Thursday, 7 June 2012

A New American Destroyer : Part 2

USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) USS Curtis (FFG 38) USS Russell (DDG 59) Southern California Nov 12 2007

Despite the confusing changes of nomenclature over the years,it seems likely that a replacement for the Burke class destroyers shall be called a "destroyer",even if it is as big as many "cruisers".

We shall therefore use this term to describe a future replacement for today's Burke class destroyers and Ticonderoga class cruisers.

It also seems likely that any "New American Destroyer" will be expected to perform all the roles of the Ticonderoga class cruisers,Burke class destroyers and Zumwalt class destroyers.

We shall therefore consider an American style surface combatant with anti-ballistic missile and area air defence capabilities.

Zumwalt class

The single most important quality which such a ship must posess is a significantly lower cost than ships currently planned.

This is essential to ensure that ships can be purchased in adequate numbers and that their cost is in proportion to the limited utility of a surface combatant.

There are a number of ways to reduce the cost of a surface combatant and we shall consider some of these before going any further.

USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58)

Reducing the size of the ship should cut the amount of steel and welding required to build it and should also reduce the ship's fuel consumption and allow smaller engines to be fitted.

But these factors account for only a very small proportion of a warship's lifecycle costs so the potential savings are not great.

A ship which is too small may be significantly more expensive to design,build,maintain and upgrade as it is more cramped.

The cost of building a ship which is too big is likely to be far less than the cost of building a ship which is too small.

The greatest savings come from building a ship which is neither too big nor too small but the right size.

A "New American Destroyer" can be smaller and cheaper to build than the Zumwalt class only if it has to accommodate less equipment.

USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51)

Reducing the range of capabilities on board the ship,for example by eliminating anti-submarine weapons and sensors,should significantly reduce the cost of designing,building and operating the vessel.

But if the "New American Destroyer" is not capable of performing a particular task then it may be necessary to have another ship to perform that role.

The cost of designing,building and operating those additional vessels is likely to be significantly greater than the cost of fitting the "New American Destroyer" with the full range of war fighting capabilities.

USS Stark (FFG 31)

Reducing the quality of equipment carried by the "New American Destroyer" should significantly reduce it's procurement costs but may have little effect on it's operating costs.

However,as the quality of threat systems is constantly improving,less capable weapons and sensors quickly become obsolete rendering the ship unfit for purpose or forcing significant expenditure on upgrades.

The cost of fitting the "New American Destroyer" with lower quality weapons and sensors is likely to have a negative impact on long term costs.


Reducing the quantity of equipment carried by the "New American Destroyer" should reduce it's procurement and operating costs.

But if there are too few systems carried by the "New American Destroyer" then failures due to enemy action,human error and technical issues may render the vessel combat ineffective.
A "New American Destroyer" can be cheaper to procure and operate whilst remaining combat effective if the number of systems on board is reduced to the practical minimum,not the absolute minimum.

USS Freedom (LCS 1) USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70)

Reducing the amount of research,development and design work required to build the "New American Destroyer" should significantly reduce it's procurement costs.

But it is not possible to avoid development costs completely,most of the weapons,sensors,engines and other systems on the "New American Destroyer" can be items which are already in service or under development for other warships but there is still a need to develop a hull on which to carry those systems.

A "New American Destroyer" can have very low development costs if it uses non-developmental systems and a conventional hull design which may even be based on that of another warship if there is one suitable,for example it may be possible to add new upperworks to fit the lower hull design of the Zumwalt class destroyer.

DDG 1000 Deckhouse

Reducing the complexity of construction the the "New American Destroyer" should significantly reduce it's design,manufacturing and maintainance costs.

But warships are mostly constructed using simple well proven methods and low cost materials.

To minimise the cost of construction of a "New American Destroyer" it is necessary to avoid using complex hull forms,expensive materials and labour intensive construction methods as far as is practical.

We shall consider how to balance cost and capability in more detail in future parts of "New American Destroyer".


mick 346 said...

"The cost of designing,building and operating those additional vessels is likely to be significantly greater than the cost of fitting the "New American Destroyer" with the full range of war fighting capabilities."

I am not sure of this. Having one ship do all things. Your trying to do very different things all in one hull which leads to compromise and the vessel not excelling at anything. Also it makes each platform very expensive having all the equipment and manpower, which means you cant afford to lose one.

The US navy already has the LCS which can do anti-submarine and anti ship warfare. So wouldn't it make more sense for the next destroyer (Arleigh Burke Class Flight III) be completely focused on air defence.

Chuck Hill said...

GR, Great to have you posting again. I look at our Coast Guard Cutters and you planned type 26s and they are "cruisers" in the classic sense in that they can operate independently all over the world as frigates once did. So cruisers can now be smaller than destroyers.

Burkes, DDG1000s, Carriers, SSBN, SSGN are all capital ships in their own way. Aircraft fill the role of the torpedoboat destroyers as well as many others including scouting and screening.

To me a "destroyer" has become a firstline warship, while a "frigate" is a secondline warship built in large numbers at a lower price to do secondary tasks in less demanding environments. Speed being one primary difference. Destroyers need to keep up with carriers while frigates only need enough speed to escort merchants, amphibs, and fleet train.

Distiller said...

Some question are:
-- What job needs to be done by surface units (as opposed to submarines and aerospace assets)?
-- Are there surface combatant jobs left aside from escort?
-- Does it need to be a dual/tripple-task surface combatant, or is a common one-and-a-half-ender hull enough, where the offensive mission combat systems (anti-air/orbital, anti-sub, land-attack) are in a variable stern section, while the bow section is for standard self-defence systems?
-- When will the Navy finally equip every larger surface unit with a decent self-defence suite, so that the escorts are relieved of the close escort?