Large Surface Combatant
The DDG(X) program was formerly called Large Surface Combatant or DDG Next.
Limited by the hull foundation design, the improvement potential of the "Arleigh Burke" class is already very limited, and it is difficult to improve substantially. With the launch of laser weapons, electromagnetic rail guns, and new electronic equipment in the future, the power system of the entire ship is a severe test. While the new conversion project significantly improves combat performance, there are also considerable technical risks.
The U.S. Navy experimentally equipped two "Arleigh Burke" -class destroyers with hybrid electric propulsion systems in 2016, and plans to retrofit more than 30 similar ships at a speed of four a year. However, the project was terminated in 2018 because the ship's power distribution system could not support the load that simultaneously powers the Aegis system and the electric propulsion system, which also confirmed the limitation of the ship's ability to improve the power system from the side.
Also in 2018, the Navy began to seek the next generation of "large surface combatants" to use it to replace the current "Ticonderoga" class cruisers and some "Arleigh Burke" class destroyers. The Navy now has an all-electric propulsion advanced destroyer-"Zumwalt" class. The newly designed integrated power system can meet the needs of these "big power users" to get on board. However, it is still far from being practical.
Like the Navy’s 2017 shipbuilding plan, the current plan includes a future class of LSCs that is intended to replace the DDG-51 Flight I and II ships when they are retired in the late 2020s and 2030s. The 2019 plan also did not specify whether that new ship would be a cruiser or destroyer or something else entirely.
In September 2018 the office of the Chief of Naval Operations Director of Surface Warfare, or OPNAV N96, convened a “large surface combatant requirements evaluation team” to figure out what the Navy’s next large ship will look like and what it will need to do. The goal, according to the N96 head Rear Adm. Ron Boxall, will be to buy the first cruiser replacement in 2023 or 2024.
The fleet is pushing towards designs that can easily be upgraded without a major overhaul. To do that, the Navy thinks its going to need a lot of extra power for more energy-intensive weapons in the future, such as electromagnetic rail guns and laser weapons. Only Zumwalt has the excess power generation CNO is looking for, but stability in the water for the stealthy destroyer had been a limiting factor in some conditions. The new ship will incorporate Raytheon’s AN/SPY-6 Air and Missile Defense Radar, the same way the new DDG Flight III has incorporated it.
In early 2013, head of Naval Surface Forces, Vice Adm. Tom Copeman, recommended against building the DDG 51 Flight III destroyers, a modification of the Arleigh Burke class to be fitted with the new Air Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) under development to replace the SPY-1 radars used in Aegis warships. The AMDR, designed with higher power and fidelity to handle the complex ballistic-missile defense mission, will require significantly more electrical power than the current system. And, while the AMDR apparently will fit into the DDG 51 hull, margins for future growth are severely limited. Instead, Copeman recommended creating a new, large surface combatant fitted with AMDR and designed with the power, weight and space to field “top-end energy weapons” like the electromagnetic rail gun under development by the Navy.
By early 2014, the Navy was in the very early stages of developing a new destroyer — called the Future Surface Combatant — which would replace the existing Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and enter service by the early 2030s.
The July 2016 "Navy Future Fleet Platform Architecture Study" by The MITRE Corporation recommended "Building a magazine ship [MG(X)] to augment existing large surface combatants. Large surface combatants will have very capable SPY-1 and SPY-6 radar systems, but lack the magazine depth and are also very expensive. The Navy should build low-cost magazine ships to act as “wingmen” for large surface combatants. To keep the costs low, these ships would be based on either a commercial or civilian manned fleet oiler (T-AO) hull that can keep up with the surface combatant. The future T-AO (T-AO 205) is projected to cost roughly $0.5 billion, and using the same basic hull should keep the magazine ship within the same price range, with some additional cost for increased speed to operate with CSG....
"A standard size section supports: 1) one EMRG turret with power and 1,000 round magazine or 2) 128 to 256 VLS cells for standard missiles or 3) 12 to 24 VLS cells for a Pershing 3-sized missile. The magazine ship is configured with the appropriate sections when built – no changes afterwards. One magazine ship might have two EMRGs and 24 Pershing 3s. Another might have 516 VLS cells for standard missiles and 48 VLS cells for Pershing 3s. These magazine ships can be tailored for specific roles or functions when built, each with different implications on the number and type of weapons needed to fully load them."
The study also called for "Building future large surface combatants with a 10,000-ton full load displacement to accommodate two guns and VLS system. Future large surface combatant should be based around EMRG with the HVP to the extent practicable."
A requirements analysis process for a Future Surface Combatant Force (FSCF) was conducted by the U.S. Navy. The Future Surface Combatant Force was envisioned to include Large Surface Combatants (LSC), Small Surface Combatants (SSC), Optionally Manned or Unmanned Surface Vehicles (O/USV) and a common Integrated Combat System (ICS).
The Navy was developing requirements for a LSC as part of the FSCF vision. The Navy's LSC Program would be a new acquisition program that would leverage the DDG 51 Flight III combat system while identifying and evaluating the integration of non-developmental mechanical and electrical systems into a new or modified hull design, incorporating platform flexibility and growth opportunities to meet future Fleet requirements.
The Navy intended to evaluate the following capability areas for possible integration into the initial LSC baseline:
- Ability to integrate Warfare System elements including the DDG 51 Fight III and the weapon systems listed below.
