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Great Images of the Ghost Fleet

by John Reed on June 9, 2011

If you want to see something really cool, look at this collection of images from a team that made its onto the U.S. Maritime Administration’s reserve fleet in Suisun Bay California. I used to drive past these ships all the time fantasizing about doing this. Above is a shot of Lockheed’s Sea Shadow stealth demonstrator ship inside the dry dock barge originally built for the super secret effort to raise the Soviet submarine K-129. (Imagine breaking into the barge and coming across that?) Below are a few of the cooler shots including several of the battleship U.S.S. Iowa.

For decades after World War II, the Suisun Bay fleet held hundreds of ships but that has dwindled to a few dozen today. The Maritime Administration maintains two other such fleets in Beaumont, TX, and James River,VA.  And don’t forget the U.S. Navy’s own reserve fleets in Philly and Puget Sound, WA.

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Matt June 9, 2011 at 3:39 pm

I think they still have a Newport News-class cruiser up in Quincy, MA, I think it's the USS Salem.

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Belesari June 9, 2011 at 4:58 pm

That is a Des Moines Class Yall are talking about there is no Newport News class It was one of the above though only 4 and yes she is the last one.

God the Iowa's are beautiful ships.

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Adam June 9, 2011 at 4:24 pm

So I live in Benicia, Ca which is the town that harbors these ships. Lived there my whole life. I owned a jet ski and many times rode around those ships. I'm 24 right now and can remember when there were houndreds and sometimes seemed like thousands of ships out there. Rigth now it seems emtpy. It's a cool collection. Watching those ships leave was always an event for our small town.

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anon June 9, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Sea Shadow, the "stealth boat". Strangely it looks like its still in good shape, but judging books by their cover is a big no-no.

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anon June 10, 2011 at 5:02 am

from the looks of it, the "dry dock" part of the dry dock barge is still working (there doesn't appear to be a significant amount of water in the bottom of the barge), so the Sea Shadow has been stored under cover, out of the water.

Probably is still in pretty good shape, especially if they drained the lubricating oils etc when they mothballed it

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Maxtrue June 11, 2011 at 9:37 am

Made in 1985, it was light years ahead of stealthy ships. There is a debate going on about the SMX-25 which is basically a submersible frigate. I think because of speed and stealth (not to discount the 16 missiles tubes and other weapons) it is a valuable concept I once brought up here (conceptually at least) when discussing LCS concepts…

Now if you could get Sea Shadow to fly……….

Meanwhile Iran and China obviously have taken notice….

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anon June 12, 2011 at 12:13 pm
Stephen Russell June 9, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Sweet pics, must for Military Channel & History Channel alone.

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Deane Gilmour June 9, 2011 at 9:38 pm

WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO THE OLD MOTHBALL LIBERTY FLEET IN WILMINGTON, NC? I REMEMBER AS A KID IN THE 40′S AND 50′S TRYING TO SEE THE END OF THE LINES OF THOSE SHIPS ALONG BOTH SIDES OF THE INLET ON THE WAY ONTO WILMINGTON. GUESS THEY ARE ALL IN DAVY JONES LOCKER NOW.

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Jacob June 9, 2011 at 10:37 pm

What's that last picture….a WWII radar screen?

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Chaplain Ed June 9, 2011 at 11:09 pm

That is a SPS-10 radar repeater. I used that in the CIC of the USS Pratt. Ah…memories!

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ew-3 June 9, 2011 at 11:41 pm

Make that a SPA-10 Father…

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Kevin June 10, 2011 at 7:33 am

It is a SPA-25, can't tell if its an A or B (I think the mods went all the way to G). Its a radar repeater that could have been used with the SPS-10 surface search radar, or any other one connected to the radar switchboard.

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SMSgt Mac June 9, 2011 at 11:11 pm

Great. What's next? Coverage of 'military base graffiti of the week'? Hope security gets them next time….. and they 'resist'.

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Tom Fitz June 9, 2011 at 11:12 pm

This is kind of a sad story for those who love ships, historic or not: well done. What's even sadder is the situation of the 1893 armored cruiser USS Olympia. Why that ship isn't a well-cared-for public monument is beyond me.

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anon June 10, 2011 at 4:07 pm

I don't know what the Olympia did to "deserve" to become a public monument. Defeat the Spanish in Manila? It's just a ship. We scrapped many better-deserving ships after WW2 (like the Baltys)

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Belesari June 10, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Well considering its history and the fact that its the only ship of its like left in the world and that it represents the moment where the US made the world understand it was no longer a nation of hunters farmers and a few people up north who had industry.

And considering defeating the spanish had HUGE effects around the world and especially in the pacific and carribean?

Yes other ships have been scrapped dont think they should have.

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jemc50 June 10, 2011 at 1:28 am

Cool pics. That being said, having these guys able to sneak aboard does not say much for the security patrols awareness. Something definitely wrong with the security "picture".

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M.G Halvorsen June 10, 2011 at 2:06 am

They sank my old ship this last year off Hawaii, after being in the Benicia "Mothball fleet" since 1996. They used the ex-USS New Orleans (LPH-!!) for target practice during the RimPac exercises. She took 42 Tomahawk missles, 5" naval gunfire, and a 500lb bomb before she finally rolled over and quit. Kinda sad to see her go.

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Roland June 10, 2011 at 4:09 am

What's it's armory? Can it defend itself against an attaking 70 Chinese catamaran missile boats?

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Foreign.Boy June 11, 2011 at 1:35 pm

I thought the IOWA was being dismantled. Its surprising even to see its guns still there.

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Chuck June 17, 2011 at 12:00 am

Being a former Navy guy I have a great fascination for the history of these ships. These were homes to many of my brothers (and sisters too but that was after my time). My former home is now a museum in San Diego and was saved from this rusting fate. A couple times a year I fish in suisun bay and I have observed folks moving about these ships. I assumed they were security or contractors continuing the mothball process. On more than one occasion we have been asked to move farther away. I have always wanted to take a walk around them myself. While sitting in a boat in the cold and dark just outside the exclusion zone you can hear the wind slam an undogged hatch and the the creaks and growns of the dying ships. It is beautiful and eary.

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