Jun 18, 2010

Future of the US Heavy Surface Combattant Ships

“Too many shifts, too expensive, too many, a peak at 96 cruisers/destroyers by 2020, then the US Navy will soon return to……REALITY".

22 AAW Cruisers: “Tico’s…the last US cruisers ?”
22 Ticonderoga class AAW cruisers
(CG 52-73: Bunker-Hill, Mobile-Bay, Antietam, Leyte-Gulf, San-Jacinto, Lake-Champlain, Philippine-Sea, Princeton, Normandy, Monterey, Chancellorsville, Cowpens, Gettysburg, Chosin, Hué-City, Shiloh, Anzio, Vicksburg, Lake-Erie, Cape-St.George, Vella-Gulf, Port-Royal). Derived from the Spruance ASW destroyers hull. The initial Spruance hull design have some weight growth margin (for future upgrades). But with the Tico’s (news weapons systems, news radar systems, news superstructures), this “weight margin” has been consumed. The result is that the Tico’s are any real serious growth margin (for a real much heavier upgrade), and have top weight problems. Commissioned in 1986/1994, some to be modernized (200+ $ million per ship, with improved radar/electronics/sensors, BMD capable) by 2008/2015, with expected 35 years of service, all to be retired by 2021/2029. Initially to be replaced by a radical new CG(X) cruisers program, but now, with the collapse of this stillborn program, it is very likely that the 22 “Tico’s” cruisers, the last of the US Navy, was “indirectly” replaced by +/- 14/20 (officially 24) new Arleigh Burke Fligth III.

CG(X): a stillborn program, and dramatic evidence that now the US Navy can not afford new very high-tech warships !
The CG(X) program was announced on November 1, 2001 (at the same time as DDX/LCS programs).

1st phase: 2001/2005: some hope for 19 new ships:
Initially, the US Navy wanted to procure 19 CG(X)s as replacements for its 22 Ticonderoga (CG-47) class AAW cruisers (all to be retired by 2021/2029). At the beginning, the US Navy originally intended to use its Zumwalt (DDG-1000) class destroyer hull design as the basis for the CG(X) design. (The potential for reusing the DDG-1000 hull design for the CG(X) was one of the Navy’s arguments for moving ahead with the DDG-1000 program…). During this phase, the CG (X) design very likely use same hull as DDG-1000 Zumwalt, have probably only one 155mm AGS gun (or any big guns ?), two 40 or 57mm gun in stleathy mount for close range defense againt fast surface crafts, very likely more VLS than a DDG-1000 Zumwalt (80), maybe 120/140 ?, nearly the same superstructures but with much bigger (and powerful) phased array radars.

2rd phase: 2006/2008: Oil prices up, nuclear arrives, warships growth in size & down in number…fewer hope for 5 big nuclear powered and 14 conventionnal cruisers:
But subsequently, however, by +/- 2007, the Navy appeared to back away from the idea of reusing the DDG-1000 hull design as the basis for the CG(X) (at the same time, the DDG-1000 program began to seriously “listing”). The Navy testified in 2007 that the power requirement of the CG(X) combat system, including the new radar, could be about 30/31 megawatts (compared with about 5 megawatts for the Aegis combat system). This meant that the Navy studied:
- A new +/- 16000 tons hull in two versions: one enlarged DDG-1000 Zumwalt hull, and one more conventional hull (ie. less stealthy), intended for the AAW Fleet protection. (and even the use of the LPD-17 class hull were discussed !).
- And a new even much more larger hull (+/- 20/26000 tons), with a more conventional hull (ie. less stealthy, to reduce cost), nuclear powered, intended for ballistic missile threat. With probably a very powerfull BMD radar, with more than 180 VLS and likely CIWS laser capable.

2009/2010: A reality, 5/7 $ billion per ship, simply unaffordable !

By early 2009, it was reported than the Navy look the option to buy only 8 CG (X) and slow the delivery rate of these ships (only 1 ship every 3 years !, the 1st commissioned by 2023 and the 8th ship around 2044 !), but the game had lasted long enough and should stop the farce. By the end of 2009, the US Navy began to propose the formal cancellation of the CG(X) program and instead procuring an improved version of the DDG-51 (the Flight III version). Officially, 2 reasons driven this final choice:
- “affordability considerations.”
- “Any foreseable need for hig tech AAW cruisers able to face well coordinated mass attack of cruiser-missile (dozens and dozens of incoming enemy cruise missiles at the same time).
But what the us navy did not realize was a destroyer or a cruiser takes 4/6 years to build. A missile, it takes only a few weeks / months to be built…

Several studies show that the cost of these cruisers easily reach 5 to 7 $ billion per unit (+/- 5 $ billion for the 16000 tons version and +/- 7 $ billion for the larger version, and even much more at the end, with cost inflation……likely to reach +/- 10 $ billion per unit, at the late 2010’s/early 2020’s, for the 20/26000 tons nuclear powered version ).

