U.S. Navy Unveils Plans for the DDG(X) Next-Gen Destroyer

According to Rear Admiral Paul Schlise, U.S. Navy, Director, Naval Surface Warfare Division (N96) at SNA 2022, DDG 51s will have been in production for over 40 years with basically the same hull that the U.S. Navy started in 1985.  That includes 30 years of DDG 51 upgrades from Flight One to Flight Two to Flight Two Alpha (2A) and now Flight Three variants and the DDG 51 hull form is maxed-out.  The longer-range weapons cannot fit on the DDG 51 hull form, hence the pursuit of DDG(X).

Kate Connelly, the Deputy Program Manager for the DDG(X) program gave a presentation on the key features of the next-generation successor to the DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers that will grow out of their capabilities as new and future threats arise.

“So when we upgraded the Flight [III], upgraded the [DDG] 51 to the Flight Three capability, we took up all of the service life allowance on that platform. So all of the space [and] power has all been allocated.  There is not enough room on that ship to put a new combat capability that takes more power or a larger footprint within the ship,” said Connelly. 

“DDG 51 Flight Three is going to be in the fleet through the [20]60s.  So the threat is going to continue to evolve.  And there will be new threats out there. We on the Navy side will continue to evolve our combat and other capabilities to deter the threat. And we will need a platform that can accommodate those new technologies.”

Kate Connelly, the Deputy Program Manager for the DDG(X)

Connelly continued, “So capabilities that we’re gonna [sic] need for the 21st century to continue combating the threat are increased missile capability, sensor growth, directed energy weapons, which actually require a lot of power, increased survivability and increased power availability, which is going through an IPS system (integrator power system), which would provide a lot of flexibility to how you utilize power across the ship and also offer efficiency; and we are also looking at having a reduced impact on the command logistics.”

When it comes to new technologies for the DDG(X), Connelly said, “The first step will minimize incorporation of new technologies. New technologies will be monitored when they are fully mature and ready to actually be implemented—we will put them on the ship—but not until then. We are trying to reduce risk as much as possible.”

“DDG(X) will probably be the most complex ship that we put in the water.  It will be a new hull form, but we’re leveraging existing systems.”

Admiral Michael Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations at SNA 2022

According to Connelly, in December 2020, the Chief of Naval Operations (Admiral Michael Gilday) approved some of the top-level requirements for the DDG(X).  When compared to the DDG 51 destroyers, these DDG(X) requirements are:

  • New flexibility and new margins for the next-generation destroyer.  Space reservations to add new systems, sensor growth, high-energy lasers, and to accommodate larger missile cells (such as for hypersonic missiles) than the Mark 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) for longer-range offensive Anti-surface and strike capabilities.
  • Improved reduction in signatures to reduce vulnerability.  Acoustic, infrared, and electromagnetic signatures will all be improved by greater than 50%.  Two 21-cell RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) launchers will be mounted on DDG(X) and a high-energy laser for close-in self-protection.  The arrays will be larger and DDG(X) will have an upgraded X-band radar.
  • Increased mobility with a range of greater than 50%, time on station increased to greater than 120%, and efficiency to greater than 25%.
  • Destroyer Payload Module (DPM) which is similar in concept to the Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine’s Payload Module “plug-in” section.  The DPM can be “plugged into” the DDG(X) hull in the future to permanently increase the length and size of the ship to accommodate future systems such as new sensors, weapons, Mission Modules, storage, machinery and equipment, payloads, rooms, etc.
  • Technology maturation and risk reduction by inserting new technology when it is the right time to do it (hence the Destroyer Payload Module option).
  • As authorized by Congress, any critical DDG(X) system has to go through land-based testing before start of a detailed design and reaching Milestone B.  Critical systems for the DDG(X) are the Integrated Power System (IPS) and the new hull form.
A notional design concept of how the next-generation DDG(X) destroyer might appear. Note the Destroyer Payload Module “plug in” section that can lengthen the ship.

During the DDG(X) session’s Question and Answer with the Media, the DDG(X) Program Office admitted that the new hull form has not been finalized and is just a concept, meaning no decision has been made on if it will be a tumblehome hull (just like the Zumwalt-class destroyers) or a flared monohull.  The graphical image is just a notional conceptual design.

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