Fitting Out a Fantastic Burke

The Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyers are the best exemplar of the type currently at sea. They are among the few truly multirole ship classes, able to perform any duty one might reasonably ask of them. Despite the design approaching its thirtieth birthday, the US Navy is continuing to build them, and they’re reasonably popular on the export market. With such a long life comes plenty of upgrades and options, so let’s see how we’d fit one out. DDGs, nicely equipped. One small note before we dig into this: I’m going to limit myself to features proposed or actually fitted to Arleigh Burkes, not hypotheticals like putting the SPY-3 radar on one.

Hull Variations
First, we have some decisions to make about the hull form. We’re going to take what I’ll term the “large form” hull, which was originally designed in the early 90s as the “Flight III” variation.1 This version was cancelled, but the design got used in the South Korean variation of the Arleigh Burke, the Sejong the Great class. This means an increase in length of 32 feet 4 inches, an increase in beam of 4 feet 3 inches, and 32 additional VLS tubes, for a total of 128.

Radar Systems
The radar is a critical system on a DDG. A long range radar allows for the tracking and engagement of multiple targets, which is important for the survival of the ship, plus any others she’s escorting. Radar is key, so we’re going to get the best and latest: AN/SPY-6. SPY-6 is an actively scanned phased array, unlike the passively-scanned SPY-1D fitted to most Burkes. The SPY-6 is more sensitive, can track many more targets, is more resistant to ECM, and might have the possibility of being a jammer in its own right. Super cool. It also provides solid ballistic missile defense capabilities.

But that’s not enough. While the big SPY-1/SPY-6 radar is the most prominent, there are other radars that complement it to provide better capabilities for the Aegis Combat System. A new and fancy radar is in the pipeline to compliment the SPY-6, but development hasn’t been completed yet, and the initial Flight III ships will start with integrating only the new SPY-6. Currently, the standard companion radar is the AN/SPQ-9B. It’s an X-Band suite optimized for tracking ships and low flying aircraft2 in littoral regions. It can also provide terminal guidance. I would like to see a more advanced system replace the SPQ-9B, but I’m very happy the US Navy is upgrading one system at a time.

CIWS
Burkes have been fitted with most western CIWS. Phalanx, Goalkeeper, RAM, and SeaRAM. We’re going to focus on the missile-based systems, since I’m a huge fan of the RIM-116. The choice comes down to launcher. The Mk. 49 GMLS has a 21-tube system, but requires external fire control information for cueing. The SeaRAM system has a capacity of 11 missiles, but comes with the radar and IR sensors used in Phalanx Block 1B, so it’s completely autonomous. Personally, I think I prefer the Mk 49, given that we already have an excellent radar suite. However, I could be swayed if the data exists showing that a separate radar on the CIWS is the better bet.

Funnel Structure
No option is too small for us to consider. There are a few different funnel designs on the various Burke flights. We’re going to go with the newer design that extends the external funnel structure up to the level of the exhaust tops. This reduces signature a little, and every little bit helps. This particular design element was first introduced on USS Mustin (DDG-89).

RMS
The AN/WLD-1 Remote Minehunting System (RMS) is an unmanned underwater vehicle that allows minesweeping operations without putting the mothership at risk. Mines are a huge and underappreciated threat, and this is a welcome addition. Fitting the RMS requires some amidships structural changes to accommodate the launching, recovery, and storage of the UUV. Part of these are moving the triple 325mm torpedo tubes from the main deck amidships to the missile deck aft. These modifications can be seen on some of the US Navy’s newer Burkes including USS Momsen (DDG-92).

Hangar
Unsurprisingly, we’re selecting the aft helicopter hangars. Helicopters are good. I’m really not sure why early Burkes didn’t come with actual aviation facilities, but that was the decision someone in the Navy made. This puts in hangars with space for a pair of Blackhawks aft.

Sonar Systems
For our towed array, we’ll opt for the SQR-20 MFTA. It has both active and passive sonar systems, and offers improved reliability, coverage, and detection capability over the previous standard SQR-19. Bow sonar will be the SQS-53C.

Gun
I really don’t care much about the naval gun. It is not a key capability of the ship. My choices are all 5″ guns, given my constraint that I can only select from existing options. If I could put a 76mm up front to save cost and space, I would. But I can’t. So we’ll take the Mk 45 Mod 4 gun. Good enough.

That covers our standard options for our Burke. They should do well.


