According to the U.S. Navy, the current DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class AEGIS destroyers have been upgraded to the extent that they “maxed-out” their capabilities, space, and power supply.
“So when we upgraded the Flight [III], upgraded the [DDG] 51 to the Flight Three capability, we took up all of the service life allowance on that platform. So all of the space [and] power has all been allocated. There is not enough room on that ship to put a new combat capability that takes more power or a larger footprint within the ship,” said Kate Connelly, the Deputy Program Manager for the DDG(X) program at Surface Navy Association (SNA) 2022 in mid-January 2022. Hence, in order to incorporate next-generation state-of-the-art weapons and sensor systems, a new hull form and power integration system is required. The DDG(X) is intended to address the DDG 51’s capability shortfalls.
As of the mid-2022, NAVSEA confirmed to Naval News that they are indeed working on the design of the DDG(X). NAVSEA’s PEO Ships provided a preliminary design computer image of how the DDG(X) might look like (top image) although the actual DDG(X) design has not been finalized and publicly released.
Naval News reached out to the RAND Corporation for their analysis on the DDG(X) graphical image and this next-generation U.S. Navy destroyer program.
Dr. Bradley Martin, a retired U.S. Navy captain, and Director, Institute for Supply Chain Security at the RAND Corporation replied to Naval News via email in early December 2022.
Naval News: What are your thoughts and opinions on the DDG(X) concept and the advantages and disadvantages of this ship design?
Dr. Martin: DDG(X) is intended as a replacement for the DDG 51 class (and CG 47). A large surface combatant such as DDG(X) is likely to be an enduring requirement, even as operations get further distributed.
Naval News: A lot of criticism is about cost per DDG(X) hull. Do you believe that the DDG(X) program is worth the cost and each hull is worth the price?
Dr. Martin: The purpose of exploring new hull designs is to get the surface force to a new design. Since the DDG-51 design has been around since the 1980s, finding a form suitable for new power and modernization requirements seems important. Anything new is likely to have a development cost, but ultimately every form requires upgrade and replacement.
Naval News: What options (sensors, rooms, VLS, Mission Bay, etc.) would you add to the DDG(X) Destroyer Payload Module hull plug in and why?
Dr. Martin: VLS [vertical launch system] continues to offer options for flexible weapons loadouts and I would expect this to be part of any future design. Clearly sensors and command and control spaces are essential to the ship.
Naval News: How many VLS cells should the DDG(X) have, and do you support hypersonic missiles on it? If so, how many CPS (Conventional Prompt Strike) hypersonic missiles?
Dr. Martin: As a general matter, more weapons and cells are better, so at least 80 and more if possible. Hypersonics once developed would give the ship additional mission capability. I don’t know that I’d give a specific number, but a sufficient number to reach high interest targets. It can be a bit misleading to give a particular number of type of weapons. The most important characteristic is ability to host a variety, with types and numbers varying according to likely scenario.
Naval News: What roles should the DDG(X) provide—Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), AAW, BMD, or Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW), and what emphasis should it focus mainly on?
Dr. Martin: All of these will be important missions, depending on the scenario. For the current scenarios, I would emphasize AAW [Anti-Air Warfare] and BMD [Ballistic Missile Defense], and rely on other platforms and theater assets for the other missions.
Naval News: What capabilities should the DDG(X) have over existing U.S. and foreign destroyers?
Dr. Martin: Longer range weapons, better ability to network and carry out C2 [Command and Control] over dispersed units, ability to replenish vertical launching systems at sea, improved ability to use decoys and other deception systems.
Naval News: Can the DDG(X) offer the capabilities of a U.S. Navy cruiser or a future platform for the Air Warfare Boss? Why or why not?
Dr. Martin: Ability to carry out duties will remain a key mission for surface ships operating in a task force. This takes a certain amount of C2 capability and space, which this platform should possess.
Naval News: How many DDG(X)s do you suggest the U.S. Navy build and how many per year?
Dr. Martin: This will likely be a smaller class than the current DDG-51, and some missions may devolve to smaller combatants. Moreover, they’ll come into service as legacy platforms leave. I would expect that the numbers will be closer to the CG-47 class, 40 or so, than to the DDG-51 class, around 80.
Naval News: What new technologies should NAVSEA focus on for the DDG(X) now and for future incorporation? Which technologies should they avoid?
Dr. Martin: Besides the sensor and weapons capabilities we’ve discussed, the ship has to be built with sustainment in mind. Ease of maintenance, realistic manning requirements, emphasis on overall service life are essential, and sometimes forgotten in ship development.
Naval News: There are criticisms that other ships should replace the DDG(X) program, such as a new tumblehome hull destroyer or smaller, cheaper, lighter ships or even unmanned ships. Do you agree with these comments?
Dr. Martin: The Navy should ensure that it has an overall architecture that allows it to respond not just to high end conflict but to lower-level contingencies and probes that adversaries might attempt. This should include a mix of high and low-end ships. This ship is very much high-end capability, and the Navy should be balancing different mission areas.
Naval News: What are some key factors in the DDG(X) program that the U.S. Navy has to achieve for program success? What can be some obstacles?
Dr. Martin: This will be a very complex ship with many integration requirements. That it’s being built to allow adaptation is an advantage, but there will almost certainly be problems getting new systems to work together. On the one hand, the DDG-51 class has been remarkably successful over a long period. On the other hand, leaps forward can generate technical risk.
Naval News: Any further comments, recommendations, or suggestions on the DDG(X)?
Dr. Martin: Want to strongly emphasize the need for appropriate attention to sustainment.