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An arsenal ship was a concept for a floating missile platform intended to have as many as five hundred vertical launch bays for mid-sized missiles, most likely cruise missiles. In current U.S. naval thinking, such a ship would initially be controlled remotely by an Aegis Cruiser, although plans include control by AWACS aircraft such as the E-2 Hawkeye and E-3 Sentry.
Proposed by the U.S. Navy in 1996, it had funding problems, with the United States Congress cancelling some funding, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) providing some funding to individual contractors for prototypes. Some concept artwork of the Arsenal Ship was produced, some images bearing the number "72", possibly hinting at an intent to classify the arsenal ships as a battleship, since the last battleship ordered (but never built) was USS Louisiana (BB-71).
The arsenal ship would have a small crew and as many as 500 vertical launch tubes for missiles to provide ship-to-shore bombardment for invading troops. The Navy calculated a $450 million price for the arsenal ship, but Congress scrapped funding for the project in 1998.
The U.S. Navy has since modified the four oldest Ohio-class Trident submarines to SSGN configuration, allowing them to carry up to 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles using vertical launching systems installed in the tubes which previously held strategic ballistic missiles, creating a vessel roughly equivalent to the arsenal ship concept.
In 2013, Huntington Ingalls Industries revived the idea when it proposed a Flight II version of the LPD-17 hull with a variant carrying up to 288 VLS cells for the ballistic missile defense and precision strike missions.
China has reported to begin testing model arsenal ships built by Bohai Shipbuilding Heavy Industrial Corporation.
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- U.S. Department of Defense. Arsenal Ship...21st Century Battleship. Brief prepared by OPNAV (N86). Washington, D.C.: 23 May 1996.
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