VTHE NEW DDG-51 CLASS GUIDED MISSILE DESTROYERS —A Report—
When the Navy announced on 2 April that Bath Iron Works had won the competition to build the first of the new DDG-51 (Arleigh Burkeclass) Aegis guided missile destroyers it meant—for the Navy, and for the U.S. shipbuilding industry as well—the end of a very long wait.
The reason for the shipbuilders' enthusiasm is obvious: The Burkes represent, in terms of ship numbers as well as, probably, shipbuilding dollars, the biggest U.S. Navy newconstruction program likely to be available from now until the end of the century. But, of that, more later. To understand the importance of the program to the Navy it is necessary only to point out that to Navymen of all nations the destroyer is the combat ship par excellence. Unlike minesweepers, oilers, and other specialized ships such as aircraft carriers, submarines, and amphibious ships, the destroyer is available for duty—any type of duty— anywhere "At all times in all climes." The macho image of destroyers is such that for decades the standard advice given to newly commissioned male line ensigns of the U.S. Navy has been to "put in for destroyer duty." The U.S. Naval Institute's Naval Terms Dictionary (by Captain John V. Noel Jr., USN-Ret., and Captain Edward L. Beach, USN-Ret.) even editorializes in its "destroyer" entry, describing the ubiquitous "tin can" as a "small, high-speed, lightly armed and un-armored jack-of-all-trades which deservedly has become the favorite of surface officers." Destroyermen are as macho as the ships they ride. They don't get the bonus pay of the "nukes" and the "flyboys." They don't get the publicity, either—the glory that, also "deservedly," goes to those who serve aboard the Nimitz-class supercarriers deployed as a show of force off Central America, or to the crew members of the Poseidon and Trident ballistic missile submarines, least vulnerable leg of the nation's strategic deterrence triad. They're almost always overworked, have to endure the greatest extremes in weather, and stand at the far end of the line when it comes to habitability improvements. But they're sailors, by God, perhaps the last real sailors in this man's Navy, and they let you know it by the way they walk, by the way they talk, and by the way they fight.
All of which explains in large part why the 22 October 1967 sinking of the Israeli destroyer Eilat—sent to the bottom by a Soviet-built Styx anti-ship missile launched from an Egyptian Komar-class fast attack craft displacing only 70 tons— created a tidal wave of anxiety among destroyermen everywhere.
Until then, every effective threat against a surface combatant could be met by an equally effective counter- threat. Incoming enemy aircraft could be dispatched by one's own carrier-based aircraft. Other surface ships could be outrun, outmaneuvered, outgunned, and/or just simply outnumbered. Mines could be swept and neutralized. Submarines, even the USSR's superb new nuclear attack boats, could be located, identified, tracked, targeted, and eventually sunk.
But there was nothing in the inventory, or even in the long RDT&E (research, test, and evaluation) pipeline to counter the antiship missile—several improved versions of which, naval intelligence had reported, would soon be deployed. Among the newer versions which already had been tested were sea-skimmers invincible to U.S. shipboard radars designed for the detection of high-flying manned aircraft, and surface- and sublaunched shipbusters that could be launched from hundreds of miles away. Many would be supersonic, considerably faster than the 0.9 Mach SS-N-2 Styx missile that had sunk the Eilat.
Perhaps the most important new element in the equation, though, was the relatively low cost of the new missile vs. the much higher cost of the ship targeted. In theory, Navymen knew, any missile launched could be detected, could be tracked and targeted, and therefore could be shot down. But there was no way to stop the veritable swarm of missiles that could be simultaneously launched to simply overwhelm the then still primitive defensive systems of a single ship or an entire fleet.
