Into the Nuclear Age

Above: NS Savannah, America’s first and only nuclear propelled merchant ship, built at New York Ship in 1964.

Home History Into the Nuclear Age

Nuclear Submarines and Merchant Ships

Following the war, New York Shipbuilding Corporation moved into the nuclear age, producing a series of nuclear submarines and the first commercial nuclear merchant ship, NS Savannah.

In 1953, the Merritt Chapman Scott Corporation acquired New York Ship, and continued to produce many new warships and merchant vessels. In preparation for building one of the Navy’s large conventionally powered super carriers, New York Ship experienced its last major expansion. A new drydock over 1,100 feet in length was constructed to the south of the original covered shipways.

One of the many large capacity planer machines at New York Ship, with a platen travel of 40 feet. Heavy industrial machinery such as this made the construction of extremely complex ships possible in Camden, NJ.

One of the many large capacity planer machines at New York Ship, with a platen travel of 40 feet. Heavy industrial machinery such as this made the construction of extremely complex ships possible in Camden, NJ.

In December 1956, the super carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63) was laid down in the new drydock. At close to 60,000 tons, Kitty Hawk was the largest hull ever launched from New York Ship.

However, not all work involved new construction. The navy’s program for converting WWII cruisers to carry guided missiles brought USS Little Rock (CL-92) to New York Ship. In December 1960, Little Rock emerged as CLG-4, a guided missile light cruiser armed with nuclear tipped “Talos” guided missiles and the latest naval radar systems. Two other cruisers would also be upgraded to missile cruisers at New York Ship.

Such conversion or modernization work kept the skilled yard workers busy through the early 1960’s. Today, Little Rock is preserved as a museum ship in Buffalo, New York.

USS Little Rock (CLG-4) trains out her new nuclear-tipped “Talos” guided missiles in 1962. Converted from a Cleveland Class light cruiser at New York Ship from 1959-1960, Little Rock was one of only two ships to carry the massive SPS-2 tringular shaped radar. With a range in excess of 70 miles, “Talos” was the Navy’s premier surface to air missile systems in the 1960’s (left). USS Little Rock (CLG-4) alongside the outfitting pier at New York Ship after completion. One of the U.S. Navy’s first nuclear-armed guided missile cruisers, Little Rock served primarily in the Mediterranean as flagship, 6th Fleet. Photo is dated December 19, 1959 (right).