Arleigh Burke class


USS Farragut (DDG-99)



The lead ship, commissioned in July 1991, is one of the most advanced warships in the world. The hull of Arleigh Burke, which is partially armored with Kevlar, measures 504 feet, 6 inches by 66 feet, 8 inches by 32 feet, 7 inches, displaces 8,315 tons, and is powered by gas turbines that can produce a maximum speed of 32 knots. Its principal armament consists of a 29-cell vertical launch system (VLS) housed in the bow just forward of the bridge superstructure and a 61-cell VLS posi- tioned aft. The VLS can fire Standard SAM weaponry and Tomahawk cruise missiles.

The Tomahawk was deployed in 1986 and is the most powerful offensive missile in the arsenal of the U. S. Navy. This weapon weighs 2,900 pounds, 3,500 pounds if it is equipped with a booster rocket for greater distance. It measures 18 feet, 3 inches long, but its length increases to 20 feet, 6 inches when a booster is included. The Tomahawk cruise missile can carry a 1,000-pound conventional warhead or a nuclear payload over a distance of 1,000 miles. The guidance system is extremely complex and allows for control that is largely independent of the ship that fires it. This guidance includes a targeting computer equipped with the Terrain Contour Mapping (TERCOM) system. This system uses the missile’s radar to examine the topography ahead of it to match it to a three-dimensional map stored in the missile’s computer memory. The computer can correct the course of the weapon based on variations between the two maps. The Tomahawk missile is also equipped with a Global Positioning System (GPS) to improve reliability of the targeting data. Finally, Tomahawks also use a system known as Digital Scene Matching Area Correlation (DSMAC) in the final stages of flight. As the missile nears its target, DSMAC uses a camera to take a picture of the target, which the computer verifies. This equipment provides for great accuracy, and the missile is extremely difficult to detect as it flies at a low altitude.

In addition to the missiles of the VLS system, the Arleigh Burke also ships eight Harpoon SSMs in two four-celled box launchers located aft, one 5-inch gun in an automated gun house located in the bow, six 12.75-inch torpedo tubes, one helicopter, and a Vulcan Phalanx gun. This latter armament was ready for service in 1977 and is still in use in the U. S. Navy. This weapon is a 20mm Gatling gun that is fed by a magazine that holds 1,000 rounds. It was designed as a last measure of defense to destroy incoming missiles at close range, but it can also be used against aircraft. The gun can fire at a rate of 100 rounds per second. Its computer-controlled tracking system is built into the gun mount and can direct effective fire over a range between 500 and 1,500 yards. The Aegis system coordinates the use of all of these weapons and relies on large, flat sensory panels mounted on the sides of the superstructure. All told, the Arleigh Burke design of multi-role destroyer is among the most advanced and powerful in the world.


The U.S. Navy began a modernization program for the Arleigh Burke class aimed at improving the gun systems on the ships in an effort to address congressional concerns over the retirement of the Iowa-class battleships. This modernization was to include an extension of the range of the 5-inch (127 mm) guns on the flight I Arleigh Burke-class destroyers (USS Arleigh Burke to USS Ross) with extended range guided munitions (ERGMs) that would have given the guns a range of 40 nautical miles (74 km). However, the ERGM was cancelled in 2008.

The modernization program is designed to provide a comprehensive mid-life upgrade to ensure that the class remains effective. Reduced manning, increased mission effectiveness, and a reduced total cost including construction, maintenance, and operation are the goals of the modernization program. Modernization technologies will be integrated during new construction of DDG-111 and 112, then retrofitted into DDG flight I and II ships during in-service overhaul periods. The first phase will update the hull, mechanical, and electrical systems while the second phase will introduce an open architecture computing environment (OACE). The result will be improved capability in both ballistic missile defense (BMD) and littoral combat. By 2018 all Burkes homeported in the Western Pacific will have upgraded anti-submarine systems, including the new AN/SQR-20 Multifunction Towed Array.

The Navy is also upgrading the ships’ ability to process data. Beginning with USS Spruance, the Navy is installing an internet protocol (IP) based data backbone, which enhances the ship’s ability to handle video. Spruance is the first destroyer to be fitted with the Boeing Company’s gigabit Ethernet data multiplex system (GEDMS).

In July 2010 BAE Systems announced that it had been awarded a contract to modernize 11 ships. In May 2014 Sam LaGrone reported that 21 of the 28 Flight I/II Burkes would not receive a mid-life upgrade that included electronics and Aegis Baseline 9 software for SM-6 compatibility, instead they would retain the basic BMD 3.6.1 software in a US$170m upgrade concentrating on mechanical systems and on some ships, the anti-submarine suite. Seven Flight I ships – DDG 51-53, 57, 61, 65, 69 – will get the full US$270m Baseline 9 upgrade. Deputy of surface warfare Dave McFarland said that this change was due to the budget cuts in the Budget Control Act of 2011.

In 2016, the Navy will begin the outfitting of 34 Flight IIA Arleigh Burke vessels with a hybrid-electric drive (HED) to lower fuel costs. While the Burke’s four LM-2500 gas turbines are most efficient at high speeds, an electric motor is to be attached to the main reduction gear to turn the drive shaft to propel the ship at speeds under 13 knots, such as during ballistic missile defense or maritime security operations; use of the HED for half the time could extend time on station by 2.5 days before refueling. Two vessels are planned to be outfitted in 2016, with the rest upgraded at a rate of four per year. Also starting that year, four destroyers patrolling with the U.S. 6th Fleet based in Naval Station Rota, Spain (USS Porter (DDG-78), USS Carney (DDG-64), USS Ross (DDG-71), USS Donald Cook (DDG-75)) will get a self-protection upgrade by replacing a Phalanx CIWS with the SeaRAM, a close-range ship defense system that combines the Phalanx sensor dome with an 11-cell RAM launcher, the first time the system has been paired with an Aegis ship.



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