It is almost axiomatic, though, that for every theoretical problem there is a theoretical solution. The theoretical solution the Navy sought as the answer to the not theoretical but very real problem of anti-ship missiles was to develop a new type of defensive system that could not only detect—at long range, in large numbers, and in all types of weather— incoming enemy missiles and aircraft, but also track all of them continuously, and, at the same time, almost automatically coordinate and direct one's own defensive complex of guns, missiles, and aircraft to meet and destroy the intruders. (The "almost" is mandatory, because mistakes in modern warfare could have such cataclysmic consequences that there must always be a human in the loop—in this case, the Navy's battle-force commander.) That relatively easy-to-define solution was exceedingly difficult to implement, but two decades of trials and tribulations (dating, in fact, from before the Eilat sinking) led to the eventual deployment and early combat-testing of the felicitously named Aegis system. In Greek mythology, Aegis was the name of the shield belonging to Zeus. In today's U.S. Navy, Aegis is the umbrella term used to describe a complex of systems and subsystems collectively heralded as "the shield of the fleet." If any naval warfare system deserves the description "miracle of modern technology," Aegis is it. Praised by Navy Secretary John Lehman as "the key to the survival of the battle group," the overall Aegis-equipped ship—integrates, coordinates, and directs a complex of some 25 separate elements, including but not limited to: the AN/ SPY-1A radar system; air and surface search radars; numerous other sensor systems and ancillary display systems for battle-command purposes; navigation, radio, and other communications and support systems; and a broad spectrum of guns, missiles, torpedoes, and other weapon systems.
The heart of the system is the AN/SPY-1A radar, a unique fixedantenna system which can automatically detect and track literally hundreds of targets while at the same time conducting a continuous scan of what Navy officials proudly, but guardedly, describe as "a vast volume of air and ocean surface space around the fleet." It is not necessary to go into the detailed electronic specifications to appreciate the marvels of the Aegis system, but a brief description of how the SPY-1 "phased-array" radar differs from other systems should be useful to an understanding, if only through interpolation, of the overall Aegis system. The "most obvious" difference between the SPY-1 and its conventional-radar predecessors is that, as is pointed out in an Aegis article in the May 1985 "Naval Review" issue of the Naval Institute Proceedings, the SPY-1 "does not have a rotating or oscillating antenna that 'paints' the target with a mechanically-swept beam on each rotation or scan.
"Instead," say the Proceedings' authors (Captain J o s e p h L. McClane Jr., USN-Ret., and his son, Commander J a m e s L.
McClane Jr., USN), "a fixed antenna projects a narrow beam of energy in a brief pulse at a particular point. With its pencil-like beam (or 'dwell,' as it is called) searching a specified volume of space for about a millisecond [one thousandth of a second] according to a computercontrolled search doctrine, the phased-array radar does away with the ponderous inertia of the mechanically- sweeping radar antenna.
"In applications with Aegis," continue the two McClanes, pere et fils, "the SPY-1A provides extremely rapid target acquisition and tracking, and, equally important, the generation of constantly updated fire control data for launching and guiding missiles to their target." The bullish title of the McClanes' Proceedings article is "The Ticonderoga Story: Aegis Works." The fact that the system does indeed work—as was dramatically demonstrated both in combat deployments off Lebanon and in numerous T&E (test and evaluation) firing missions—is one of the main reasons the Navy was finally able, after years of legislative backing and filling, to get Congressional approval to proceed with construction of the first of DDG-51 Arleigh Burkes.
To suggest that Congressional goahead— as well as the Navy's subsequent contract award on the first Burke—was as welcome to the nation's shipbuilders as to the Navy itself is to understate the obvious. Private-sector U.S. shipyards—and their second- and third-echelon suppliers, subcontractors, and systems manufacturers—have long beer accustomed to working in "peaks and valleys" cycles, but almost never before have they had to face so depressing an outlook for future work orders.
