USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) - lead ship of the project of the same name
The US Navy is planning the next update of the surface forces. This time it is proposed to develop and bring to the series a new destroyer project. A new stage of work on the project with the working title DDG (X) will start next year, and its result will be the final appearance of the ship, plans for its further development and plans for serial construction.
On the eve of the start
The development and construction of a new destroyer to replace existing US Navy ships has been discussed over the past several years. The Zumwalt project did not live up to the hopes placed on it, and now the Navy plans to create a new ship of the same class, devoid of the shortcomings of its predecessors. In the recent past, these discussions have reached real steps, and now a new phase of work is expected to start.
At the previous stages of the DDG (X) program, several organizations of the Navy studied the existing experience in the construction and operation of ships, the needs fleet and industry opportunities. In addition, several experiments were carried out in the past year. Based on the results of such studies, some recommendations were developed that will be accepted for implementation at the next stages of the project.
Design look of the destroyer USS Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG 1002) - the last representative of the Zumwalt project
In late May, the Pentagon released a draft military budget for the next FY2022. This document provides for significant spending on the further development of the fleet, incl. due to promising projects. So, for the first stage of the development of the DDG (X) program, they requested $ 79,7 million. For this money, structures from the Navy and contractors will complete the formation of the ship's appearance, as well as determine other aspects of the project.
At the next stage, the competitive development of projects will begin. The Navy wants to get several variants of the ship, from which they will choose the most successful one. In addition, a "combined" design method is not excluded. In this case, several organizations-competitors will present their projects, and the fleet will determine the most successful components. Then these solutions will be combined in the final version of the project.
The timing of the program has so far been determined only approximately. The design is going to be completed no later than 2028. At the same time, the first order for construction should appear. They want to receive the lead destroyer in 2032, and the series will stretch at least until the forties. The terms and volumes of mass construction have not yet been determined.
The first ships of the DDG (X) type will enter service only in the distant future, and they will have to serve them for several decades. During this time, the strategic situation and the needs of the fleet can seriously change. For this reason, the Navy requires the maximum possible modernization potential to be incorporated into the new project.
Destroyer USS Daniel Inouye (DDG-118), the penultimate ship of the Arleigh Burke, transferred to the US Navy
It is proposed to create not just a ship that meets the current requirements, but a sea platform capable of carrying the necessary types of weapons and various equipment. At the construction stage, such a destroyer will receive an up-to-date set of systems and assemblies, and during subsequent upgrades it will be possible to re-equip it, and this process will be simplified and accelerated.
It was mentioned earlier that the development of such a platform will use the experience of the Arleigh Burke and Zumwalt projects. How exactly it will be applied, and where it will lead, is unclear. The destroyers of the two actual types differ significantly from each other, and it is rather difficult to predict the appearance of the ship based on them. For example, we can assume that DDG (X) will receive "classic" hull lines and a characteristic unobtrusive superstructure similar to the previous project.
It is proposed to develop a new integrated power system with high performance. In its creation, technologies borrowed from the projects of the Columbia submarine, the Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier and the Zumwalt destroyer can be used. Such a power plant should provide a high speed and economy, allowing to increase the cruising range.
Ship USS Delbert D. Black (DDG-119) on sea trials. In September 2020, he was accepted into service.
In addition, it is necessary to create a significant reserve of capacities for modern and advanced airborne equipment. Modern ships carry a lot of electronic and computing facilities, as well as other energy consumers. In the future, the demand for electricity will only grow, which must be taken into account now.
At the first stage, the DDG (X) destroyer can receive electronic weapons and other equipment borrowed from the existing Arleigh Burke ships. In the future, the development and implementation of new samples will be carried out. At the same time, the Navy cannot yet say what the results of such modernization will be.
A similar approach will be taken in the field of weapons. The ship will receive universal launchers with the ability to use all the main missile weapons of the US Navy. They will be complemented by new designs that will be developed by the time the first DDG (X) appears. Then the complex of weapons will be developed, while maintaining and increasing the capabilities to combat a wide range of targets.
DDG (X) and modern fleet
Currently, the US Navy has 70 destroyers of two projects. The overwhelming majority (68 units) are ships of the Arleigh Burke class of various series and modifications, including the latter. Also, only two ships of the Zumwalt type are in service. In the near future, the fleet will receive a third pennant of this type.
USS Chaffee (DDG-90) launches Tomahawk Block V rocket, November 2020
The construction of the Arleigh Burke destroyers continues. There are contracts for 13 such ships, of which 8 are at various stages of construction. A few days ago, the destroyer Jack H. Lukas, the 75th ship of the project and the first in the new Flight III modification, was launched. The development of the next option has already begun. According to existing plans, the construction of such destroyers will continue until the thirties. The last ships are to leave service only in the seventies.
In the context of ships with missile weapons, it is also necessary to recall the Ticonderoga-class cruisers, which differ from destroyers in their large displacement and, accordingly, in a larger ammunition load and wider combat capabilities. 22 of these ships remain in service, adopted by the Navy in 1986-94. According to the new budget proposals, in 2022-26. half of the cruisers will be decommissioned due to moral and physical obsolescence.
Thus, by the time the first DDG (X) ships appear, the surface forces of the US Navy will have a predictable appearance. There will still be three Zumwalt-class destroyers in the ranks, and the number of active Arleigh Burke may reach 75-80 units. At the same time, the existing destroyers will have to take on the tasks of 11 decommissioned cruisers, since the development of a new ship of this class is not planned.
Cruiser USS Port Royal (CG-73), the last representative of the Ticonderoga project
It's not hard to see where the newest DDG (X) will need to be. They will have to simultaneously supplement the available destroyers, as well as make up for the losses in the form of decommissioned cruisers. In addition, from a certain time, the new DDG (X) will have to replace the Arleigh Burke ships in production. The rate of obsolescence of the latter in the future will determine the required volumes and rates of construction of new ships.
It is obvious that in the distant future, the new DDG (X) will gradually replace the outdated Arleigh Burke and after that will become the main destroyers of the US Navy. However, this will not happen until the middle of the century, when the production of new ships picks up a sufficient pace, and the old destroyers begin to be massively decommissioned. It is noteworthy that the newest Zumwalts will not affect these processes in any way due to the extremely small number.
Plans for the future
The naval forces are a key component of the US military and receive the greatest possible attention to their development. Right now, several projects of promising ships are in the early stages at once, and soon work on the new destroyer DDG (X) will enter the active phase. Their result in the early thirties will be the lead ship.
The Navy and shipbuilders are facing quite complex tasks. They will have to not only develop a ship, but also determine the development paths of the surface fleet for the next few decades. In addition, they will create the foundation for future upgrades. However, the main task for the near future will be to obtain the necessary funding. The DDG (X) program was included in the draft military budget, which must now go through Congress. Whether the legislators will approve the creation of a new destroyer - it will become known in a few months.