Surface Forces: Back To Burke

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August 5, 2008: The U.S. Navy decision to cancel the new DDG-1000 class of 14,000 ton destroyers, means that the two DDG-1000's under construction would be completed, but that eight more Burke class destroyers would be built, at a cost of $1.7 billion, two replace the other five DDH-1000s that were to be built (that would cost $3.2 billion each). What was to be the last of 62 Burke class destroyers is still being built, at a cost of $1.3 billion.

The navy wants to incorporate some of the DDG1000 technology into the new Burkes, especially "smart ship" automation that would reduce crew size by about 30 percent, and reduce annual operating costs from $25 million to $21 million. There is also a need to increase fuel efficiency, which could also shave a million or two from annual operating costs.

The DDG-1000 was also designed to carry two long range 155mm guns, but the need for these (to support amphibious operations) has been largely replaced by the appearance of low cost smart bombs. The DDG-1000 was also designed to carry a more capable, and larger, radar. Getting this into the Burkes might not be possible, or at least practical. The new radar has better performance against low flying targets (like long range anti-ship missiles), but lacks the ability to support the anti-missile missile capabilities of the Aegis radar currently on the Burkes. The good performance of the Aegis, particularly its proven anti-missile capability, was a major reason for dropping the larger and more expensive DDG-1000.

The navy will now try to repackage the many new features of the DDG-1000 into a smaller, cheaper and more salable (to Congress) package. This will be done by incorporating more and more of the new tech into the dozen or more new Burkes that will be built over the next decade.

The Burkes themselves are improved Spruances, which were the first truly post-World War II design for U.S. destroyers. These were built to replace the many World War II era ships that were being retired in the 1960s and 70s. Previous (1946-69) classes of destroyers had slowly grown from World War II size (about 2,800 tons) to nearly 5,000 tons, and introduced the use of missiles.  What most distinguished the Spruance/Burke ships was their size (at about 8,000 tons, twice as large as their World War II counterparts), use of gas turbine propulsion, and equipping them with missiles, helicopters and more powerful electronics. These ships were the size of World War II light cruisers.

 


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