The reasons why are complex and varied. The following, therefore, must be considered as an extremely simplified explication of the current situation: (1) Except for routine repair and maintenance, post-WW II U.S.
yards cannot expect much commercial business for the foreseeable future. There are virtually no new U.S.-flag bottoms now being built in U.S. yards, the construction differential subsidy (CDS) program is but a memory, and in the face of skyrocketing deficits direct financial relief from the federal government is almost unlikely. Moreover, unless and until the executive and legislative branches of government reach ideological agreement on the need for a sizable U.S.-flag merchant fleet for mobilization purposes, there is little hope for even indirect help through cargo-preference bills or other legislation.
(2) With commercial prospects so bleak, the private-sector yards and their suppliers and subcontractors have been turning increasingly to the Navy as now their only hope for long-term economic salvation. Fortunately— for the Navy as well as for the U.S. shipbuilding industry— the much publicized "Reagan defense buildup" is based, in naval/ military terms, on a "forward strategy," and that means a heavy emphasis on sea service forces: the Navy to protect the sea lanes and to show the flag on an around-the-world basis, and the Marine Corps as a quickly mobilizable rapid deployment force in being.
(3) In 1968, at the height of the war in Vietnam, the Navy had in its active fleet inventory over 1,000 ships of all types. Many of those ships were on their last sea legs, though—holdovers from the WW II building boom and not really suited for naval warfare in an age of nuclear propulsion, anti-ship missiles, and instantaneous worldwide communications via satellite. By the late 1970s literally hundreds had been stricken from the register—scrapped, shifted to the National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF), sold or otherwise transferred to Third World allies, or assigned to the Naval Reserve. (It is worth noting that not one was sunk by enemy action.) (4) In normal times—however "normal" is defined in this second half of the most abnormal century in all of recorded history—the ships dropped from the register would have been replaced, probably on a one-for-one basis. (Theoretically, fewer ships would be required, because the replacement ships would be, and are, much more capable than the ships being replaced; that factor is more than offset, though, by the increase in U.S. commitments worldwide and the burgeoning post-WW II growth of the Soviet Navy.) Moreover, the 1960s and 1970s were particularly bad times for the U.S. Navy. Shipbuilding was cut back repeatedly to pay for the more immediate needs of U.S. air and ground units on the scene in Vietnam; one year, only five ships were funded.
(5) There was no postwar catchup period, either, largely because defense spending in general declined during the politically troubled Nixon/Ford years. There was a modest upturn during the Carter Administration, but Naval Acadamy graduate Carter and his Secretary of Defense, Harold Brown, favored a "Central Front" strategy which emphasized the importance of the air and ground units positioned on NATO's Central Front in Europe and relegated the Navy and Marine Corps to a more or less subordinate role. The Iranian hostage crisis demonstrated, rather belatedly, the continuing need for globally deployed naval/maritime forces, but by that time several private- sector yards already had gone belly up, and the overall shipbuilding industrial base was in a state of grim uncertainty.
(6) Depression changed to a state of near euphoria soon after Mr. Reagan was inaugurated and, with Navy Secretary Lehman and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger acting as spokesmen, announced, articulated, and speedily implemented the previously mentioned "forward strategy" of defense with its emphasis on sea service forces. In one of Mr. Carter's last acts as President he submitted a fiscal year 1982 budget request that projected, among other things, construction of only 14 new ships (at a cost of $6.6 billion) with FY 1982 funding, and only nine ships (costing $6.7 billion) with FY 1983 funding. On 4 March 1981, Mr. Weinberger unveiled the much revised budget request sent to Congress the previous day and announced that Mr. Reagan was seeking an additional $32.6 billion for defense. Included in the overall total was $6.8 billion in supplemental funding sought for fiscal year 1981—the then-current fiscal year—and $25.8 billion extra for FY 1982. The latter increases represent the largest peacetime funding add-on for defense programs in U.S. history, and included $3.8 billion more for FY 1982 shipbuilding programs, bringing the overall SCN (shipbuilding and conversion, Navy) funding request to $10.4 billion." (The 4 March revisions also added $367 million to the FY 1981 SCN budget, and thus provided even earlier relief to the beleaguered U.S. shipbuilding industry.) Congress has, in general, supported the forward strategy as well, and except for a few minor reductions and stretchouts has approved in toto all of Mr. Reagan's SCN requirements; the $10 billion annual shipbuilding budget is now almost a fixed cost item in the overall Defense Department budget, and can be expected to remain at or above the $10-12 billion level for at least the next several years, and probably longer.