Land attack (now ? AAW capable) destroyers: too ambitious, too early
The Zumwalt destroyers program begin in the early 1990’s. In November 2001, the program was restructured and finaly named the DDG-1000 Zumwalt class by 2006/2007. Intended to be a multi-mission destroyer with an emphasis on naval surface fire support and operations in littoral waters. The DDG-1000 was expected to to introduce new technologies that would be available for use on future Navy ships (to serve as the basis for the Navy’s now cancelled CG(X) cruiser). With an full displacement of +/- 14 500 tons, the DDG-1000 design is 55% larger than the Navy’s current 9,500-ton Aegis cruisers/destroyers.

2,7/3,3 $ billion per ships, even more ? (versus 1,8/2 for a Arleigh Burke), too expansive !:

Recently, the U.S. Navy still made some changes! by eliminating a initially expected radar and by adding a new one (likely a AMDR radar for AAW use). A pathetic choice (but proves that the US Navy seeks urgent to have a maximum of BMD warships capable) when we see that the U.S. Navy has canceled in 2007/2008 a DDG 1000 hull AAW version for the CGX….

Initially (late 1990’s/early 2000’s), the US Navy wanted to replace 32 ageing Spruance class ASW destroyers (1970’s era) by +/- 30 new Zumwalt, but rapidly, with a DRAMATICALY cost increase, the requirement drop to +/- 24 by 2004/2005 and after soon by +/-16, then 7/8 and finally only 3 (the 3th ship was hardly finally secured only by considerable politicians lobbying).

The Zumwalt program has received a total of +/- 15.3 $ billion in funding (FY1995 through FY2009). This total includes +/- 7.4 $ billion in R & D, and about $8.0 billion in procurement funding. In the FY2010 budget, the Navy estimates the cost for the first 2 DDG-1000 at 6,6 billion (3,3 billion per ships) and estimates the 3th ship’s cost at $2,7 $ billion.
(some CBO estimates were even worse...........).

In resume:
- 4 ships = a capability.
- 2 ships = a technology demonstration.
- 3 ships = represents a lot of uncertainties and poor vision from the US Navy or US congress...

3 Zumwalt DDG class:
(DDG-1000/1003: Zumwalt, Michael-Monsoor, third not yet named). To be commissioned 2015/2017, with probably +/- 40 years service life, to be retired by 2055/2057.

AAW DESTROYERS: “argh !, No, the Arleigh Burke design is not eternal !!!!”
21 Arleigh Burke Flight-I:

Arleigh-Burke, Barry, John.Paul.Jones, Curtis-Wilbur, Stout, John.S.McCain, Mitscher , Laboon, Russell, Paul-Hamilton, Ramage, Fitzgerald, Stethem, Carney, Benfold, Gonzalez, Cole, The-Sullivans, Milius, Hopper, Ross). Whitout hangar for helico. Commissioned in 1991/1997, Originaly with 30 years of life, extended now to 35 years service life expected. To be progressively modernized (BMD capable, 190 $ million per ship). The fact that these vessels do not have hangar will, for sure, a reason to disarm them relatively quickly towards their end of career. To be retired around 2026/2032 (and partially replaced by some Arleigh Burke Flight-III).

7 Arleigh Burke Flight-II:
(DDG 72/78:
Mahan, Decatur, McFaul, Donald-Cook, Higgins, O'Kane, Porter). Whitout hangar for helico. Commissioned 1998/1999, with full 35 years service life expected, to be progressively modernized (BMD capable, 190 $ million per ship), the fact that these vessels do not have hangar will, for sure, a reason to disarm them relatively quickly towards their end of career. To be retired around 2033/2034. Likely to be partially replaced by last’s Arleigh Burke Flight-III.

2 Arleigh Burke Flight-IIA:
(DDG 79/80: Oscar-Austin, Roosevelt), 5"/54 gun variant, with helico hangar and full 40 years service life expected, to be modernized (BMD capable, 190 $ million per ship), commissioned in 2000, to be retired around 2040. Likely to be replaced by radical new DDG(X), likely ordered early 2030’s.

4 Arleigh Burke Flight-IIA:
(DDG 81-84:
Winston.S.Churchill, Lassen, Howard, Bulkeley), 5"/62 gun variant, with helico hangar and full 40 years service life expected, to be progressively modernised (BMD capable, 190 $ million per ship), commissioned 2001, to be retired around 2041. Likely to be replaced by new DDG(X).

