What could be the defining image of American naval power at the tail end of the Cold War, this photo of Battle Group Echo, taken while cruising the Arabian Sea, includes some of the most famous ships of second half of the 20th Century.
At its center is the USS Ranger, which was the setting for one of the most legendary opening sequences in movie history for a film that largely defined the public’s view of Naval Aviation, Top Gun. In front of it is the Iowa Class Battleship USS Missouri, which was brought out of mothballs and upgraded to fulfill President Reagan’s 600 ship Navy policy. Behind the USS Ranger is the one-of-a-kind nuclear guided missile cruiser, USS Long Beach, with its box-like superstructure it once shared in common with America’s first nuclear supercarrier, the USS Enterprise. No less than eight other cruisers, destroyers and frigates flank this historic trio.
The entire Battle Group shown includes (from rear to front, top to bottom):
Column 1: USNS Hassayampa (T-AO-145), USS Leftwich (DD-984), USS Hoel (DDG-13)
Column 2: USS Kansas City (AOR-3), USS Bunker Hill (CG-52), USS Robert E. Peary (FF-1073)
Column 3: USS Long Beach (CGN-9), USS Ranger (CV-61), USS Missouri (BB-63);
Column 4: USS Wichita (AOR-1), USS Gridley (CG-21), USS Curts (FFG-38);
Column 5: USS Shasta (AE-33), USS John Young (DD-973), USS Buchanan (DDG-14)
Battle Group Echo was one big-ass flotilla of American power projection with a wide range of capabilities ranging from the “Mighty Mo’s” archaic but devastatingly effective 16 inch guns, to the state of the art AEGIS combat system deployed aboard the very new (at the time) Ticonderoga Class USS Bunker Hill. All told, there is about half of a century of naval technology on display in this photo.
It was truly an amazing moment in US Navy history.
Contact the author at Tyler@jalopnik.com.