There are several caveats that should be remembered, though. One is that, media and political criticism to the contrary notwithstanding, the Reagan Administration has been extremely parsimonious in doling out its shipbuilding dollars. Navy Secretary Lehman does his homework well, and he is a hard bargainer. He almost always gets what he asks for from Congress, but then turns around and insists on getting from the private sector full value, and then some, for every shipbuilding or aircraft procurement dollar spent. He is wedded to the concept of competition, and has used it to drive down prices. He is also a bargainhunter, willing to buy no-longercompetitive merchant ships, whether U.S.-built or foreign-built (the Sea-Land SL-7s are a particularly good example), for conversion, modernization, and subsequent assignment to either the active fleet or the Military Sealift Command's reinvigorated Ready Reserve Force (RRF).
A second caveat is that Pentagon procurement practices overall have been in a state of flux in recent years, with much greater emphasis on serious production and multiyear and multi-unit procurement.
The net effect from the contractor's point of view is better long-term security and a potentially higher profit margin, but at the same time a higher element of risk involving difficult-to-absorb losses if actual costs exceed estimated costs.
Yet a third caveat, perhaps the most important insofar as the U.S. shipbuilding community is concerned, is that the Reagan/Weinberger/ Lehman buildup to a 600- ship fleet is predicated largely on: (1) Conversions of ships already in the inventory (SLEP means servicelife extension program); (2) Reactivation of older ships, such as the Iowa-class battleships; and (3) Increases in the building rate of ships proposed earlier in the Carter SCN program—e.g., SSN-688 (Los Angeles- class I) nuclear attack submarines, and the Ticonderoga-class Aegis guided missile cruisers.
In that context, the start of the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke construction program takes on special significance. With Newport News Shipbuilding locked in as prime contractor on all new aircraft carriers, and with Newport News and the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics sharing the submarine programs between them (not necessarily on a SOSO basis, though), the DDG-51s represented by far the biggest new-construction opportunity open to virtually all bidders. Added to that huge economic incentive are a number of other factors, including the following: (1) Although present Navy plans project construction of only 29 Burkes—at a total program cost of $20-30 billion—earlier projections were based on a total program ranging from 49 ships (the number proposed by the Carter Administration) to 63 ships (the number earlier used by Reagan Administration witnesses before Congress, and still used by Congressional Budget Office staffers in their "most likely" scenarios developed for long-term budget planning.) (2) The lead-ship award to BIW doesn't end the competition; it only ends Round One. The Navy plans to bring a second yard into the production program in 1987, and possibly a third yard a year or two later. There are several reasons for this approach: to spread the work around, and keep more yards economically viable; to get more ships into the active fleet at an earlier date; and to keep the competition alive—and, thus, to keep costs low—for the entire life of the program.
(3) The continuing drive for systems "commonality" and for use of "off the shelf" technology and components in new-ship construction makes it almost inevitable that those yards, suppliers, and subcontractors that win a piece of the Aegis action will have a leg up in the bidding for future contract awards, whether new-construction or repair/ renovation/modernization.