  1. I’m not sure if this will be used on the upcoming-production flight III ships or not. 
  2. Aircraft meant in the loosest possible sense of the word, so airplanes, helicopters, uavs cruise missiles, antiship missiles, et cetera. 

8 thoughts on “Fitting Out a Fantastic Burke

  1. Kilo Sierra

    Is the Burke the largest surface combatant that Borgundy may procure?

    If so, any cause for need of dedicated space to fill the role that the USN is keeping the Tico around for?

    What would be on the VLS shopping list? SM-3, SM-6, TLAM, ESSM… maybe the SM-2 if it’s drastically cheaper than the SM-6.

    NSM/JASSM-C (LRASM)? What about the Hyunmoo-3?

    (side comment, why aren’t our ground elements pondering utilizing the ESSM, vice the SLAMMER?)

    Reply
    1. Fishbreath

      Evidently, the Hyunmoo-3C, contra Wikipedia, is probably not supersonic. (Which makes sense, given the engine and wing.)

      This article suggests that there’s a Hyunmoo-3D or Hyunmoo-4 in development, with a range bump to 3,000km and a speed of Mach 1.2. That would be an anti-ship missile worth having.

    2. parvusimperator Post author

      Largest surface combatant? Almost certainly. I’ve come around to the idea of carriers, but those aren’t surface combatants. Anyway, I would have to dig through my Friedman books more, but I don’t think there’s really any need for more C&C space on the Burkes. The Ticos are useful on account of having Aegis and not being EOL; most other cruisers got canned for want of Aegis.

      Oooh, article idea! Offhand SM-3, SM-6, TLAM, ESSM, LRASM. I really like the Hyunmoo-3, but I’d have to do some research to compare it with TLAM. (Thanks MTCR) I would also have to look at SM-2/SM-6 costs to see if the hi/lo split is worth it. LRASM is VLS-ready with the booster from ASROC, and with its stealthyness is almost certainly all the antiship punch we could want.

      I might also like to try to fit Hsiung Feng III box launchers somewhere, but that’s something that’s a little harder from my armchair.

      Re: landlubber-ESSM, remember it’s semi-active radar homing, so you need a terminal guidance radar. SLAMMERs are active radar, so they’re wayyy easier to slap on some HMMWV or whatever, cue at a target and let the missile do the work. There is a plan to fit an AIM-120C seeker to ESSM, but that hasn’t actually happened yet.

    3. Chris Bradshaw

      Hyunmoo-3 just seems like a better Tomahawk. Wouldn’t you prefer your anti-ship missiles to be stealthy, have a sea-skimming attack profile, or be absurdly fast? LSRAM or Brahmos seem ideal.

    4. parvusimperator Post author

      I’ll let Fishbreath answer that one, since he’s the one who wants it so badly. I would also throw the Hsiung Feng III into the ring in the fast category if you haven’t dug it out of the archives.

  2. Kilo Sierra

    I think I’ve been cherry-picking AAW loadouts in CMANO and going with Block II ESSMs (active).

    Interestingly after I posted this yesterday I did some more reading and saw that the Norway & Raytheon have slapped a -120 seeker onto the ESSM:

    https://www.raytheon.com/news/feature/air_and_ground?WT_mc_id=twitter_socialmedia_N/A&linkId=29565375

    More to the point I meant to illustrate yesterday; why are western (NATO) GBAD systems utilizing a tilt-box launcher? If ESSM (mostly) launches from VLS on a ship, is the missile length (both -120 and -162 are 12′) what prevents a ground based iteration from doing the same? Or is using a large(er) radar missile less than ideal for near-peer tactical GBAD? If the later is valid, then something like a networked AIM-9X… wait – good; big Army figured that out already:

    https://defense-update.com/20150328_mml.html#.VZ7OLMIw8dU

    Maybe a VLS ESSM/NASSAM system would fit between the Patriot (Corp+) and AIM-9X (that I hope is down at the BTN level)…

    Reply
    1. parvusimperator Post author

      Ooh, looks like they finally did it. Good on you, Raytheon.

      I would guess tilt-box simply so you can get less height on the vehicle, so it’s more stable and can fit in C-17s easier. Or am I not understanding the question?

      MMR is really sweet. I have an article to finish up on it. IIRC that’s the same radar as NASSAM though. Or at least, the same radar is listed in that article.

      As for where to put everything, I haven’t yet read Big Army’s plans yet, but caring about air defense is a new thing for them.

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