28 Arleigh Burke Flight-IIA:
(DDG 85-112: McCampbell, Shoup, Mason, Preble, Mustin, Chafee, Pinckney, Monsen, Chung-Hoon, Nitze, James.E.Williams, Bainbridge, Halsey, Forrest-Sherman, Farragut, Kidd, Gridley, Sampson, Truxtun, Sterett, Dewey, Stockdale, Gravely, Wayne.E.Meyer, Jason-Dunham, William.P.Lawrence, Spruance, Michael-Murphy). With 5"/62 gun, helico hangar, no 20 mm CIWS variant, full 40 years service life expected, to be progressively modernized (ABM capable, 190 $ million per ships), commissioned 2002/2011, to be retired around 2042/2051. Likely to be replaced by new DDG(X).

Never forget that the initial official requirement (mid 1980’s/late 1990’s) of Arleigh Burke DDG for the US Navy was 57 !. With the first problems encountered (2003/2005) with Zumwalt class, the official requirement quickly growth to 62 and now, with the severe reduction of the Zumwalt and the collapse of the CGX programs, the US Navy, to avoid a serious “workload” fall for the 2 main warships shipyards (Northorp Grumman/Pascagoula; Bath & Iron Works) and to deseperatly reduce the down size of the fleet, growth again the official need of Arleigh Burke to 71/88, and was planned to build:

9 Arleigh Burke Flight-IIA+:
(DDG 113-121: William.S.Sims, Callaghan, Scott, Chandler, not yet named). This 9 ships were similar to others Flight-IIA, but incorporate some sensors modifications (BMD capable from their beginning). Current estimate cost for a current Arleigh Burke Flight-IIA+, +/- 1,8 $ billion. Expected to be ordered throught FY2010-FY2015. With 40 years service life expected, to be commissioned around 2015/2020, to be retired around 2055/2060. Likely to be replaced by new DDG(X).

24 ? Arleigh Burke Flight-III (the probable “Tico’s” and “earlier Burke’s” replacement, a cruiser that does not speak its name?):

The US Navy plans call for shifting in FY2016 to procurement of a new version of the DDG-51 called the Flight III version. Possible ship characteristics :

- To have a new BMD capable radar, the AMDR (a smaller version of the radar planned for the CG (X)).

- But this new AMDR is more bigger than the current Aegis onboard the Arleigh Burke DDG, there appears to be some questions as to whether the DDG-51 hull/deckhouse will be able to accommodate the AMDR (if the AMDR proved too large to fit inside the deckhouse of a DDG-51 without raising the ship’s center of gravity and destabilizing it, the Navy would need to lengthen the ship, further increasing its displacement/cost).
- If the ship were finally enlarged/lengthened, the deletion of the standard 5” gun for a new one 155mm AGS gun is possible.
- Maybe replacement of the relatively ageing Mk41 VLS system (1980’s) by new Mk57 VLS (same as VLS aboard the newest DDG-1000 Zumwalt class).
- Maybe improved power generation (very likely, because a new need in higher power for the new radar carried).
- Improvement in ASW warfare (new sonar, countermesure).
- A slightly crew reduction (from +/- 275/330 in others Arleigh Burke to 240/290 in this flight-III).
- Likely a slightly re-design of the ship superstructure (lightly more compact/stealthy).

In fact, it become clear that if the Navy does not need to lengthen the DDG-51 hull, those Flight III’s will cost around 2,4 $ billion per ship (+/- 500$ million of increase, largely due to new sensors/radars, 30% more than a Arleigh Burke Flight IIA: 1,8 $ billion). But if the navy enlarge/lengthen the ship design, the Flight III’s will cost around 2,6/3 billion…whithout problems…

Detailed design work on the Flight III DDG-51 will reportedly begin in FY2012/2013. The Navy’s 30-year (FY2011-FY2040) shipbuilding plan calls for procuring 24 Flight III DDG-51s between FY2016/FY2031, very likely to replace 22 Tico’s AAW cruisers and 28 Arleigh Burke Flight-I/II (= 24 new ships commissioned in 2021/2035 to replace 50 olders decommissioned in 2021/2034), but attention, with a constantly increasing cost, the figure of 24 seems very optimistic. Personnaly, I find that probably fewer ships (from officially 24 to +/- 16 to 20 ?) new Flight III will be built, with a likely 40 years service life, to be commissioned around 2021/2035, to be retired around 2061/2075. Maybe to be replaced by the last future DDG(X) batch/flight or a radical new futuristic warships concept (2060’s-2100’s era).

FUTUR DDG(X) : the later Arleigh-Burke replacement, 2030-2050’s, please, avoid the DDG-1000/CG (X)/LCS errors !!!.

