For a class of ships that got their start in the Navy combating swift, small torpedo boats that could dash in close to the larger ships, loose their torpedoes and dash away, guided missile destroyers have matured and become the long-term endurance runners of the fleet by logging more than a century’s worth of work in support of naval dominance.
Their adaptability and usefulness has led to them becoming the most abundant type of vessel in the U.S. Navy Surface Force — capable of providing both multi-mission offensive and defensive capabilities, they serve as the backbone of the fleet.
Modern destroyers can effectively tackle a variety of Anti-Air Warfare, Anti-Submarine Warfare, and Anti-Surface Warfare missions. Their versatility allows them to operate independently or as part of larger carrier strike groups, surface action groups, amphibious ready groups, or underway replenishment groups.
The two current variants of destroyers are the Arleigh Burke and Zumwalt classes.
The first Arleigh Burke class ship (DDG 51) was brought into the fleet with a bang, as it shares the country’s birthday. It was commissioned on July 4, 1991.
This class is still in production today though the original design has been upgraded through the years in order to keep pace with capabilities and technology. One of the most prevalent updates is the addition of dual hangars on DDG 79 and later to accommodate embarked helo support. DDG 51-78 only had external landing capability.
Newer ships also receive incorporated advanced sensors, weapons, and improved support systems during construction, while older ships in service undergo a comprehensive mid-life upgrade to ensure all Arleigh Burke class ships maintain mission effectiveness and remain an integral part of the Navy’s Sea Power 21 Plan.
With all-steel construction, numerous damage control features, powered and gas turbine propulsion engines capable of achieving 30+ knot speeds in the open seas — they truly are a mobile, lethal, flexible instrument of national power.
The capability of U.S. Navy destroyers will continue to admirably represent the Surface Force on behalf of American interests at home and abroad for generations to come.
Stay tuned as we take a deeper look at the next generation USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) in the coming weeks.