One general observation, before looking at some of the more important specifics of the DDG-51 design and its various hardware and propulsion systems: Although the Arleigh Burke will be, like its illustrious destroyer predecessors, a naval jack-of-all-trades (and master of most), it will be as unlike the fabled "tin can" of the WWII years as today's "Right Stuff" astronauts are from the aerial barnstormers of the between-wars era. The machismo is there, and so is the swagger. But all systems have been upgraded. An article in the March/April 1984 issue of Naval Surface Warfare points out both the similarities and the differences between the "small boys" of old and the new Burkes. The similarities: "In the Arleigh Burke-class, surface sailors will recognize a return to the classic destroyer with its characteristically excellent to superior capabilities across the entire spectrum of naval warfare, including the traditional warfare tasks of antiair, antisurface, antisubmarine, amphibious, and strike warfare." The differences: The DDG-51 will have "the most advanced technology available" for each of its various combat missions. Its antiair warfare (AAW) systems represent "a tremendous advance . . . in terms of performance, reaction time, firepower, availability, and area coverage [and are] specifically designed to counter the threat expected in the 1990s and beyond." It also has "an excellent ASW capability thanks primarily to its "state-ofthe- art long-range hull sonar system." Its AN/SQR 19 towed-array sonar "provides long-range passive detection, classification, and localization capabilities for both ASW and ASUW [antisurface warfare] over-the-horizon targeting engagements." Harpoon missiles and lasercontrolled gunfire control system add significantly to the Burke's ASUW potential and, with the Tomahawk cruise missiles the hip also carries, "contribute to the 51's character as the most versatile and offense- capable destroyer built to date." The Tomahawks themselves "can be fired with great accuracy at long range against selected, fixed targets ashore as well as ships at sea," and give the Burke "a major strike warfare capability." Paradoxically, perhaps, the Burke's state-of-the-art superiority over her immediate and more distant predecessors is reflected not so much in the hardware (and software) she carries, but in her displacement and manpower. The "full load" displacement of the Arleigh Burke, as listed in the 1984-85 edition of Jane's Fighting Ships, the independent U.K. publication long regarded as the "bible" of the world's navies, is 8,400 tons; complement is 271 (21 officers and 250 enlisted personnel). "This class is designated," Jane's notes, "as replacements for the Adams and Coontz classes of guided missile destroyers." Full-load displacement of the Charles F. Adams (DDG-2) and other ships of the Adams class is 4,825 tons; complement is 354 (24 officers, 330 enlisted). The Coontz (DDG-40) and other ships of her class (the hull numbers of which start with Farragut, DDG-37) are somewhat larger, displacing 6,150 tons; complement for Coontz-class ships is 377 (21 officers, 356 enlisted). Earlier editions of Jane's (the 1974-75 volume, for example) show that the Allen M. Sumner-class destroyers of WWII vintage had a complement of 287 (17 officers, 270 enlisted), and displaced 3,320 tons, full load.
What has happened is clear: To meet the much more complicated, and much more versatile, spectrum of threats in today's high-density naval warfare environment, destroyers have, like a number of other ship types, necessarily had to be increased in size to carry the bewildering variety of ordnance and electronic systems and subsystems needed both for their own survival and to carry out the numerous and diverse missions likely to be assigned. But they also have—again, necessarily—gotten much more highly automated, as measured in the steadily changing complement/ displacement ratio.
Following—from Jane's, the Navy League's 1985 Almanac of Seapower, and other publications— are the vital statistics on the DDG- 51, and brief descriptions of some of the ship's principal armament, propulsion, and electronic systems.
Basic Statistics: length, 466 feet; beam, 60 feet; draft, 30 feet; speed, in excess of 30 knots; range, 5,000 miles (at 20 knots).