Some report also states procurement of a new class of DDG(X) destroyers will begin around FY-23/FY-32 (The 2011 plan has pushed back the DDG(X) procurement from 2022 to 2032, which means it would be a successor to the DDG-51 Flight III), likely to become the “workhorse” of the American surface combatant fleet through +/- 2040’s/2080’s. Possible design feature includes:

- Very unlikely to use the DDG-51 hull (Because, by 2032, when the first DDG(X) would be authorized under the current plan, the initial DDG-51 design would be about 50 years old. And I considers it unlikely that a ship design that originated in the late 1970s/early 1980s will prove robust enough to accommodate changes designed to counter threats at sea until the 2070’s/2080’s. (when the DDG(X)s would be reaching the end of their 35/40 year service life).
- Very likely to use a new hull design: Monohull type (in this case, very likely to incorpore the lastest Zumwalt hull experience) or even trimaran hull (much improved/more bigger/robust LCS 2 Independence design) ?.
- Bigger (usually) than Arleigh Burke design (9500 tons), likely around 12/15000 tons.
- Extremely and radically much less “crew expensive” than a Arleigh Burke (275/330 sailors), and likely to incorporate improved “crew reduction” experience from the DDG-1000 class (140 sailors per ship). Very likely around +/- 100/120 sailors per new DDG(X) ?

- Maybe without two conventional shaft, but with pods or even pump jets ?
- Likely all electrics propulsions.
- Probably have some weight growth margin, modular/flexible design, for future upgrade.

- Armed with a new 155mm AGS gun or more likely with a even much more newer electric gun (a “railgun”, actually under initial demonstrator trials). With numerous VLS (80/120 Mk57 VLS or next ? models), CIWS Laser, UAV/UUV, mother ship fully capable.
- Nuclear or conventionally powered ?, great question, why ?. Simply because, through 2030/2080, with oil price up even dramatically, the cost-effectivness of nuclear versus conventional propulsion rise again. Or even use “pure Green fuel”.
- Price per ship, +/- 4 $ billion for a new DDG (X) design (2010 estimates), but with cost escalation, likely to rose around 5/8 $ billion by the late 2020’s/early 2030’s…).
- Very likely to replace not at “1 for 1 basis” the later Arleigh Burke (through 2035/2060, AT THE BEST around 30/35 new DDGX to replace +/- 45 Arleigh Burke Flight II/IIA/IIA+ DDG).
- It is clear that this future program will be, like Burke’s today, a major program for several decades (2030’s-2060’s) and that the design will be improved (likely 2 or 3 Flight/Batch).

The expected timeline in the future DDGX project could be slightly modified because there is a hole/gap in massive DDG disarming during 2035-2040 (this "hole/gap" is due that if the earlier Burke have 35 years service life, the laters Burke have full 40 years service life, which will cause a small few years hole/gap in the massive decommissioning of the Burke DDG). This hole/gap could be exploited by the U.S. Navy for slightly delaying its future DDGX (and refine the design) or full headed with this program and partially allow for growth (brieftly) in destroyers fleet size around 2035/2040.

Or Toward a Hybrid UAV-Light-Carrier/AAW Cruiser/Destroyers design (12/18000 tons) ?
With expension of UAV/UUV use in naval warfare and cost escalation in shipsbuilding industry. It seems possible that in the 2020/2030’s, the concepts of high end cruisers/destroyers and light UAV/UUV Carriers merging into one ship design. Why, simply because don’t forget the very interesting current BAE-system concept of UVX warships design (which combines weapons/stealthy superstructures of very advanced destroyers design in the fore part of the ship, and extended modular facilities/flight deck aft for UAV/UUV/Mothers ships operation.).

In fact, It becomes very clear that the US Navy reached a probable maximum extreme “peak” of +/- 96 Cruisers/Destroyers around 2020 (22 Tico’s, 71 Burke’s, 3 Zumwalt’s, and this helped by the fact that the canceled or slowed/reduced CGX/DDG1000 programs were only partially replaced by the additional buying of 9 Burke’s…….Burke’s whose design is ALREADY EXISTING).

But in the 15 years following years (2020/2035) the massive withdrawal of the Tico’s/earlier Arleigh Burke’s (and their replacement by FEWER new vessels) will quickly reduce the number of heavy units.
It is very likely that around 2050, the US Navy align only around +/- 43/52 cruisers/destroyers (+/- 9 Burke Flight-IIA+; 3 Zumwalt; +/- 16/20 Burke’s Flight-III; +/- 15/20 new DDG (X), a more REALISTIC AND REASONABLE heavy surface combatant fleet size when we see that the high end tech warships hare more and more expensive…

And by 2060 around 46/55 cruisers/destroyers (+/- 16/20 Burke’s Flight-III; 30/35 DDG(X)).

PS: the LCS program will be discussed further in another editorial

Next editorial: Future of the US carrier’s & big gator’s (LHD/LHA) and US naval aviation (of course !).

It may be that in my opinion, I forgot programs ? (or made few mistales ?), then said it ! Feel free to comment and give your opinion !


  1. Mike, very valuable bulk outlook. I remember when the Spruance class turned up as cheap destroyers. Very good work, no quibbles on your trends.