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DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Flight III

The DDG 51 Flight III upgrade is centered on the AN/SPY-6(V)1 Air and Missile Defense Radar and incorporates upgrades to the electrical power and cooling capacity plus additional associated changes to provide greatly enhanced warfighting capability to the fleet. The Flight III baseline began with DDGs 125-126 and will continue with DDG 128 and follow on ships. The Arleigh Burke class is comprised of three separate variants or Flights: DDG 51-71 represent the original design and are designated Flight I ships; DDG 72-78 are Flight II ships; DDG 79 and Follow ships are built or are being built to the Flight IIA design.

The first DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer to be built in the Flight III configuration, the future Jack H. Lucas (DDG 125), was successfully launched at Huntington Ingalls Industries, Ingalls Shipbuilding division, 04 June 2021. HII was constructing four other DDG 51 class ships, including the future Frank E. Petersen Jr. (DDG 121) and Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG 123) in the Flight IIA configuration, and the future Ted Stevens (DDG 128) and Jeremiah Denton (DDG 129) as Flight III ships. There were a total of 20 DDG 51 class ships under contract at both new construction shipyards.

The Flight III baseline was initially planned for DDG-122, the second ship in FY16. important variations exist among Destroyers that enable a single platform type to accomplish a varied array of mission sets. Some carry embarked helicopter detachments for surface surveillance and anti-submarine warfare, while others are configured with an active sonar “tail.” Some have combat systems configured for ballistic missile defense while others focus on high value unit air defense (a role traditionally held by guided-missile cruisers). Only the older variants have long-range surface-to-surface (Harpoon) weapons, yet all are capable of performing offensive precision strikes.

New Flight III models will incorporate combat systems upgrades that will expand their sensor and strike capabilities even further. In July 2008, Navy announced its decision to truncate the DDG 1000 program at three ships and restart the construction of BMD capable DDG 51s. The Department's decision to truncate the DDG 1000 program and continue building DDG 51 class ships triggered a Nunn McCurdy critical cost breach due primarily to a reduction in total procurement quantity.

The Navy relied on its 2009 Radar/Hull Study as the basis to select DDG 51 over DDG 1000 to carry the Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) as its preferred future surface combatant—a decision that may result in a procurement of up to 43 destroyers and cost up to $80 billion over the next several decades. The Radar/Hull Study may not provide a sufficient analytical basis for a decision of this magnitude.

Specifically, the Radar/Hull Study:

  • focused on the capability of the radars it evaluated, but does not fully evaluate the capabilities of different shipboard combat systems and ship options under consideration,
  • did not include a thorough trade-off analysis that would compare the relative costs and benefits of different solutions under consideration or provide robust insight into all cost alternatives, and
  • assumed a significantly reduced threat environment from other Navy analyses, which allowed radar performance to seem more effective than it may actually be against more sophisticated threats.

Beginning in FY 2016, the Navy planned to procure the Flight III variant which will replace the existing SPY-1D radar with the highly sensitive Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) S-band radar and SPQ-9B X-band radars, and their design will provide for more electrical power and cooling capacity. The AMDR will provide superior support in identifying potential targets through improvements in power, sensitivity and resistance to natural and man-made environments.

A major upgrade to the ship’s combat system software also brings several challenges that could affect the restart ships, due in part to a key component of this upgrade that has already faced delays. Further delays could postpone delivery to the shipyard for the first restart ship, and could also jeopardize the Navy’s plan to install and test the upgrade on an older DDG 51 prior to installation on the restart ships.

This first installation would serve to mitigate risk, and if it does not occur on time the Navy will be identifying, analyzing, and resolving any combat system problems on the first restart ship. Further, the Navy does not plan to fully test new capabilities until after certifying the upgrade as combat-ready, and has not planned for realistic operational testing necessary to fully demonstrate its integrated cruise and ballistic missile defense performance.

The Navy faced significant technical risks with its new Flight III DDG 51 ships, and the current level of oversight may not be sufficient given these risks. The Navy is pursuing a reasonable risk mitigation approach to AMDR development, but it will be technically challenging. According to Navy analysis, selecting the DDG 51 hullform to carry AMDR requires significant redesign and reduces the ability of these ships to accommodate future systems. This decision also limits the radar size to one that will be at best marginally effective and incapable of meeting the Navy’s desired capabilities.

The Navy may have underestimated the cost of Flight III, and its plan to include the lead ship in a multiyear procurement contract given the limited knowledge about the configuration and the design of the ship creates potential cost risk. Finally, the current level of oversight may not be commensurate with a program of this size, cost, and risk and could result in less information being available to decision makers.

The FY 2014 President’s Budget (PB) submission requests $1,615.6M for one ship in FY 2014, and $388.6M Advanced Procurement to support the FY 2015 - FY 2017 MYP ships. This budget included the introduction of Flight III, via an Engineering Change Proposal (ECP), beginning in FY 2016. On March 26, 2013, the President signed the FY 2013 Appropriations Act that included funding for a tenth MYP ship. This tenth ship, not part of the FY 2014 PB submission.

In the FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, the House directed the Secretary of the Navy to submit a report that provides an updated comparison of the costs and risks of acquiring DDG 1000 and DDG 51 Flight III ships equipped for enhanced ballistic missile defense capability, including: (1) an updated estimate of the total cost to develop, procure, operate, and support ballistic missile defense capable DDG 1000 destroyers equipped with the air and missile defense radar that would be procured in addition to the three prior-year-funded DDG 1000 class ships, and in lieu of Flight III DDG 51 destroyers; (2) the estimate of the total cost of the current plan to develop, procure, operate,and support Flight III DDG 51 destroyers; (3) details on the assumed ballistic missile defense requirements and construction schedules for both the DDG 1000 and DDG 51 Flight III destroyers; and (4) An updated comparison of the program risks and the resulting ship capabilities in all dimensions.

In June 2013, the Navy awarded the multiyear procurement contract for up to 10 additional DDG 51s, to be procured between 2013 and 2017. By utilizing a multiyear procurement strategy, the Navy was able to leverage competition, fixed-price contracting and stability to garner an excess of $1.5 billion in savings.

As these ships are commissioned, they will continue to serve as the fleet’s workhorse as they improve on or retain all the warfighting capability of previous Arleigh Burke destroyers, including advances in anti-submarine warfare, command and control, and anti-surface warfare. Capabilities will be further augmented by the introduction of the air and missile defense radar on the final three ships of being procured under that contract. These ships, designated as Flight III, will significantly enhance radar performance and provide superior capabilities to US forces operating forward for the next 40 years.

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Page last modified: 24-06-2021 18:06:09 ZULU