A Tin Can Sailors Destroyer History
USS SPRUANCE DD-963
The Tin Can Sailor, April 2012
The USS SPRUANCE (DD-963) was the lead ship of her class. She was named for Admiral Raymond A. Spruance. She was built by the Ingalls Shipbuilding Division of Litton Industries at Pascagoula, Mississippi, and christened by Mrs. Raymond A. Spruance. The new ship was assigned to DesRon 24 and operated out of Mayport. As a class, the SPRUANCE ships proved highly successful as antisubmarine warfare destroyers. She was the first gas-turbine powered destroyer in the U.S. Navy. She was armed with an 8-cell NATO Sea Sparrow missile launcher for air defense.
She deployed to the Mediterranean for the first time in October 1979 with the SARATOGA battle group. She sailed with the BIDDLE (DDG-5), CONYNGHAM (DDG-17), MILWAUKEE (AOR-2), and MOUNT BAKER (AE-34). During the cruise, the SPRUANCE visited the Black Sea to conduct surveillance on the new Soviet helicopter carrier, MOSKVA, as she sailed from her building shipyard to join the Soviets’ Red Banner Northern Fleet, the SPRUANCE had to replace one of her LM-2500 gas turbine main engines.
Because she was the first gas turbine powered ship in the fleet, she had a distinctive underway replenishment breakaway flag, flown as she pulled away after receiving supplies and fuel from the logistics ship. It was a copy of the large yellow warning seen on the side of aircraft carrier superstructures. Its red block letters warned ‟Beware Jet Blast”. They unfurled the flag on the destroyer’s halyards and played the theme from the movie ‟Superman” as, with increasing speed, she steamed away from the supply ship.
The SPRUANCE deployed to the Arabian Sea in 1982, visiting the port of Mombasa, Kenya, in May 1982. She spent a brief time on station off Beirut in June 1982 before being relieved. That year, she transited both the Suez Canal and the Panama Canal in the same summer.
In January 1983, the SPRUANCE deployed for six months in the Persian Gulf in company with the USS OLIVER HAZARD PERRY (FFG-7) during the Iraq-Iran War. During a brief yard period, she received the CIWS and TAS Mk 23 radar system, then, in 1984, she went on to take part in Teamwork ’84 in the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean. She deployed to the Mediterranean Sea in November 1984 and conducted her second Black Sea Operations over Thanksgiving 1984. She returned from her deployment in May 1985 and shortly thereafter began her second overhaul during which she received the SH 60 and Vertical Launch System (VLS), replacing the old Mk 16 ASROC launcher.
She deployed to the Red Sea for six months in May 1993. There she spent over three and a half months conducting visits and board-and-search operations in support of United Nations sanctions against Iraq. While attached to the U.S. Sixth Fleet, the SPRUANCE visited ports in Spain. Additional stops in the Mediterranean consisted of a brief stop in Sicily, then to Souda Bay, Crete, for a maintenance period (IMAV) with the SHENANDOAH. The SPRUANCE passed through the Suez Canal on 29 June.
Upon arrival in the Red Sea, the SPRUANCE served as flagship of CTG 152.1 in command of the maritime interdiction forces. She served three different task force commanders.
While on station, the SPRUANCE conducted exercises with the Egyptian and Jordanian navies.
During her time in the Red Sea, she visited the Egyptian port of Hurghada for crew rest and relaxation. Other official port visits included Safaga, Egypt and Aqaba, Jordan, where the SPRUANCE hosted receptions for top military and embassy officials. On 10 September 1993, she intercepted the 18,000th ship since sanctions began in 1990. The ship intercepted the Maltese-flagged bulk carrier EARLY STAR en route from Massaua, Eritrea, to Aqaba in the Northern Red Sea. The ship was empty and was allowed to proceed. When the SPRUANCE was relieved as flagship on 9 October, she had completed more than 170 boardings. Once back in the
Mediterranean, she made port calls in France and Spain before returning home on 14 November.
In July 1994, as part of Operation Restore Democracy, she was one of the U.S. Navy ships assigned to enforce the United Nations embargo of Haiti. When the U.S. Coast Guard ships needed assistance in handling the volume of Haitians trying to escape from the island, the
SPRUANCE joined the effort, carrying nine hundred Haitians to Guantanamo Naval Station. She subsequently went on to Portsmouth, Virginia, for a period in dry dock.
In mid-1996, the SPRUANCE took part in the 24th annual BALTOPS, a U.S. invitational maritime exercise in the Baltic Sea. Made up of air, surface, and subsurface operations, the exercise involved 47 ships and aircraft from 12 different squadrons sent by 13 NATO and Partnership for Peace nations. The following year, she deployed to the Mediterranean from April through October with the JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV-67) carrier battle group. She served as the DesRon 24 flagship visiting thirteen foreign ports; participating in five multi-national naval exercises; serving as Presidential Support Ship in Rotterdam, Netherlands; representing the U.S.
Navy in Thoule Sur Mer, France, for the commemoration of the fifty-second anniversary of the Allied landings in southern France; and hosting Ukrainian military and diplomatic visitors during the 1997 Ukrainian Independence Day celebration. During that period, the SPRUANCE also took part in the Sea Breeze 97 Black Sea exercise that trained military forces to provide humanitarian relief for victims of a simulated earthquake in Southern Ukraine.
After dealing with the effects of Hurricane Floyd and Hurricane Gert off the east coast of
Florida, in the fall of 1999, the SPRUANCE crossed the Atlantic and entered the Mediterranean with other ships from the JOHN F. KENNEDY battle group. The battle group was the U.S. representative to the Standing Naval Forces Mediterranean, part of NATO’s reaction force ready to respond to any crisis concerning NATO’s interests in the Mediterranean.
On 1 June 2000, the SPRUANCE became the first U.S. Navy ship to use the dry dock in Jacksonville, Florida, in more than ten years. She remained there until early August. While in dry dock, her hull was cleaned and inspected and corrective and preventative maintenance performed. In September 2001, as part of the KENNEDY battle group, the SPRUANCE began
COMPUTEX exercises at the Vieques Island inner firing range and the northern and southern Puerto Rican operating areas. The exercises involved complex battle group training events, naval surface fire-support training, and air-to-ground bombing. COMPUTEX was designed to forge the battle group into a cohesive, fighting team, and was a critical step in the pre-deployment training cycle and prerequisite for the battle group’s Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) scheduled for early the following year.
In January 2002, as part of the battle group, the SPRUANCE began the two-phase Joint Task Force Exercise designed to meet the training requirement to prepare U.S. forces for joint and combined operations off the East Coast, as well as on training ranges in North Carolina and Florida. She returned to Mayport with the battle group on 7 December 2004 and was decommissioned there on 23 March 2005. The SPRUANCE was sunk as a target for aircraft-launched Harpoon missiles on 8 December 2006.