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Video Above: Modernized DDG(X) Destroyer Warship Designed to Fight into 2060s and Beyond

By Kris Osborn - President & Editor-In-Chief, Warrior Maven

Several years ago the Navy put as many as 10 DDG 51 Flight III Destroyers on contract to help catapult the service into a new dimension of maritime attack capability, as the greatly upgraded ships have improved weapons, better computing and a much longer-range, far more sensitive radar system.

Flight III Destroyers

The Flight III destroyers, in development now for many years, are engineered to ensure the US Navy fleet stays in front of the competition as the world threat equation evolves and China continues to quickly build a new fleet of high-tech Type 055 semi-stealthy destroyers.

The Navy recently laid the keel for the future USS Jeremiah Denton (DDG 129), the latest Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyer to surge into a new phase of production. While the Navy is currently experimenting with concepts for its next-generation DDG X destroyer, the Flight III destroyers are intended to sail for decades into the future, given the sophistication of the weapons and technology now being built into the ships. In fact, early conceptual thinking regarding the new DDG X is that its technological systems, weapons and radar will likely be based upon those now integrating into the Flight iii, a plan which offers a window into Navy thinking regarding how sophisticated Flight III technologies are.



The cornerstone or foundation of the Flight III upgrade is the addition of a paradigm-changing AN/SPY-6 (V)1 Air and Missile Defense Radar system. This radar is reported by Navy and Raytheon developers to be 30-times more sensitive than its predecessor and help ship commanders detect enemy objects and threats half the size and twice the distance as previous radars can. This is quite a leap forward, given that the ranges of enemy weapons and sensors, coupled with multi-domain connectivity and networking, have dramatically increased the threat equation for surface warships.

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The SPY-6 family moves beyond existing AN/SPY-1 ship-integrated radar systems and, according to an interesting essay in "Microwave Journal"...”handles 30 times more targets and has 30-times greater sensitivity than the SPY-1D(V).” (“Radar and Phased Array Breakthroughs,” Eli Booker)

Raytheon’s SPY-6 radar transmitter uses a material known as military-grade Gallium Nitride (GaN), a substance explained by Raytheon developers as up to 1,000-times more efficient that the existing Gallium Arsenide used today.

When it comes to application, the SPY-6 radar systems streamline otherwise disparate fire-control and detection technologies; the SPY-6 can cue short-range, closer-in interceptors as well as longer-range ballistic missile interceptors such as an SM-3. This shortens sensor-to-shooter time and offers war commanders a longer window with which to make decisions about which countermeasure is needed. This integration is precisely the kind of defense needed to counter a multi-pronged, coordinated enemy attack potentially combining ballistic missiles with cruise missiles, drone attacks...and more.

With SPY-1, as its called, Commanders can see threats from much safer standoff distances and operate with a larger time window with which to respond and decide upon a defensive measure or counterattack. The AN/SPY-6 radar is also integrated into the Navy’s Aegis Combat System, an integrated suite of technologies combining Air-and-Cruise Missile Defense with Ballistic Missile Defense, on-board computing and fire control systems. With more precise threat data arriving at a faster pace from greater distances with greater fidelity, Aegis can incorporate and analyze new streams of precise threat track data with sufficient time to develop a counterattack plan and determine fire-control coordinates.

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. Flight III is the latest Flight upgrade in the more than 30-year history of the class, building on the proud legacy of Flight I, II and IIA ships before it.

A Navy statement also said that HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding is also in production on the future USS Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG 123), the future USS Jack H. Lucas (DDG 125), the future USS Ted Stevens (DDG 128) and the future USS George M. Neal (DDG 131).

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.

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President, Center for Military Modernization