Budget Bonanza: Why the Navy Is Splurging on Upgrading Its Destroyers

October 3, 2021 Topic: Navy Region: Americas Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: NavyDestroyersShipsRadarsTechnology

Budget Bonanza: Why the Navy Is Splurging on Upgrading Its Destroyers

The reality is that China’s Navy is larger than the U.S. Navy.


The U.S. Navy is powering along with adding large amounts of new destroyers to its fleet despite a chorus of ongoing concerns about the size of the Navy’s budget. The military service is clearly embracing the reality that China has a naval fleet that is larger than America’s fleet.

The effort is multifaceted in that it involves upgrading the existing fleet of DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class Flight IIA destroyers and building a large number of new warships, including advanced, next-generation DDG-51 Flight III destroyers.


For example, the Navy’s future USS Frank E. Petersen Jr. (DDG-121) recently completed acceptance trials after spending two days at sea, according to a Navy press statement.

As a key step in preparation for war, the DDG-121’s systems and technologies were assessed, tested and put through trials during the assessments. The navigational system, damage control technology, weapon and propulsion systems of the ships all met or exceeded expectations, according to the report. 

The Navy currently operates more than eighty destroyers and is adding more than ten new, upgraded Flight III DDG-51s with new radar and weapons. The military service is deeply invested in sustaining its existing fleet, too, which contains ships that are decades old.

Within the next fifteen years, the Navy plans to add at least thirty new DDG-51 destroyers including twenty-two new, high-tech DDG-51 Flight III warships and eight state-of-the-art DDG-51 Flight IIA destroyers. Right now, the Navy has as many as twenty new destroyers in various stages of construction. This is an extremely significant yet lesser-known fact of great relevance to the future of maritime war.

Additionally, the Navy is in the process of replacing steel structures, revamping onboard electronics and performing maintenance on the underwater hull of several existing destroyers that have been experiencing an uptick in missions. This is part of the reason why Navy Flight IIA DDG-51s are being back-fitted with newer, far more sensitive AN/SPY-6 radar systems. These radar systems enable a ship to detect serious threats at much longer ranges. The new Raytheon-built radar can detect threat objects at twice the distance and half the size when compared to existing radar. 

Also, the Navy is outfitting its destroyers with lasers and advanced electronic warfare applications along with upgraded ship defenses such as SM-3, SM-6 and Tomahawk missiles. 

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University. 

Image: Flickr / Official U.S. Navy Page