from her new home port of Yokosuka, Japan. Mobile Bay took part in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990-91. She met the New Year in January 1991 steaming with Battle Group Alpha in the Indian Ocean. She carried out repairs alongside destroyer tender Acadia (AD-42) anchored off the coast of Oman for four days, and as tensions rose she sailed in company with aircraft carrier Midway (CV-41) through the Strait of Hormuz on 11 January. The following morning, the cruiser assumed duties as the alternate anti-air warfare commander of Battle Force Zulu.

Detached from Midway on 15 January, she steamed northerly courses to a picket station in the Northern Arabian Gulf near Farsi Island. Guided missile cruisers Bunker Hill (CG-52), Mobile Bay, and Worden (CG-18) formed what they called an anti-air “cruiser line” across the northern gulf. Aircraft carrier Ranger (CV-61) rendezvoused with the battle group later that day. At 0130 on 17 January 1991, nine ships in the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf, and Red Sea fired the first of 122 BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles at preprogrammed Iraqi targets. Those battles marked the first combat launch of the Tomahawks. Meanwhile, aircraft carriers America (CV-66), John F. Kennedy (CV-67), and Saratoga (CV-60) sailing in the Red Sea, Midway and Ranger in the Persian Gulf, and Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) en route to the Gulf, launched 228 combat sorties. Mobile Bay then (18-20 January) joined in the crescendo of bombardment and fired a total of 22 Tomahawks at Iraqi military targets through 20 January. Theodore Roosevelt reinforced the battle group on 19 January.

Because Mobile Bay operated in proximity to Kuwait, and since the cruiser had her SPY-1A radar capability, she received additional tasking as the anti-surface warfare air-control ship for Battle Force Zulu. Mobile Bay sailed in mine-infested waters while helping to detect and sink 38 Iraqi naval vessels (21 January-11 March).

Up to five Iraqi aircraft flew from an airfield at al-Kut southeast of Baghdad for the Kuwaiti coast on 24 January 1991. Two Dassault-Breguet F-1 Mirages continued southeast along the boundary between USAF and Navy radar coverage and penetrated into the screen surrounding ships that sailed in the Persian Gulf. A USAF Boeing E-3A Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACs) failed to notify Bunker Hill, Mobile Bay, and Worden by normal procedures and informed them by voice. McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A Hornets operating from aircraft carriers Midway and Theodore Roosevelt unsuccessfully attempted to intercept the intruders. The Sentry vectored four Saudi McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagles, and Saudi Capt. Ayedh al-Shamrani shot down both Mirages with AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. The Iraqis had reached a point 60 nautical miles from Mobile Bay and within range to launch Aérospatiale AM.39 Exocet air-to-surface missiles at the cruiser. Communications and radar errors and inexperience led to a nearly calamitous encounter.

Mobile Bay relieved Bunker Hill as the battle force’s anti-air warfare commander on 14 February. America entered the Arabian Gulf and rendezvoused with Battle Force Zulu the following day, marking the fourth carrier to operate with the group. The allies commenced the ground war when they launched Operation Sabre on 24 February 1991, and Mobile Bay succinctly reported the fighting as “intense, continuous air strikes from all four Battle Force ZULU carriers.” President George H. W. Bush announced that the coalition met its initial objectives and he declared a cease fire at 0800 on 28 February. While Mobile Bay acted as the anti-air warfare commander she tracked, identified, and deconflicted a daily average of more than 2,500 strike, fighter, surveillance, and command, control, and communications aircraft in the skies over the Arabian Gulf. In addition, she controlled and average of 12 pairs of armed reconnaissance aircraft per day. The ship recorded a constant average track load on her AEGIS system of 120 air contacts during the war, often counting higher peaks. Mobile Bay came about with Battle Group Alpha, stopped in Phattaya Beach, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Subic Bay, Philippines, and returned to Yokosuka on 15 April.

Mount Pinatubo on Luzon in the Philippines erupted on 12 June 1991. Typhoon Yunya added to the devastation when it slammed inland with fierce winds and rain. The eruption and typhoon killed more than 300 people and displaced more than 300,000. Aircraft carriers Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) and Midway, and ships from Amphibious Readiness Group Alpha, led by amphibious assault ship Peleliu (LHA-5), participated in Operation Fiery Vigil, the evacuation of victims. Abraham Lincoln transported 4,323 people including Navy and USAF dependents from Subic Bay, NAS Cubi Point, and Clark AB to Cebu City, Cebu, for further evacuation to Guam and the continental U.S.

Mobile Bay participated in Fiery Vigil. The cruiser steamed at high speed toward the Philippines and reached Subic Bay on 21 June. Midway loaded the last of the evacuees and Mobile Bay escorted the carrier to Cebu, where USAF transports flew them home. Mobile Bay then came about for Japanese waters, returning to Yokosuka on 1 July. Filipino looters compounded the tragedy when they ransacked the abandoned homes.

During a deployment with the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Battle Group to the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean, and Arabian Gulf (24 July 2002-25 April 2003), Mobile Bay’s sailors boarded 122 ships suspected of smuggling Iraq oil in violation of international sanctions while patrolling the Arabian Gulf. The boarders discovered and confiscated over 12,000 tons of Iraqi crude oil valued at more than $2 million. Additionally, the cruiser queried 220 vessels while patrolling the Gulf of Aden and Horn of Africa, principally while searching for al Qaeda terrorists that may have attempted to infiltrate through coalition naval and air patrols.

While an SH-60B from Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 43 Detachment 1 flying from Mobile Bay hovered over a Syrian vessel to observe a health inspection, its rotors accidentally cut into the ship’s mast and the Seahawk crashed, about 80 miles west of Būshehr, Iran, on 6 September 2002. Fifty-year-old Larry Greene, a civilian cameraman with KCBS-TV, died. Greene flew with the Navy crew while covering a feature commemorating the al-Qaeda terrorist attack on 9/11, and was survived by his wife and two sons. The four crewmembers all sustained minor injuries. A helicopter flew one of the sailors to aircraft carrier George Washington (CVN-73) for medical treatment. Australian helicopter frigate Arunta (FFH.151), Cmdr. R. J. Griggs, RAN, in command, assisted Mobile Bay. Arunta’s medical officer provided triage advice and helped in prioritizing the other three patients prior to their evacuation for further care ashore.

Mobile Bay escorted aircraft carrier Constellation (CV-64) during the initial fighting of Operation Iraqi Freedom I in March 2003. The cruiser joined 29 other U.S. and British ships and submarines that fired TLAMs against Iraqi military targets on 21 March, and she continued to launch her Tomahawks against the Iraqi forces during the succeeding days.

The ship took part in sinking amphibious assault ship Belleau Wood (LHA-3) during Rim of the Pacific 06 exercise (13-14 July 2006). Mobile Bay fired a RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile into Belleau Wood, and a number of other vessels and aircraft attacked her, but the amphibious assault ship defied all of their attacks and remained afloat. Explosive ordnance disposal sailors therefore detonated bombs on board Belleau Wood the following day, and she plunged beneath the depths.

Detailed history under construction.

Mark L. Evans

18 August 2014

Published:Tue Aug 11 07:54:57 EDT 2015