- Increased flexibility/adaptability features such as expanded Space, Weight, Power and Cooling Service Life Allowances to allow for more rapid and affordable upgrades in capabilities and maintenance over the ships' service life, and allow for fielding of future high demand electric weapons and sensors, and computing resources.
- The ability of the ship's Vertical Launch System to accommodate longer and larger diameter missiles for increased speed and range of weapons.
- Additional capacity for an embarked warfare commander and staff.
- Support for 360-degree coverage with Directed Energy weapons.
- Improved signatures with support for additional improvements over time.
Potential ship designs will look to accommodate the above capability increases, with a consideration towards additional growth capacity for projected future systems requirements. Designs will also look to incorporate flexibility features to enable timely and affordable back-fit and forward-fit of future systems to pace known threats, and meet future emergent needs through evolutionary block upgrades and modernization.
The Navy is seeking industry insight as part of market research to support the requirements development and design effort for the LSC. The Navy is particularly interested in innovative methods to meet the requirements of an LSC including the capability intent described above.
Under the 2019 plan, production of the future class of large surface combatants would start in 2030. The Navy says that it would buy 47 of the new LSCs through 2048 at an average cost of $1.6 billion — the same price as the Navy’s estimate for the average cost of a DDG-51 Flight III ship and $400 million less than what the Navy estimated for the same ship under the 2017 plan. (The Navy did not explain the large reduction in its estimate between the two plans.) That estimate implies that the new LSC would be either a destroyersized ship with capabilities that represent only a modest improvement over the DDG-51 Flight III or a smaller ship with significantly improved capabilities based on new-design technologies.
The Navy’s cost estimate for the future class of LSCs appeared to be based on a modified version of the existing DDG-51. In contrast, CBO expected the new LSC to have a largely new design but be about the same size as the DDG-51 Flight III, which would make it consistent with the concept of a large surface combatant. A new design would probably be more expensive to build than a modified version of an existing ship. In fact, comments by the Navy’s Director for Surface Warfare, Admiral Ron Boxall, appear to validate CBO’s assumption. He stated that although the future LSC should have capabilities that are similar to or greater than those of the DDG-51 Flight III, the Navy has “maxed out that hull footprint” and is looking at “what we need a new hull to do.” The Navy may also want to purchase the first ship in 2023 rather than in 2030.
Thus, CBO projected that the future LSC would cost an average of $2.3 billion, roughly 30 percent more than the Navy’s projection. Over the 2019–2048 period, CBO estimates, the Navy would need $108 billion in funding for the future LSC portion of the shipbuilding program—$34 billion more than the Navy’s $74 billion estimate. That amount represents almost 20 percent of the $170 billion overall difference between the Navy’s and CBO’s estimates for the total cost of the 2019 shipbuilding plan. The great uncertainty about the ultimate size and capabilities of the future class of LSCs suggested that the true cost could differ substantially from both the Navy’s and CBO’s estimates.
Large surface combatants, which include cruisers and destroyers, are the workhorses of the fleet. They provide ballistic missile defense for the fleet and for overseas regions. They defend aircraft carriers and amphibious warfare ships against other surface ships, aircraft, and submarines, and they perform such day-to-day missions as patrolling sea lanes, providing an overseas presence, and conducting exercises with allies. They can also launch Tomahawk missiles to strike land targets. Most of the Navy’s surface combatants displace about 9,000 to 10,000 tons.
In 2030, the Navy would buy the first of 47 large surface combatants of a new class, which is intended to replace the DDG-51s. Although those new ships were designated as destroyers in the past, the Navy does not offer any description or designation of the class in its 2019 plan.
The 2019 shipbuilding plan called for buying 76 destroyers and new large surface combatants, 10 more than the 2017 plan. Of that number, 29 would be based on the existing Arleigh Burke class destroyer (DDG-51) design and 47 would be a new design. Those planned purchases, along with the Navy’s plan to modernize its existing cruiser force, would not be enough for the service to meet or exceed its inventory goal of 104 large surface combatants (LSCs) for almost the entire 30-year period.
However, the Navy’s plan to extend the service life of all existing Arleigh Burke class destroyers to 45 years would allow the Navy to meet its goal of 104 large surface combatants in 2029 and stay above that number through 2048. The 2019 plan also differs from the 2017 plan in that it calls for extending the service life of 7 Ticonderoga class cruisers by several years but shortening the service life of the remaining cruisers.
Extending the service life of the destroyers would be a sharp break from the Navy’s past practice: 12 of the last 13 classes of destroyers and cruisers have been retired after serving for 30 years or less. In recent years, Spruance class destroyers and some Ticonderoga class cruisers have been retired after serving 25 years or less. The Navy retired those ships for various reasons: They had reached the end of their useful service life, they became too expensive to maintain, or they no longer had the combat capabilities needed to meet existing threats and modernization was not considered cost-effective. If the Navy retired the DDG-51 class after just 30 years for similar reasons, it would need to purchase additional ships to achieve its inventory goal.
Megan Eckstein, writing for USNI News, reported January 14, 2020 that " the director of surface warfare saying he expects to buy the first ones in the late 2020s after certain technologies mature... The Navy’s timeline for this next large combatant has continued to slip, with the service just a year and a half ago planning for a Fiscal Year 2023 start – right after the current multiyear contract for Flight III Arleigh Burke DDGs ends – and then leaders pushing that start date to 2025 and then 2026 or later. This slower approach runs counter to what former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson had called for in his December 2018 Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority 2.0 document that called for buying the Large Surface Combatant in 2023 and delivering it “ASAP.” "
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