The primary mission of the Weapons Department is to deliver accurate and precise gunfire offensively and defensively. To accomplish this, some 350 officers and men are assigned to the department. The ship is capable of delivering gunfire in support of inland combat forces as well as amphibious operations, providing air defence for itself and ships in company, defeating any enemy man-of-war now afloat and acting as a surface raider against enemy merchant shipping. To accomplish these capabilities the ship mounts 3 triple 8"/55 caliber rapid-fire turrets, 6 twin 5"/38 caliber mounts and 4 twin 3"/50 caliber mounts.
The 8"/55 caliber rapid fire gun is the main armament of the ship. It has a firing rate of 10 rounds per gun per minute. This tremendous fire power, made possible through the use of semi-fixed ammunition as opposed to the older bag gun, allows the main battery to deliver up to fifteen tons of projectiles on a selected target every minute, at ranges in excess of 14 miles. The main battery is primarily used against land or surface targets, however, a maximum elevation of 41 degrees on the turrets gives it an anti-aircraft capability in addition to the primary mission. The nine guns, in three turrets, are the fastest firing major caliber guns in the world. The main battery is controlled either by one or both of two MK-54 directors with a MK-13 radar which is able to track surface targets at ranges up to 40 miles.
The 5"/38 caliber gun is a dual purpose, (may be used against shore, surface or aircraft targets) semi-automatic gun with a maximum range of 9 miles. The rate of fire is dependent upon the proficiency of the crew, and averages about 17 rounds per minute per gun for a well trained crew for a battery firing rate of 200 rounds per minute. In addition to its use as a weapon of destruction, the 5" gun has the capability of firing illuminating projectiles which are used to light a target during hours of darkness. The 5" guns are primarily controlled by the MK-37 gunfire control system with a MK-25 radar which has a capability of tracking air targets up to 50 miles distance. There are four such control systems installed.
The 3"/50 rapid fire gun is a semi-automatic gun used primarily against air targets, although it does have the capability of firing against any surface/land targets in range. The rate of fire for the 3" gun is 45 round per minute per gun for a battery firing rate of 360 rounds per minute. The maximum range of the gun is 7 miles. This gun is primarily controlled by the MK-56 gun fire control system with a MK-35 radar which can track air targets up to a range of 15 miles. There are four such fire control systems installed.
Control of the guns may be shifted from one director to another and even from one type of director to another. For example, any of the 8" turrets may be controlled by any of 6 directors. This gives NEWPORT NEWS one of the most flexible armament systems ever taken to sea.
The biggest asset to our country in having this tremendous fire power potential is that it can be moved on short notice, intact, to nearly any point on the high seas or in territorial waters with relative ease and can remain there for an indefinite period of time. This fire power has recently been clearly demonstrated in Southeast Asia. At this point it might be added with pride that NEWPORT NEWS scored a new record by firing almost 80,000 rounds against the enemy in her two recent Viet Nam deployments.
Before any ship in the Navy can remain at sea for an indefinite period of time steps must be taken to permit the ship to receive fuel, provisions, ammunition, personnel, and spare parts while underway. These functions are performed by the deck hands of the Weapons Department. The ship is capable of receiving replenishments from other ships at four separate stations on each side of the ship, plus a highline for simultaneous transfer of personnel and light freight. This permits the ship to receive approximately 200 tons for freight and supplies per hour. NEWPORT NEWS is equipped to transfer or receive fuel from four different stations; two to port and two to starboard. It can refuel two ships at one time, delivering at the rate of 4,000 gallons per minute, with highline and freight transfers being accomplished at the same time. In addition, the deck force maintains and operates 10 boats for use by liberty parties, as life boats, etc.
For administrative and battle purposes, the department is divided into ten divisions; The First, Third, Fourth and Seventh Divisions are composed of boatswain mates and seamen whose duties include general maintenance of most of the topside portion of the ship, all portions of seamanship (rigging for transfer of fuel/stores, operating the ship's boats, etc.) and manning the ship's gun during general quarters.
The Second, Fifth, and Sixth divisions are made up of gunners mates and seamen who maintain, repair and man all installed gun armament.
The Marine Detachment, composed of some 37 Marines, is the heart of the ship's landing party and is responsible for the physical security of the ship.
The largest division in the department, Fox Division, is composed essentially of Fire Control Technicians whose responsibilities include the maintenance of all directors, fire control radars, plotting rooms and associated equipment. When Commander SECOND FLEET is aboard, the ship carries a helicopter and the personnel required for its maintenance and operations are assigned to the Weapons Department as Victor Division. A Drone Unit, a radio controlled gunnery target is, on occasion, assigned to the ship and these personnel are combined with the Victor Division.