Ships of the Surface Fleet: Guided Missile Destroyers (DDG)

Ships steam in formation
ATLANTIC OCEAN (March 15, 2016) Guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94), front, steams in formation with USS Stout (DDG 56), USS Mason (DDG 87), USS Monterey (CG 61) and USS Roosevelt (DDG 80). While at sea, the ships supported a live-fire event conducted as part of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX), the final certification event prior to deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan U. Kledzik/Released)

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.

SOUDA BAY, CRETE, Greece (July 27, 2007) – The guided missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) arrives in Crete for a routine port visit. Arleigh Burke is the lead ship of her class of guided missile destroyers and is homeported in Norfolk, Va. (U.S. Navy photo by Mr. Paul Farley/Released)

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.

PHILIPPINE SEA (Sept. 20, 2016) A Tomahawk Land Attack Missile is launched from the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) during Valiant Shield 2016. Valiant Shield is a biennial, U.S. only, field-training exercise with a focus on integration of joint training among U.S. forces. This is the sixth exercise in the Valiant Shield series that began in 2006. Stethem is on patrol with Carrier Strike Group Five (CSG 5) in the Philippine Sea supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Command Master Chief Jaret Morris/ Released)

Their vast firepower centers around the Aegis Weapon System which includes the SPY-1D multi-function phased array radar, advanced systems, a Vertical Launch System, and the Tomahawk Weapon System.

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.


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