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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.