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The Navy Is Officially Building Its Next-Gen Destroyer

  • The U.S. Navy has begun working on a next-generation guided missile destroyer.
  • DDG(X) will replace both existing cruisers and destroyers across the fleet.
  • The Navy expects to begin construction of the first ship in 2028, with dozens more to follow.

    The U.S. Navy has officially started developing a new guided missile destroyer class. The tentatively titled DDG(X) will replace the older Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruisers (shown above) and early Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers (below).

    The ships will be the backbone of the Navy’s fleet into the mid-21st century, protecting carriers and high-end ships while also providing offensive firepower of their own.

    ⚓️ You love badass ships. So do we. Let’s nerd out over them together.

    The Navy kicked off DDG(X) by establishing a new program office to oversee development, Defense News reports. The office will manage DDG(X)’s “design, technical data package development, construction, testing, fleet introduction and sustainment plans,” with an eye toward ordering the first ship in 2028. If everything stays on track, the first ship should enter Navy service around 2032.

    The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Jason Dunham off Gdynia, Poland, 2015.

    NurPhotoGetty Images

    The Navy operates 22 Cold War-era Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruisers and 69 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. The Navy produced the Ticonderogas between 1980 and 1991 and expected to have replaced them by now, but a lack of funding over the last 20 years, when land wars dominated, has stymied the development of a replacement. The Arleigh Burke class, meanwhile, has basically been in continuous production since 1988, upgraded with new technology and a helicopter hangar.

    The Navy views the Ticonderogas as bodyguards for high-value warships. The service built the Ticonderogas with SPY-1A air defense radars, the Aegis Combat System, and 122 missile silos to repel mass missile attacks targeting aircraft carriers and their battle groups. The Arleigh Burke destroyers have a similar loadout, but with newer SPY-1D radars and 90-96 missile silos. The Burke destroyers can pinch hit as fleet defenders if necessary, and also hunt submarines and conduct attacks against land targets with cruise missiles.

    zumwalt

    The U.S. Navy was supposed to build 32 Zumwalt-class destroyers, but the program was cut to just three ships.

    HandoutGetty Images

    DDG(X) has big shoes to fill. The Navy’s new thinking appears to cast the ship as the main escort for carrier and amphibious groups while the new Constellation-class guided missile frigates and littoral combat ships take on lesser roles.

    The new destroyer will emphasize “a new hull form, an efficient Integrated Power System, and greater endurance,” according to Defense News. The power system will be essential for integrating the laser weapons that will probably go on DDG(X). The new destroyer will likely have at least one or two lasers—short-range weapons with adjustable power levels that can blind drones or shoot down incoming missiles.

    ddgx

    Early 2000s concept art of future U.S. Navy ships. First and second from right are DDG(X) type warships, but the Navy might opt for a less futuristic design to speed development and save money.

    U.S. Navy via Globalsecurity.org

    The DDG(X) will also likely have a multi-purpose 5-inch gun and large silos capable of carrying the Navy’s new hypersonic missiles. The ships will need standard-sized Mk. 41 silos for air defense missiles, long-range anti-submarine rockets, cruise missiles, and anti-ship missiles. The loss of the Ticonderoga class, with their 122 silos, means the next-generation ship will likely have at least 100 silos, and maybe more.

    The ship’s armament will probably include ship-launched lightweight anti-submarine torpedoes, a hangar and flight deck capable of supporting one or two MH-60 Seahawk helicopters, and facilities for launching and recovering smaller uncrewed surface and subsurface ships. The facilities could also support uncrewed aerial vehicles.

    The age of the Ticonderoga class, which should be retiring right now, means the Navy must keep the DDG(X) program on time and on track. The ship could share many of the same features as the latest version of the Arleigh Burke class in order to reduce risk.


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