Massive Warship Expansion: Navy to Add 30 New Destroyers by 2034

Kris Osborn

US Navy photo

Warrior Maven Video Above: How Will the Navy Get to 355 Ships by 2034? Submarines & Destroyers

By Kris Osborn - Warrior Maven

(Washington, D.C.) The Navy’s ambitious fleet-size expansion relies upon a massive increase in heavily armed Destroyers able to launch long-range attacks, fire interceptor missiles, defend carrier strike groups and engage in massive open blue water warfare.

Within the next 15 years, the Navy plans to add as many as 30 DDG 51 Destroyers, including 22 new, high-tech DDG 51 Flight III warships and eight state-of-the-art DDG 51 Flight IIA destroyers. Prioritizing such a large number of these warships offers an interesting analytical window into Navy thinking about the next five decades of ocean war.

In addition to adding 30 new destroyers, the Navy’ also seeks 15 LCS’, 18 of the new Frigates and as many as 32 new attack submarines in the next 15 years. While many new ships are now under construction, the current number of Navy ships is roughly in the high 280s, a number the Navy hopes to grow to 355 by 2034.

“Battle force inventory reaches 301 in 2020 and 355 in 2034,” Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Chambers, told Warrior Maven.

Adding large numbers of new next-generation destroyers will substantially change the Navy's ability to conduct major maritime warfare operations by enabling surface forces to detect enemy attacks at much farther distances, launch long-range strikes with greater precision and destructive force and disperse offensive forces across much wider swaths of ocean.

The U.S. Navy has awarded deals for 10 new high-tech DDG 51 Flight III Destroyers and built in options to add even more ships and increase the "build rates" for construction of new warships Meanwhile, the Navy has already started construction on its first new Flight III DDG 51 surface warfare destroyer armed with improved weapons, advanced sensors and new radar 35-times more sensitive than most current systems, service and industry officials explained.

Navy Flight III Destroyers have a host of defining new technologies not included in current ships such as more on-board power to accommodate laser weapons, new engines, improved electronics, fast-upgradeable software and a much more powerful radar. The Flight III Destroyers will be able to see and destroy a much wider range of enemy targets at farther distances.

A new software and hardware enabled ship-based radar and fire control system, called Aegis Baseline 10, will drive a new technical ability for the ship to combine air-warfare and ballistic missile defense into a single system. The AN/SPY-6 radar, also called Air and Missile Defense Radar, is engineered to simultaneously locate and discriminate multiple tracks.

This means that the ship can succeed in more quickly detecting both approaching enemy drones, helicopters and low flying aircraft as well as incoming ballistic missiles.

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.

US Navy photo

The farther away ship commanders can see approaching threats, across the spectrum of potential attack weapons, the faster they are able to make time-sensitive decisions about which elements of a ship’s layered defense systems should be used.

​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. 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 new radar is also designed to rely heavily on software innovations, something which reduces the need for different spare parts.

Service officials say the new ship uses 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, according to a Navy announcement in early 2018.

Last year at the Surface Navy Association, the ship’s program 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.

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, Navy developers have 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.

Through the course of several interviews, SPY-6 radar developers with Raytheon have told Warrior Maven that simulated weapons engagements have enabled the new radar to close what’s called the “track loop” for anti-air warfare and ballistic missile defense simulations. The process involves data signal processing of raw radar data to close a track loop and pinpoint targets, Raytheon developers said.

The radar works by sending a series of electro-magnetic signals or “pings” which bounce off an object or threat and send back return-signal information identifying the shape, size, speed or distance of the object encountered.

The development of the radar system is hastened by the re-use of software technology from existing Navy dual-band and AN/TPY-2 radar programs, Raytheon developers added.

As a result, it is entirely plausible that AMDR or a comparable technology will be engineered onto amphibious assault ships, cruisers, carriers and other platforms as well.

Raytheon statements say AN/SPY-6 is the first truly scalable radar, built with radar building blocks - Radar Modular Assemblies - that can be grouped to form any size radar aperture, either smaller or larger than currently fielded radars.

Raytheon data on the radar system also cites a chemical compound semi-conductor technology called Gallium Nitride which can amplify high-power signals at microwave frequencies; it enables better detection of objects at greater distances when compared with existing commonly used materials such as Gallium Arsenide, Raytheon officials explained.

Raytheon engineers tell Warrior that Gallium Nitride is designed to be extremely efficient and use a powerful aperture in a smaller size to fit on a DDG 51 destroyer with reduced weight and reduced power consumption. Gallium Nitride has a much higher break down voltage so it is capable of much higher power densities, Raytheon developers 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.

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.

The technology, which has already been deployed, enables ship-based radar to connect with an airborne sensor platform to detect approaching enemy anti-ship cruise missiles from beyond the horizon and, if needed, launch an SM-6 missile to intercept and destroy the incoming threat, Navy officials said.

Navy developers say NIFC-CA presents the ability to extend the range of attack missiles and extend the reach of sensors by netting different sensors from different platforms -- both sea-based and air-based together into one fire control system.

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 a Masters in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

-- Some background portions of this report were first published last year--

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Comments (4)
No. 1-4

It should be noted, however, that the Navy no longer considers the 355 ship fleet to be the basis of the next fleet plan now in preparation. The funding to build the existing fleet plan simply does not exist, and will not be forthcoming in the next 15 years. The revised fleet plan will be released fairly soon - probably before this calendar year is over.

With respect to destroyers, the first DDG-51 Flight Is will start retiring next decade, and will not be upgraded to the latest AEGIS Baseline 9, let alone the Baseline 10 that the Flight IIIs will get. And the SPY-6 can only be put on the Flight IIIs, and is not retrofittable to any prior DDG-51, even including the latest Flight IIA Restarts that are just now entering the fleet. Though the Navy does plan to put a smaller (fewer RMAs) version of the SPY-6 on those Flight II and IIAs.

The fleet plan now in development is going to shift the ratio of large surface combatants (FSCs), including the DDG-51s, to small surface combatants (SSCs), which Admiral Boxall has been saying since the beginning of this year is "upside down" at 104 to 52, respectively, and therefore should be the reverse. That means a lot more SSCs and a lot fewer LSCs.

Also, both Adm Boxall and CNO Richardson are saying now that unmanned vessels are going to be a very significant part of the new fleet plan.

Curtis Conway
Curtis Conway

When FFG(X) comes out it will offer a two for one opportunity to exchange destroyer construction budget for two frigates. The retrofit of DDG-51 Flt IIAs with the 24-RMA SPY-6 is another fleet improvement that provides greater capability for the force with existing platforms. Use of Expeditionary Strike Groups with their F-35B Lighting IIs to lower threat areas instead of sending a Carrier Strike Group should become more normal response in trouble areas. Amphibious combat system upgrades with EASR radar, Mk-41 VLS, Combat System Upgrades, should be a priority. However, the highest priority across the fleet should be the Common Bridge Equipment upgrade for all vessels, and their training vans for pierside training activities. Another priority that is not in the plane is an AEW&C V/STOVL aircraft that can operate off of any airfield, platform, or flight deck.


30 Destoyers in 15 years , and they call that a "Massive Expansion" Any Idea how many Destroyers the United States Commissioned in 15 MONTHS, 1944-45?
THAT is what you call a Massive Expansion!

Karl -Moderator
Karl -Moderator

Hey Readers!! This is great input. This gives WM some reasearch ideas. Yes fleet expansion is still way behind the 80s, and as you point out - years before that. WM has not covered whether SPY-6 is retrofittable from Flight III - definitely worthy of a story. Thx for engaging w/ us - keep it coming