DDG(X): divining the design of the US Navy's next destroyer
Warship Technology May 2021
As first highlighted in the March 2021 issue of Warship Technology, the US Navy is working to mature the acquisition approach and key technologies that will underpin delivery of its projected DDG Next (DDG[X]) guided missile destroyer.
Previously known as the Large Surface Combatant programme, DDG(X) is intended as a follow-on to the DDG 51 Flight III destroyer. The top-level requirement for the new class was approved by Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday in late 2020, with an order for the lead ship expected towards the end of the 2020s.
The service is looking to strike a judicious balance as it advances the design and development process. On the one hand, the navy’s senior leadership is unanimous that the next destroyer should incorporate potentially revolutionary developments in directed energy weapons, high power sensors, and integrated power and energy. It should also be ‘futureproofed’ to allow for the insertion of new technologies over the course of the ship’s life, understanding that the last DDG(X) to be built is likely to still be in service at the end of the 21st century.
At the same time, with experience of the hugely ambitious but ultimately unaffordable DDG 1000 class still fresh in the mind, there is a recognition that the evolution of existing systems and technologies is a necessity in many areas so as to reduce cost and risk. For example, the US Navy is already clear that the core combat system for the DDG 51 Flight III – Aegis Baseline 10 and the AN/SPY-6(V)1 Air and Missile Defense Radar – should serve as the foundation for DDG(X).
The critical challenge facing the US Navy is the need to replace its 22 remaining CG-47 Ticonderoga class Aegis guided-missile cruisers. The oldest of these ships, USS Bunker Hill, is now 35 years old; the youngest, USS Port Royal, is 27 years old.
The possibility of further evolving the DDG 51 design for DDG(X) has been foreclosed, however. While the DDG 51 destroyer baseline has been evolved substantially over three decades, the design is now acknowledged to have reached the limits of its development margins with the latest Flight III iteration.