Design: The ship's "new hull form," according to Surface Warfare (March/April 1984 issue), "is optimized for sea-keeping in heavy seas and is designed with better survivability than her predecessors. It reduces vertical motion at sea and allows higher speeds in increased sea states." Other design features: all-steel construction (except for the aluminum funnels); steel-spacesteel plating to protect vital spaces; use of over 100 tons of Kevlar to coat and super-harden vital spaces; installation of a "collective protection system" which filters all incoming air and maintains internal air pressure at a higher level than external air pressure, thus blocking the ingress of NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) contamination; added protection against EMP (electromagnetic pulsing—the specific protective measures planned and technology used are classified); and a heavy emphasis on "passive protection" through, among other things, a superstructure that slopes away from the hull (rather than forming right angles with it) and the location below the main deck of such vital spaces as the combat information center and communications room. Armament: In addition to the Harpoons and Tomahawks, the Burke will carry ASROC (anti-submarine rocket) and SM-2 (Stan- dard) surface-to-air missiles and will be fitted with two deckmounted Mk 32 triple torpedo tubes, two improved Phalanx 20mm close-in weapon systems, and one 5"/54 caliber gun. Although she does not have a helicopter hangar, she does have a landing pad aft and is equipped with all the communications and other systems needed to handle the LAMPS (light airborne multi-purpose system) Mk III ASW helicopter. Perhaps her most important offense feature, though—-it certainly is the most innovative—will be a vertical-launch system (VLS) for Tomahawks, SM-2s, and ASROCs. The Mk 41 VLS, built for the Navy by Martin Marietta, gives the DDG-51 the ability to carry and fire more missiles, more rapidly and more effectively, and with less chance of malfunction. The Burkes will carry two VLS units—a 32-cell system forward, and a 64-cell system aft.
Propulsion: The power plant will be much the same as that in the Ticonderogas: four General Electric LM 2500 gas turbines, two shafts, two rudders, 100,000 shp. "Second flight" Burkes (DDG-58 and after) also are likely to be equipped with Solar Turbines' so-called "Racer" (Ranking cycle Energy Recovery) system, which uses waste heat from the turbines to develop additional energy and make the overall power plant more efficient.
Electronics: Fitted with the SPYID— an improved, lighter-weight version of the Ticonderoga's SPY- 1A—phased array radar (but with one transmitter, instead of two, and three rather than four illuminators), the Burke will be the most AAWcapable destroyer ever built. Other major electronics systems include: the SPS 67 (V) surface search radar (but no separate air search radar); the SQR 19 (TACTAS) towed-array sonar and a bow-mounted SQS-53C sonar: IFF, Tacan, and electronic countermeasures systems; and numerous computers, displays, and radio and navigation systems.
A few final points about the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke guided missile destroyer program itself, and about its significance to the U.S. shipbuilding industry, the Navy, and the nation: • Possibly no other ship class in the post-WWII era has been better named. Former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Arleigh A.
Burke, USN-Ret., first gained fame in World War II in the Pacific, where his dash and daring as commander of DesRon 23 (Destroyer Squadron 23, better known as the "Little Beavers") won him the nickname "31-Knot Burke." The only officer ever to serve three tours as chief of naval operations, he is also one of the only two USN officers— Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, USN-Ret., "the father of the nuclear Navy," is the other—to have a ship (or, in Burke's case, a ship class) named after him during his own lifetime.
• The currently planned 29-ship program might easily be expanded, as suggested earlier, to 49, or 63, or even a larger number of ships. The March 1985 issue of International Defense Review: The combination of increasing commitments and probable retirement of a number of now-active surface combatants "leaves very large requirements for new destroyers, to support the Aegis cruisers and to protect underway replenishment groups and amphibious groups, all of which might well be exposed to intense air attack. Earlier Navy studies indicated there would be a requirement for "up to 63 missile-armed destroyers. . . . Note that by the late nineties it will be necessary to replace, in addition, the large number of ASW escorts built during the sixties. The replacement is now generally designated the FFX, but it might conceivably use the Burke's hull." • Finally, it would be difficult if not impossible to overstate the Navy's need—both present and future— for a new destroyer of the Burke's capabilities. In that context, an assessment made many years ago by Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz—and repeated in the October 1984 issue of Sea Power Magazine, in a DDG-51 article by Vincent C. Thomas—seems as relevant today as when it was first uttered: "Of all the tools the Navy will employ to control the seas in any future war, the most useful of the small types of combatant ships, the destroyer, will be there. Its appearance may be altered, and it may even be called by some other name, but no type—not even the carrier or the submarine—has such an assured place in future navies." rationale for an increase was spelled out by Norman Friedman in the