Navy Reveals Details About Next-Generation Guided-Missile Destroyer
The Navy is sharing details about one of its most anticipated shipbuilding programs, the DDG(X) large surface combatant. The service’s next-generation guided missile destroyer will maximize design efficiency and interoperability and will feature an upgraded hull and integrated power system, according to service leaders.
The platform will leverage the Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyer’s combat systems capability, said Tom Rivers, executive director for the amphibious, auxiliary and sealift office at the Navy’s program office for ships under Naval Sea Systems Command.
Commonality will be key for the fleet of the future, he noted during a panel at the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium.
A program office for guided missile destroyers was established last summer, Rivers said. Plans for the vessel include a new hull form and an integrated power system, which will allow flexibility for future upgrades, he said.
“We envision DDG(X) to not only be the most capable surface combatant on the planet in the 2030s, but also through the 2060s,” he said.
“The combat system piece is pretty set,” he said. “The piece that we’re focusing on is really enlarging the hull so that we have the capacity from a volumetrics standpoint in the future to allow new systems to be installed as we go forward in the next 15 years.”
The program office is changing its approach to ship production and development to stave off some of the problems encountered with the large-scale integration of new technologies in the Zumwalt- and Ford-class ships, Rivers said. Shipbuilders should aim to develop technologies once and use those designs as many times as possible, he added.
Directed energy will be a critical component for DDG(X), said Bob Shevock, executive director of the program executive office for integrated warfare systems. The High Energy Laser with Integrated Optical-dazzler and Surveillance, or HELIOS, will be installed on the vessel despite congressional concerns about the technology’s supply base and other shortcomings.
“We’re going to get HELIOS on the ship,” Shevock said during the panel. “It is somewhat dependent on the technology of the actual lasers and the power coming behind,” he added.
Meanwhile, questions remain about the strategic value of the program.
The Navy should provide additional clarification on the choice to invest in new capabilities for the ship, said Ronald O’Rourke, a specialist in naval affairs at the Congressional Research Service. He pointed to studies that have shown lengthening the hull of the ship would provide a design with greater payload capacity even though there is no need for additional capabilities.
In general, if the Navy doesn’t justify its investments with analysis, “it can weaken the foundations of the program and make it harder for the Navy to defend or explain the program later on,” O’Rourke said.
The Navy’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2022 requests $121.8 million in research-and-development funding for the program. As of press time, a full-year appropriations bill for 2022 had not been passed by Congress.