Surface Forces: May 27, 2005

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The U.S. Navys next class of destroyers is threatening to price itself out of the market. The navy needs those new destroyers, called the DD(X) class. The U.S. Navy is under time pressure to start building new surface warships to replace its Cold War era fleet (25 Ticonderoga class cruisers, 43 Arleigh Burke class destroyers, 5 Spruance destroyers and 30 Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates). These 73 Ticonderoga, Burke and Spruance class ships are all basically built on the same hull, and have a displacement similar to that of World War II cruisers (between 9-10,000 tons). The frigates displace 4,000 tons, a little heavier than World War II destroyers. The 73 larger ships are to be replaced by a still larger (14,000 ton) DD(X), while the frigates would be replaced (sort of) by 3,000 ton LCS (Littoral Combat Ship). But the costs of these two ships are radically different. The DD(X), with its many new hull, electronic and weapons systems, look like they will cost $2.5 billion each (with the first few costing $5 billion each, and the rest less, depending on how many are built.) The DD(X) is costing some three times as much as the ships they are replacing. That is somewhat offset by a savings of half a billion dollars per ship (over the life of the ship) because of much smaller crews. Thus the next generation fleet will probably end up with same number of surface warships (103), but only 40 or so will be the larger DD(X), with the rest being LCS. This takes the cycle of warship design full circle to where it was a century ago, where you had two or three smaller, and more expendable, destroyers, for each of the larger cruiser type ships. The LCS is not only smaller and cheaper (about $250 million each), but much more flexible. The LCS is built with what amounts to a cargo hold, in which can be quickly inserted a mission package for any number of different jobs (mine hunting, anti-aircraft, commando operations, submarine hunting, or whatever). The DD(X) is also built with some flexibility, in the form of over a hundred launch cells, that can hold any number of different type missiles. But DD(X) is no destroyer, its a major warship, and the same size as the first battleships that appeared a century ago.

 


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