Why the U.S. Navy’s DDG 51 Flight III Destroyers Are Something Special

Why the U.S. Navy’s DDG 51 Flight III Destroyers Are Something Special

The Navy has not only put as many as ten new high-tech DDG 51 Flight III destroyers on contract.

While the exact size and configuration of the future U.S. Navy fleet may still be somewhat in flux as a work in progress, the service is not slowing down on efforts to add new more-capable, heavily armed warships to the fleet. 

The Navy has not only put as many as ten new high-tech DDG 51 Flight III destroyers on contract, but also continues to build new Flight IIA DDG 51s as well, ships which are being equipped with a new generation of radar technology, ballistic missile defense weaponry, and on-board electrical power to support emerging weapons such as lasers. 

The new DDG 118, to be named USS Daniel Inouye, just completed what’s called Builders Trials, a series of in-port and at-sea demonstrations that allow the shipbuilder and the Navy to assess the ship and prepare it for operational service, deployment and, if needed, maritime warfare. 

Naval Sea Systems Command released a report detailing a successful Builders Trials for the future destroyer, crediting Navy developers and shipbuilder General Dynamics Bath Iron Works. 

“Daniel Inouye is equipped with the Aegis Baseline 9 Combat System, which includes Integrated Air and Missile Defense capability and enhanced Ballistic Missile Defense capabilities. This system delivers quick reaction time, high firepower, and increased electronic countermeasures capability against a variety of threats,” the NAVSEA report states. 

Aegis is an integrated sensor, radar and fire control system which has in recent years gone through a large number of software upgrades and enhancements to help Navy warships better detect and destroy incoming anti-ship cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, and other kinds of enemy attacks. Part of the systems being built into DDG 118 is a variant of Raytheon’s SPY-6 radar technology, an emerging threat detection system which incorporates exponential improvements in range and sensitivity. SPY-6 radar can find and track threat objects at twice the distances and half the size of current radar systems. Part of the rationale with these radar upgrades is to help streamline ship sensors and defenses to operate with a wider, more efficient threat detection envelope. 

Raytheon’s SPY-6 radar transmitter uses a material known as military-grade Gallium Nitride (GaN), a substance explained by Raytheon developers as up to 1,000-times more efficient that the existing Gallium Arsenide used today.

“GaN converts electrical power into radar, creating greater efficiency which allows us to see a smaller object,” Scott Spence, Director for Naval Radar Systems for Integrated Defense Systems, Raytheon, told The National Interest in an interview.

 The NAVSEA report also mentions a number of other ships are also in production on the future Arleigh Burke-class destroyers Carl M. Levin (DDG 120), John Basilone (DDG 122), Harvey C. Barnum (DDG 124), Patrick Gallagher (DDG 127), and their first Flight III ship, Louis H. Wilson, Jr. (DDG 126), as well as the future Zumwalt-class destroyer, Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG 1002).

The next steps for the future USS Daniel Inouye will be to complete what’s called Acceptance Trials with the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey in 2021. 

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 Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.   

Image: Reuters.