Picking a frigate was hard. There are lots of pretty good frigate designs out there, but none were quite what we want. The F100 came closest, so it got the nod.
Fortunately, choosing a destroyer is a lot easier. There’s one best option: an Arleigh Burke-class derivative. More specifically, the South Korean Sejong the Great-class destroyer, which is just an Arleigh Burke that’s a trifle bigger.
What’s so great about the Sejongs? Well, for one, they carry the excellent and proven Aegis combat system. This system was designed to defend American carriers from saturation attacks by Soviet antiship missiles. It’s great at tracking multiple targets and managing the engagement. The same system (albeit in smaller form) is on our F100-class frigates too. Hooray for commonality. Plus, they can plug into land-based IADS.
Where the basic American Burkes have 96 Mk. 41 VLS tubes, which can accommodate SAMs, VL-ASROC, and Tomahawk cruise missiles, the Sejongs have 128 such tubes. This is better than any destroyer afloat, and better than any ship afloat save for the Kirovs. And the Sejongs have better radar and battle management capability than the Kirovs.
The Mk. 41 VLS can accommodate SM-2, SM-3, SM-6, and ESSM SAMs, Tomahawk cruise missiles, and VL-ASROCs for an antisubmarine punch. Which is nearly everything you’d want a destroyer to be able to do. Note of course that ESSMs can be quadpacked four to a Mk. 41 tube. The rest of the armament suite is pretty conventional: sixteen Harpoon launchers, six 324 mm torpedo tubes, a RAM CIWS forward, a Goalkeeper CIWS aft, and a 5″ gun.
From a sensor perspective, the SPY-1D(V) is a pretty obvious component, dominating the sides of the forward superstructure. There’s the usual array of secondary radar systems for navigation, some infrared search and track units for passive scanning, a bow-mounted sonar, and a towed sonar array. All very nice, nothing here needs changing, so I’m touching nothing.
As for helicopters, the Sejongs have hangar space for two midsize units (SH-60s or similar). No shortcomings there. You could lash a third to the hangar deck if you really wanted.
Like the Burkes, the Sejongs are driven by a COGAG1 powerplant, which is simple and provides for excellent speed. It leaves something to be desired with regards to range, but I don’t care. Buy fleet oilers. Besides, we’re a mostly continental power anyway.
Really the only thing we’d do is swap the Goalkeeper for another RAM launcher. RAM is a more effective system than Goalkeeper. I’m not sure why the South Koreans called for both, but we won’t.
As for antiship missiles, as I mentioned in my piece about the F100s, I’d prefer an upgrade here, but I think it’s more important to ride the coattails of what the US Navy is going to buy. If they stick with Harpoon, they’ll keep it modernish, and it will be the best option because of the number bought. Alternatively, if they opt for NSM, its price will get better because of the large quantity purchased.
The Sejongs aren’t very “transformational” or “revolutionary”. We don’t care. They’re an improved version of a good, proven design. They have plenty of space for incremental, evolutionary upgrades. Plus, when the accountants come calling, you can point to obvious working capabilities today in addition to the hoped-for technologies of the future.
1.) Combined Gas (turbine) And Gas (turbine). So you have gas turbines for cruise and more gas turbines that you can use to also drive the screws when you need MORE POWER!
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