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Destroyer Introduction

DDG-1000 is the Navy's newest land-attack destroyer program. The DD 21 design concept to support joint-service requirements in littoral regions. Armed with an array of land-attack weapons, DD 21 will provide sustained, offensive, distributed, and precise firepower at long ranges in support of forces ashore. This program also includes the use and development of the electric drive systems.

Modern Destroyers (DDs) and guided- missiles destroyers (DDGs) are multi-purpose ships that are useful in almost any kind of naval operation. They are fast ships with a variety of armament, but little or no armor. For protection, they depend on their speed and mobility. Their displacement varies from about 4,500 tons to 7,800 tons. The principal mission of destroyers is to operate offensively and defensively against submarines and surface ships and to take defensive action against air attacks. They also provide gunfire support for amphibious assaults and perform patrol, search, and rescue missions. The destroyer's armament consists of 5-inch guns and a variety of antisubmarine weapons, such as torpedoes, antisubmarine rockets (ASROCs), and Terrier and Tartar missiles. Traditionally, destroyers were named after officers and enlisted personnel of the Navy and Marine Corps and Secretaries of the Navy.

The destroyer evolved from the need of navies to counter a new ship which made a devastating debut in the Chilean Civil War of 1891 and in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894. This was the swift, small torpedo boat that could dash in close to the larger ships, loose their torpedoes and dash away. The world's navies recognized the need for a counter weapon and so the torpedo boat destroyer - later just "destroyer" - was born. From the first U.S. destroyer commissioned in 1902 to the famous ships of World War II to the Spruance-class to the Arleigh Burke-class, the U.S. Navy's destroyers have been evolving.

The US Navy began building the torpedo boat and destroyer classes of ships at the end of 19th century when they built the USS Farragut in 1899, a torpedo boat. Shortly thereafter, the nine ships of the Bainbridge destroyer class were commissioned, starting in 1902. This class marked the beginning of an increase in destroyer production that focused primarily on surface craft designed for the defense against torpedo attacks on capital ships.

Just prior to the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, the eight vessels of the Cassin-class were built, mainly for seaworthiness and endurance, and were the most heavily armed. The Cassin-class, and those similar to it, represented the culmination of a tremendous effort to make destroyers more seaworthy vessels, capable of extended operations at sea with the battle fleet.

US destroyers built towards the end of the Great War were the famous flush-deckers. The six ships of the Caldwell-class were the first flush-deckers for the Navy. These vessels dispensed with the raised forecastle of earlier models, meaning that the main deck was a single, long, flat structure. This was meant to create a more seaworthy hull.

The Caldwell-class served as a basis for two mass-produced groups of destroyers, the Wickes and Clemson-classes, which comprised about 300 ships, but not all of them were launched by the close of the war. Like the British, the Americans opted for producing large numbers of destroyers in the fastest time possible. The best way to accomplish this goal was the use of only a few designs.

The mission of the destroyer, prior to the Great War, was to engage enemy torpedo boats to prevent torpedo attacks against capital ships. However, with advances in technology and the need for multi-role ships, the mission of the destroyer changed. The destroyer assumed the role of the torpedo boat on the offense, engaging the enemy’s capital ships, and the destroyer on the defense, engaging the enemy’s torpedo boats. Therefore, in many naval powers, the move was to build only destroyers and not torpedo boats and destroyers.

The speed, manuverability, and shallow draft of the destroyer made it the ideal weapon employed against the submarine threat. The speed of the destroyer allowed it to quickly close on and engage a surfaced submarine, while maneuverability allowed the destroyer to turn quickly and re-engage a submarine that had submerged or was attacking the convoy or the destroyer itself. The shallow draft made the destroyer extremely difficult to hit with torpedoes, the primary weapon of the submarine while submerged.18 Since submarines in this era were faster on the surface of the water than they were below the surface, most submarine attacks were conducted with deck guns on the surface and torpedoes below the surface.

