The clock is winding down to save the USS Ranger

By Meghann Myers

The decommissioned supercarrier Ranger is headed to the scrapyard unless a Southern California organization can convince the Navy to spare it in the next few weeks.

Ranger, which “Top Gun” fans will remember for its on-screen cameo, was sold to International Shipbreaking late last year after a previous effort to turn the ship into a museum failed, according to a Dec. 22 release from Naval Sea Systems Command.

In early January, California-based Top Gun Super Carrier of Long Beach Inc., launched an online petition and social media campaign to save the Ranger.

“If you think about what we can bring to it, an economic boon to the city of Long Beach, it’s a no-brainer,” project manager Mike Shanahan, a career hospital architect, told Navy Times in a Jan. 13 phone interview.

Ranger was decommissioned in July 1993 after more than 35 years of service. It completed 22 Western Pacific deployments, earning 13 battle stars during the Vietnam War and supporting Operation Desert Storm.

In 2004, the Navy took it off of the list for potential reactivation, designating it for preservation in return for a donation.

Top Gun Super Carrier stood up in September 2014 after the Navy rejected a plan from the USS Ranger Foundation, which had tried to save the ship during its eight-year period on donation hold.

“Unfortunately, we are not able to keep ships in storage forever, and so we had no choice but to move forward with this contract [to scrap the ship],” said Chris Johnson, a spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command.

Though Shanahan said his organization has gathered $14 million in pledges, a full-fledged plan hasn’t been presented.

“Though we would have preferred for the ship to be converted into a museum or memorial, during the eight years it was available, no group was able to pull together the necessary funding to make that happen,” Johnson said.

Despite the pledged money and support from the Port of Long Beach, which would provide the berthing space, the plan isn’t sufficient to alter the Navy’s course right now.

Shanahan envisions a multi-use space in Long Beach’s harbor, with museum and display space as well as an event venue, commercial dining space and, maybe one day, clinical space to treat veterans.

“And suddenly, you’ve got this economic engine in the form of a ship, and you’ve managed to save it not only from a historical perspective, but from a destination perspective,” Shanahan said.

That plan is still preliminary, though. For now, the Save the Ranger campaign is asking for time.

Shanahan said the organization will put up $200,000 to cover the cost of keeping the Ranger in Bremerton, Washington, another year, while leaders of the group firm up the plans.

Unfortunately, that approach isn’t legal, Johnson said.

“We cannot take private funding for inherently military purposes, so it’s not accurate when the group says it can raise funds to keep the ship on donation hold,” he said.

In light of that, it’s likely that Ranger will begin its trip down to Brownsville, Texas, for dismantling in late January or early February.

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