The U.S. Navy’s latest version of the venerable Arleigh Burke-class destroyers is introducing new maritime warfare possibilities.
The Navy is building seven new Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. The Burke class is sometimes referred to by the hull number of the lead ship, the DDG-51. The Flight III ships include improved armaments, new sources of onboard power, and advanced radars, sensors, and combat systems.
The signature element of the new Flight III destroyers is a software, radar, computing, and fire control ship combat system called Aegis Baseline 10. The system is built around a radar system known as the AN/SPY 6. The system’s developers say the new radar can detect objects twice as far away and half the size of existing radars. The radar returns renderings thirty-five times more precise than current technology. Navy weapons developers explained that new cooling technologies and electric systems were needed to support the more powerful radar system.
“The Aegis Baseline 10 combat system was really the key and the capability that's on the ship,” said Capt. Seth Miller, program manager for the Arleigh Burke class at the 2022 Surface Navy Association Symposium. “We added the new AC plants and the 4160 electric plant that support the new combat system and the radar that we're putting on there.”
The ability to detect multiple incoming threats at much greater ranges with improved image fidelity gives commanders a much larger time window in which to determine the optimal countermeasure or response needed to stop an attack.
Baseline 10 can also coordinate ballistic missile defense operations with lower-altitude, closer-in air and cruise missile defense. Aegis Baseline 10 reduces the hardware footprint through the use of common technical standards, streamlines functionality, and allows for performance upgrades through software as new technologies emerge.
Alongside the Flight III destroyers, the Navy is also building upgraded Flight IIA DDG-51 ships and retrofitting some older destroyers with upgraded SPY 6 radar variants. This ensures greater interoperability between newly arriving Flight III warships and the existing fleet. Many U.S. allies, such as Japan, also operate Aegis-enabled warships. This greatly improves possibilities for multi-national training operations or even combat missions if needed.
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.