Arleigh Burke Alternatives
The Navy now seems dead-set on building more DDG-51 Arleigh Burke in place of the more expensive and less capable DDG-1000 destroyers. An article in the Navy Times details last Thursday’s hearing at the House Armed Services Committee on the USN plans:
Even though the Navy will resume building Arleigh Burke-class destroyers because the ships are cheaper and the costs are predictable, the eight new Burkes could get new refinements that set them apart from earlier siblings, according to a congressional report.
According to written testimony submitted Thursday to the House Seapower Subcommittee by Navy shipbuilding expert Ron O’Rourke, the Navy has several options to improve and accessorize the new series of destroyers that will resume with the ship carrying hull number DDG 113.
O’Rourke revealed some interesting alternatives that might make the new Burkes more enticing to Congress, the Navy, and shipbuilders, beyond the current Flight IIA versions. I will list them here and later some of my own proposals:
- All-Electric Drive:Taking its cue for the Army’s Future Combat System, the Navy could add technology taken from the Zumwalts and place them on new-build Burkes. This would include its all-electric drive system, a major selling point for the DDG-1000. The new engines would use 16% less fuel and add “just under $9 million to the cost of each ship.”
- DDG-51 Gunship: The primary armament on the new destroyer would have been 2x155mm Advanced Gun System which have a range of 63 nautical miles. These could be added to new Burkes, but considering the Navy now says that airpower and precision missiles are good enough for surface bombardment, we wonder what role this gunship would play.
- AWACS at Sea: This is an intriguing proposal which O’Rourke dubs a “non-combat adjunct ship.” The unarmed vessel would carry a dual band radar to guide missiles from other ships toward targets ashore.
For the most part, we are against more Navy battleships other than the 80 or so we now possess. These ships we think too costly for the kind of wars we most often fight, against Third World terrorist insurgents. But if the leadership insists on going ahead with even more Big Ship, we have a few proposals that might make the Burke more relevant for 21st Century warfare:
- Single-End Destroyers:The current DDG-51 design loads 90 missiles in VLS. Most European destroyer size ships carry about half this number. There were so many cells in the initial Flight I Burkes that the vessel carried no helicopter hanger. This lack of capability was corrected in the Flight II versions, not by reducing the number of missiles but further increasing the size, from 8300 tons to its current 9200 tons! We would return to the basic Flight I, reduce the number of missiles to about half and instead add on the hangar from the start.
- Arsenal Ships: This would be my favorite proposal, giving the inherent stealth qualities already built in this all-missile warship. The first version would have been built on an Arleigh Burke hull anyway, and like the out-of-favor Zumwalts, would have possessed low-manning capabilities. We think this a lost opportunity for the Navy to have had a 21st century battleship in service at very low cost, with off-the-shelf equipment, for the wars we are currently fighting.