Video Above: Navy Connects Air, Surface, Underseas Drones
High-powered lasers to incinerate enemy drones, more deck-launched interceptor cells, larger, longer range and more lethal missiles and a breakthrough on-board power storage and distribution system are just a few of the technologies being planned for the Navy’s futuristic, next-generation Destroyer.
While largely conceptual at the moment, the Navy’s DDG X program has already made considerable progress with requirements, conceptual work and computer simulation such that some initial renderings and technology integration schemes are taking shape.
DDG X Destroyer Warship Program
“You've got lasers, larger arrays, an upgraded X band radar, maybe additional VLS (Vertical Launch Systems) cells, large missile launchers, and also potentially an integrated power and energy system versus just an integrated a power system,” Katie Connelly, the deputy program manager for the DDG X program office, told an audience at the 2022 Surface Navy Association Symposium. Much progress on the ship has already been made, as the Chief of Naval Operations has approved an initial set of potential requirements and the service has drafted a preliminary Capabilities Development Document (CDD) for the ship.
Connelly emphasized that the developmental strategy will be “evolutionary” as opposed to “revolutionary,” meaning it will strategically focus on key items in an incremental, measured way so as to maximize benefit and ensure success. The ship will be architected to accommodate new technologies, weapons and sensors as they emerge, in part through the addition of and electrical propulsion and energy generation technology called the Integrated Power System. Developers are even planning a “Destroyer Payload Module,” or large block which could be used to greatly lengthen the ship and add new technologies.
“Destroyer payload module, we are designing this ship with the capability to in the future be increased in size with that block. So you would cut the ship and slide the block and to increase the size of the ship and allow for additional capability in the future,” Connelly said.
The initial focus, Connelly explained, will be on exploring a potential hull form or configuration, while moving to integrate, yet upgrade and advance many of the promising technologies now being built into the DDG 51 Flight III destroyers.
“We're going to use the Flight III combat system elements with the new hull form, which will have increased swap (Size, Weight and Power), so you can accommodate different, larger and more power dense systems,” Connelly said.
Initial renderings of the DDG X, which are described as “predecisional” and by no means final, envision two 600kw lasers firing from the back of the ship, Rolling Airframe Missiles and the most powerful and sensitive long-range radar known to exist, the A/N SPY 6 v1 system. As for the hull shape itself, Connelly emphasized that the initial sketch was just a notional rendering and that no decisions have been made as of yet regarding the configuration or shape of the ship. “Nothing is off the table,” she said.
Many of the promising technologies being woven into DDG 51 Flight III, however, are going to be integrated as a baseline or starting point from which the DDG X can evolve into a new generation of warship.
“Flight III is a highly capable combat system. We just finished sending a lot of money to develop a lot of that. It's still highly relevant. The hull form is what is hitting the capacity on the DDG 51 program. So it makes sense to focus on the hull form now and integrate the Flight III capability, which is highly capable and really great, and then introduce additional combat system capability later, which we would not be able to do on a DDG 51 hull,” Connelly said.
DDG X Destroyer Warship Into the 2060s
The conceptual work on a future DDG X Destroyer is aimed at designing a new unprecedented warship to destroy enemies at sea well into the 2060s and beyond.
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The intent is to both leverage promising cutting edge technology, propulsion and power systems while also engineering a paradigm-changing warship capable of “flexing” or adapting to accommodate and entirely new generation of weapons and maritime warfare capability. Initial plans for the ship include using the high-tech and promising Combat System now being built into the DDG 51 Flight III destroyers, while exploring new realms of innovation for the hull design and also exploring breakthrough ways of improving existing weapons
“So when we upgraded the DDG 51 to the Flight III capability, we took up all of the service life allowance on that platform. So all of the space, weight and power has all been allocated. There is not enough room on that ship to put a new combat capability that takes more power or a larger footprint within the ship. So in order to accommodate that and to continue to keep facing the threat in the future, we need to upgrade to a new hull form, hence DDG X,” Katie Connelly, the deputy program manager for the DDG X program office, told an audience at the 2022 Surface Navy Association Symposium.
The plan is for the new DDG X to operate alongside the Navy’s growing fleet of DDG 51 Flight III destroyers, while also introducing and sustaining new concepts of operation, new breakthrough technologies, larger, stronger and more long range weapons and a new generation of computing and command and control. The entire emphasis, Connelly explained, is to ensure the new warship can keep pace with new threats.
“So capabilities that we're going to need for the 21st century to continue combating the threat are increased missile capability sensor growth, directed energy weapons, which actually require a lot of power, increased survivability and increased power availability, which is going to come through an IPS system called the integrated power system,” Connelly said. “We are going to execute an evolutionary vice revolutionary technology incorporation process. So the DDG X will focus on a new hull form and a new integrated power system. We will use the proven combat system from the Flight III ship, so we are designing the ship with the flexibility and the margins to accommodate the future of the Navy.”
Navy weapons developers and engineers are, as evidenced by the IPS system identified by Connelly, focusing heavily upon power and energy storage and distribution. An early rendering of the ship shows plans for two 600kw lasers, a 150kw laser on the front, 32 Mk 41 Vertical Launch System cells and 12 Larger Missile Cells for increased firepower.
DDG X Destroyer Warship Power and Energy
Supporting these kinds of new, high-powered weapons systems will require new applications for power and energy management, one reason perhaps why the Navy’s graphic shows a place for an emerging Northrop Grumman system called IPES, Integrated Power and Energy System.
The technology pools, organizes and distributes energy from otherwise disparate or separate ship systems such as radar, antenna and sensors, and streamlines the storage and application of onboard power. This kind of breakthrough system, listed as part of the Navy vision for DDGX, will be necessary to power up and sustain new levels of high-powered, power reliant weapons systems such as paradigm-changing, high-powered lasers.
“The threat is going to continue to evolve. And there will be new threats out there. We on the Navy side will continue to evolve our combat and other capabilities to deter the threat. And we will need a platform that can accommodate those new technologies,” Connelly said.
As for the hull, Connelly looked at a Navy conceptual rendering of the DDG X at the Surface Navy Association and clarified that no decision has been made.
“We haven't actually locked down the hull form yet. That (Navy rendering) is a concept. It is one of the many options still in play, we do not have our directed hull form, we as the design team, are going through all of the different options to see which one performs best for the long term and the mission…so that's not necessarily representative of what it would look like. So nothing's off the table as far as ship designs go,” Connelly said.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest and President of Warrior Maven -the Center for Military Modernization. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.