The Navy's budget proposal accelerates construction of new Arleigh Burke class DDG 51 Destroyers in 2019 as the service prepares to start construction of its first new, next-generation Flight III destroyer this year.
Budget data says the Navy proposes to increase production of DDG-51s to 3 in 2019, up from 2 in 2018, all while the prospect of a DoD budget amendment adding a 3rd DDG 51 in 2018 gains traction in Congress.
The new destroyers under construction, along with the upcoming emergence of DDG-51 Flight III ships, make up a key component of the Navy's plan to reach an overall fleet size goal of 355 ships in coming years. The newest destroyers represent technically advanced warships able to fire new weapons, better detect enemy attacks and prepare for a highly contested future maritime threat environment.
Speaking at the Surface Naval Association symposium in January, Capt. Casey Moton, Major Program Manager, DDG 51 Program Office, PEO Ships, said fabrication of the first Flight III Destroyer will begin at Huntington Ingalls in May of this year. Flight III destroyer warships are slated to start entering service in the 2020s.
Moton emphasized the new, super-sensitive AN/SPY-6 radar as a distinguishing characteristic of Flight III destroyers, as it is expected to vastly expand the protective envelope for ship-integrated defenses.
“Fielding the AMDR will bring much improved ballistic missile defense by providing truly integrated simultaneous air and missile defense,” Moton said at SNA.
The Navy is now finalizing the detailed designed phase and finishing the 3D modeling needed to prepare for construction.
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The Navy hopes to enter an efficient, cost-saving multi-year contract initiative to build the first 10 Flight III ships; the first two of the new class of destroyers are now under contract. Huntington Ingalls Industries is building one called DDG 125, and Bath Iron Works is on contract to build DDG 126.
“Detailed designed is on track to support the start of construction with Flight III,” Moton said.
The Raytheon-built AN/SPY-6(V) radar is reported by developers to be 35-times more powerful than existing ship-based radar systems; the technology is widely regarded as being able to detect objects twice as far away at one-half the size of current tracking radar.The AN/SPY-6 radar, also called Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR), is engineered to simultaneously locate and discriminate multiple tracks.
Navy officials tell Warrior that AMDR has completed a System Functional Review for integration with the upgraded Aegis Baseline 10 radar and software systems.
The AN/SPY-6 platform will enable next-generation Flight III DDG 51s to defend much larger areas compared with the AN/SPY-1D radar on existing destroyers. In total, the Navy plans as many as 22 Flight III DDG 51 destroyers, according to a previously completed Navy capabilities development document.
The AN/SPY-6 is being engineered to be easily reparable with replaceable parts, fewer circuit boards and cheaper components than previous radars, according to Raytheon developers; the AMDR is also designed to rely heavily on software innovations, something which reduces the need for different spare parts, Moton said.
The Navy has finished much of the planned software builds for the AMDR system, however Moton explained that using newly integrated hardware and software with common interfaces will enable continued modernization in future years. Called TI 16 (Technical Integration), the added components are engineered to give Aegis Baseline 10 additional flexibility should it integrate new systems such as emerging electronic warfare or laser weapons.
“The top-level biggest thing we are doing with Baseline 10 is to integrate AMDR and take full advantage of simultaneous air and missile defense. This will set up for future capabilities such as electronic warfare attack,” Moton added.
Moton said that special technological adaptations are being built into the new, larger radar system so that it can be sufficiently cooled and powered up with enough electricity. The AMDR will be run by 1000-volts of DC power.
“We want to get the power of the radar and minimize changes to the electrical plan throughout the ship,” Moton said.
The DDG Flight III’s will also be built with the same Rolls Royce power turbine engineered for the DDG 1000, yet designed with some special fuel-efficiency enhancements, according to Navy information.
The AMDR is equipped with specially configured cooling technology. The Navy has been developing a new 300-ton AC cooling plant slated to replace the existing 200-ton AC plant, Moton said.
Before becoming operational, the new cooling plant will need to have completed environmental testing which will assess how the unit is able to tolerate vibration, noise and shocks such as those generated by an underwater explosion, service officials said.
DDG 51 Flight III destroyers are expected to expand upon a promising new ship-based weapons system technology fire-control system, called Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air, or NIFC-CA.