After the Great War, the US built a specialized type known as destroyer leaders. These ships were necessary to counter the destroyer leaders of foreign navies, namely those of Great Britain, France, and Japan. The US Navy envisioned using this class of destroyers differently than other navies, which used them as just a larger type of destroyer.

The primary mission of the destroyer leader centered on leading a flotilla of destroyers against the enemy’s battle line. The leader would provide guidance and tactics to the flotilla through the use of radio and flag communications. The guidance included range to the enemy ships, for both torpedo and gun attacks by the flotilla, hence the need for accurate range finders on the leader. The secondary mission concerned screening of the battle line against submarines, as a standard destroyer would do. The destroyer leader retained the same qualities as a standard destroyer, but would also have more speed,

The destroyer leader could accompany battle cruisers for both ASW protection and provide additional gun support during scouting missions. The leader possessed anti-aircraft capabilities to support both the cruisers and main battle line. Congress never authorized the funding to build the 12 destroyer leaders.

By by 1922, the Navy decommissioned, or placed in reserve, every class of destroyer except the Wickes-class, and the newly built Clemson-class. US shipyards continued producing the Clemson-class, 156 in all, with all of them being built and commissioned after the war. This shipbuilding program ended in 1921 and effectively doubled the size of the destroyer force. The Wickes- and Clemson-class ships, 265 total, created a problem for the Navy in the mid-1930s when all the U.S. destroyers would become overage nearly simultaneously.

US destroyers became known for their ruggedness and ability to function well in the harsh climate of the North Atlantic, especially in rough seas. The major deficiencies of US destroyers were armament arrangement, turning radius, inadequate depth charge power, and protection from the weather for crewmembers outside the skin of the ship (gun and torpedo crews and bridge watchstanders). US destroyers failed to turn quickly enough to re-engage submarines with more depth charges. The US turning radius was about 530 yards. The British could turn in about 300 to 400 yards.

Destroyer habitability, especially in the harsh North Atlantic, remained vital to crew morale. US destroyers lacked proper protection from the elements for gun and torpedo crews, as well as bridge watchstanders.

The feasibility and utility of the centerline gun and torpedo tube arrangements on British destroyers drove U.S. destroyer design and characteristics throughout much of the 1920s and into the 1930s, culminating in those characteristics incorporated in the Farragut-class.

Armament changes included the incorporation of the 5" gun, centerline arrangement of both guns and torpedo tubes, multi-speed and range torpedoes, and anti-aircraft guns. Habitability and protection included spray shields for guns and torpedo tube crews, wind protection for the bridge watchstanders and enclosing the bridge itself, as well as stateroom additions for the flotilla commander and his staff. The use of a kite balloon was to provide over-the-horizon visibility of the enemy during smoke generating operations.

The destroyers found a new mission prior to WW II, that of providing an anti-aircraft screen for aircraft carriers, so that the aircraft carrier did not have to fire its own guns in self-defense and inhibit flight operations.

The Navy never seemed to fully grasp the concept of the destroyer leader and more often used the larger destroyer as just that, a larger and roomier destroyer with a large complement of weapons onboard, instead of using the larger destroyer as a flagship from which to lead other destroyers. The Board failed to properly emphasize the potential capabilities of the fish hydrophone and ASDIC (or SONAR) throughout most of the 1920s and RADAR in the late 1930s.

Total displacement provided a unique insight into Interwar destroyer development. Displacement gradually increased in US and foreign destroyers from 1000-ton flush-deckers of WW I to the greater than 2000-ton Fletcher-class of WW II, effectively doubling in size. Some warned about making the destroyers too large, leaving the Navy with a hybrid ship that was not quite a destroyer and not quite a cruiser.

The destroyer performed admirably in WWII in convoy duty in the Atlantic, similar to its actions in WW I, and performed a variety of new missions in the Pacific against the Japanese, including anti-air (radar picket ship) and anti-submarine screen for the battle line, early warning to the Fleet, picked up downed aviators, gunfire support vessels for amphibious landings, and fighter direction.

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Page last modified: 18-11-2015 20:12:17 ZULU