DLG 6 / DDG-37 Farragut / DLG 9 Coontz

The Farragut class guided missile destroyers were constructed in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The ships were also known as the Coontz class, since DDG 40 Coontz was the first designed and built as a guided missile ship. The three earlier ships of the class were initially designed as all gun hunter killer destroyers (DK), and were were subsequently converted to carry the new Terrier surface-to-air missile.

The DLG 6 (Farragut) class (also sometimes referred to as the Coontz [DLG 9] class) was a continuation of the US response to the Soviet air threat to the carrier task force. In parallel with the cruiser SAM installations, more launch platforms were needed to deal with the saturation attacks that might be possible in the late 1950's. Accordingly, tests of a Terrier installation on a Gearing class destroyer were performed, and a follow-on to the DL 2 design was proposed as an AAW frigate for task force defense. Whether the DL 2 should be considered a destroyer or a cruiser might be argued, but in the DLG 6 design the size of the ship increased substantially, driven by the volume, weight, and electric power demands of the new, smaller Terrier system as well as by the need for high speeds in rougher sea states to overcome drawbacks to the World War II-era destroyers that, in their postwar overloaded condition, often could not keep station on the postwar carriers of the Midway and Forrestal classes.

At the same time, ASW developments continuing the evolution of the CLK 1 created a larger, lower-frequency sonar and a weapon to take advantage of it, the Anti-Submarine ROCket (ASROC). Both of these devices called for additional ship size to support their hydrodynamic drag, weight, and volume. Early on in the design process, a BuShips footnote remarks that "installing the SQS-4 sonar on a CLAA class will give similar capabilities, showing that designers of the time were well aware that they were entering cruiser territory.

The DLG 6 class commissioned starting in 1960 with a twin-arm Terrier launcher aft, a 5-inch /54 gun in A position, an ASROC "pepper box" launcher in B position, and to begin with, SPQ-55 illuminators for beam-riding control of the missiles. This missile installation was less capable, both in guidance and in magazine capacity (40 rounds) compared to the cruiser conversions. Two secondary 3-inch /50 guns were also carried. Farragut turned in an excellent performance on sea trials, running above 33 knots on essentially her designed power of 85,000 SHP at 5450 tons, only slightly below full load displacement of 5648 tons. Design speed was 32 knots.

The ships were significantly larger than previous destroyers, and the term "frigate" was reactivated to describe them. This class of ships was initially classified as Destroyer Leader [DL], and subsequently reclassified as Guided Missile Frigate [DLG] in 1956. The fourth Farragut (DLG-6) was projected as DL-6, reclassified DLG-6 on 14 November 1956 prior to keel-laying. The ships were again reclassified in 1975, as Guided Missile Destroyer [DDG], and given new hull numbers [eg, DLG 10 King became DDG 41].

Although a warship's hull and machinery can be built to last for 30 years, its combat systems usually become obsolete much sooner and must be updated periodically to remain effective. These guided missile destroyers formed a substantial portion of the late Cold War inventory of battle group surface combatants, but, having been built in the early 1960s, by the advent of the Reagan Administration they had seen 20 years of service and their combat systems were obsolescent.

In the 1980s, many surface combatants entered their third decade of service and needed modernization, particularly for their anti-air warfare (AAW) missile systems. The Navy had developed three combat system upgrade programs for ships in this category: the CG/SM-2 Upgrade, the New Threat Upgrade, and the DDG-2-Class Upgrade. The CG/SM-2 Upgrade and New Threat Upgrade enabled older ships to use the Navy's new Standard SM-2 missile and provided particularly dramatic capability improvements at a relatively modest cost.

The CG/SM-2 Upgrade and New Threat Upgrade would give the 10 ships of the DDG-37 class a modern, long-range AAW capability, exceeding the AAW range of even the new CG-47 cruiser. These 10 ships could be upgraded for a total cost of about $260 million, or one-fourth the procurement cost of a single CG-47 cruiser.

The CG/SM-2 Upgrade program accomplished basic modifications necessary to permit a ship to use the new SM-2 (Block I) missile and thus obtain the added AAW range and firepower made possible by the SM-2. Firepower, a very important factor in countering the growing cruise missile threat, will be essentially quadrupled by this modification. The New Threat Upgrade program built upon the CG/SM-2 Upgrade program by providing further radar and fire control improvements. It also gives the ship a capability to use the SM-2 (Block II) missile, a faster and still more capable version of the SM-2 AAW missile. The CG/SM-2 upgrade is a prerequisite to the NTU program.

The CG/SM-2 Upgrade cost about $8 million per ship for the Terrier ships [all of the cruisers except the last six (CGN-36 through 41) and the DDG-37-class destroyers] and about $20 million per ship for the Tartar [the six latest CGNs and four DD-993s] ships. The New Threat Upgrade cost an additional $18 million per ship. Thirty-one ships were programmed to receive both upgrade programs. Not programmed for either upgrade are the 10 ships of the DDG-37 class, despite the fact that these ships were equipped with the MKLO missile launching system, which permits use of an extended-range booster on AAW missiles. These ships could therefore have an extraordinarily long-range AAW capability if they were modified to use the SM-2 missile. Although the DDG-37-class is relatively old (commissioned in 1960 to 1961), installing just the Basic CG/SM-2 Upgrade package at the modest cost of about $8 million per ship would provide the fleet with long-range AAW capability with the SM-2 missile on 10 additional ships during the period necessary to build new surface combatants.

Despite periodic modernizations the classes was retired in the early 1990s. Modernization with the New Threat Upgrade (NTU) package was considered for these ships, but was terminated since modernization would not have been cost effective given the limited service lives remaining. As part of the 1989 Amended budget submission, the decision was made to accelerate the retirement of these ships to achieve complete retirement of the class (except Mahan (DDG 42) which received NTU modernization in 1982 as a test package) by the end of FY 93. The highly capable, multi-mission, AEGIS equipped, Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) class replaced these ships.

DDG-25 through DDG-30 were DDG-2 Charles Adams class ships built in the United States for Australia and Germany. DDG-1, as well as DDG-31 through DDG-36, were destroyers converted to carry guided missiles, all of which were striken from active service between 1978 and 1988.

DDG-47 Ticonderoga and DDG-48 Yorktown were subsequently redesignated CG-47 and CG-48. It is unclear whether DDG-49 and DDG-50 were formally assigned to Vincennes or Valley Forge prior to their designation as CG-49 and CG-50, though in any event the DDG numerical sequence resumed with DDG-51 Arleigh Burke.

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