Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, November 5, 2007

Ex-warship now a launch platform for missile testing

By William Cole

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The decommissioned Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli was towed under the Golden Gate Bridge in late 2006, on its way to Hawai'i, where it now serves as a mobile launch platform for the U.S. ballistic missile defense program.

BEN MARGOT | Associated Press

spacer spacer

Among the sleek $1 billion destroyers in Pearl Harbor, one ship strikes an incongruous pose.

Noticeably listing, the decommissioned 603-foot amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli has streaked sides clearly in need of fresh paint.

Its aircraft carrierlike deck has been cleared of helicopters, and beige tents and large satellite antennas have sprouted in their place.

But the down-on-its-luck-appearing ship, decommissioned in 1995, has a high-tech role as a launch platform with the nation's developing ballistic missile defense program.

The Tripoli was recently towed off Kaua'i to launch a "Scud-like" missile that was successfully intercepted by a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile on Oct. 26. The interceptor was launched from the launch complex at the Pacific Missile Range Facility.

The Tripoli was used in a series of tests this year, and is usually more than 100 miles off Kaua'i during a launch, according to the Missile Defense Agency.

Officials said the Tripoli would be towed back to the San Francisco Bay Area after the latest test and return again to Pearl Harbor in the late spring.

In December 2006, the odd-looking ship with its tentlike structures drew curious stares as it passed beneath the Golden Gate Bridge.

It arrived at Pearl Harbor in January this year, and departed for the Pacific Missile Range Facility operating area in mid-January for the first of three flight tests.

On Kaua'i, there is not a land-based target launch site that would support the terminal phase high-altitude testing, the Missile Defense Agency said. The operation of the Tripoli as a mobile launch platform costs about $600,000 annually.

The Missile Defense Agency said the ship's list is intentional for maintenance or tests on launch equipment.

The Tripoli earned nine campaign stars during the Vietnam War. In the 1991 Gulf War, the Tripoli hit an Iraqi mine that ripped open a 16-foot hole below the waterline, but the ship was repaired.

Among those who have served aboard the Tripoli is Adm. Robert Willard, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, which has its headquarters at Pearl Harbor. Willard commanded the ship from September 1994 to June 1995.

"When she was commissioned in 1966 or even when she was decommissioned 29 years later I'll bet no one imagined this is what USS Tripoli would be doing now," Willard said. "This ship is continuing to make contributions toward our national security."

  • Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that the president has nominated Army Col. Joseph Caravalho Jr., who was raised in Kane'ohe, for promotion to brigadier general.

    Caravalho is assistant chief of staff for health affairs at 18th Airborne Corps headquarters. Caravalho is a 1975 graduate of Saint Louis School, and his parents, Agnes and Joseph Sr., live in Kane'ohe, the Army said.

  • The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Charlotte recently returned to Pearl Harbor after spending almost two years at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Va., during a depot modernization. In late 2005, the 360-foot ship cruised under the Arctic ice cap before reaching Norfolk. The Charlotte surfaced at the North Pole through 61 inches of ice.

    General Dynamics Electric Boat Corp., in 2006, was awarded $10 million for maintenance and modernization work on the USS Charlotte and refueling and overhaul of the USS Georgia at Norfolk Naval Shipyard.

  • Gov. Linda Lingle has released $6.4 million for design and construction of the first phase of the Keaukaha Joint Military Center on the Big Island. The project will consolidate the Hawai'i Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve units stationed at Honoka'a, Kea'au and the Kuneida facility in Hilo, and also will house the state Office of Veteran Services.

    "In addition to improving the efficiency of Hawai'i Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve operations on the Big Island as part of the Base Realignment and Closure Act of 2005, this important project will provide our Army personnel, veterans and other members of Hawai'i's military family with access to improved facilities and services," Lingle said in a news release.

    The project involves demolishing old buildings on the Keaukaha Military Reservation site and erecting new buildings on a section of the reservation next to Hilo Airport. The new complex will include an assembly hall, classrooms and learning center, training device and simulation center, offices, locker rooms and showers, vehicle maintenance facilities and parking.

  • A HireVetsFirst job fair will be held Thursday at the Disabled American Veterans Hall, 2685 North Nimitz Highway.

    The event, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., is part of a U.S. Department of Labor effort to hold veterans' job fairs in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico between Oct. 23 and Nov. 16. There is no charge for admission to the Honolulu event.

    A list of job fair locations and more information about the HireVetsFirst campaign are available at www.hirevetsfirst.gov.

    For more information on all veterans' employment programs offered by VETS, visit www.dol.gov/vets.

    Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com.