USN Surface Warships

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USN Surface Warships

The new Zumwalt (DDG-1000) class destroyers feature
full electric propulsion and a radical stealth design. A product of the US
Navy’s post-Cold War focus on littoral operations, their cost priced them out
of the future construction programme and previous plans for an extensive series
have been reduced to just three ships. Instead, production has resumed of the
Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class, the current Flight IIA version being represented
here by Chung Hoon (DDG-93). Construction of a further improved Flight III
version will start shortly. Meanwhile, second line surface warships are now
concentrated on the Freedom (LCS-1) and Independence (LCS-2) Littoral Combat
Ship designs; a controversial programme that looks set to be truncated to forty

The twenty-two remaining Ticonderoga (CG-47) class guided-
missile cruisers provide multi-mission offensive and defensive capabilities and
can operate either independently or as part of aircraft carrier strike groups
and surface action groups. They tend to have better command and control
facilities than the smaller destroyers; one is typically assigned to each
carrier strike group under the command of the group’s air warfare commander.
Like other major US Navy surface combatants, they have a combat system centred
on the Aegis Weapon System and the SPY-1 series multi- function phased-array
radar. Armament includes the Mk 41 vertical launching system (VLS) equipped
with Standard Missile surface-to-air missiles and Tomahawk land-attack cruise
missiles; advanced undersea and surface warfare systems; and embarked
helicopters. These capabilities are supplemented by extensive command, control
and communications systems. The class have been extensively modernised over the
past ten years and the navy would like to withdraw half the class from
operational service for further upgrades that would extend their lives into the
mid-2030s and beyond. However, this plan sparked Congressional opposition,
largely over concerns that the no-operational ships would never be returned to
service; a modified scheme is now being implemented.

The Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class guided-missile destroyers’
combat system likewise is centred on the Aegis Weapon System and the SPY-1
radar. Like the cruisers, they provide multi-mission offensive and defensive
capability, operating independently or as part of an aircraft carrier strike
group or surface action group. Twenty-eight Flight I/II and thirty-four Flight
IIA variants are currently in service; the latter support two embarked
helicopters, significantly enhancing their sea-control capability. The DDG-51
upgrade plan includes an improved multimission signal processor, which
integrates air and ballistic missile defence capabilities, and enhancements to
radar performance in the littorals. The VLS will be able to support the latest
SM-3 and SM-6 variants of the Standard Missile currently entering service. A
Flight III variant is also in development and will incorporate the advanced air
and missile defence radar (AMDR) and other technology insertions. It would seem
that eighty or more DDG-51 series destroyers will ultimately be built.

The Zumwalt (DDG-1000)-class guided-missile destroyer is a
15,000-ton optimally- manned (142 crew), multi-mission surface warship tailored
for land attack and littoral dominance. The original acquisition strategy
identified thirty-two DDG-1000s. This was reduced to three in favour of
restarted production of the cheaper DDG-51 design. The lead ship began sea
trials in December 2015. With twenty Mk 57 peripheral VLS modules (each with
four cells suitable for several missiles) and two 155mm Advanced Gun Systems,
the navy’s first `all-electric’ warship will provide long-range precision fire
in support of forces ashore, operating independently or as part of naval, joint
or combined strike forces. To ensure effective operations in the contested
littoral, it incorporates signature reduction, active and passive self-defence
systems, and enhanced survivability features. It fields an undersea warfare
suite capable of mine avoidance, as well as self-defence systems to defeat
threats ranging from submarines and cruise missiles to small boats.

Turning to smaller surface combatants, the Littoral Combat
Ship (LCS) is a modular, reconfigurable ship that addresses warfighting
capability gaps against asymmetric anti- access threats and will eventually
comprise a significant portion of the US Navy’s future surface combatant fleet.
Through its modular design, LCS can be reconfigured for mine- countermeasures,
surface warfare, and anti-submarine warfare missions. This versatility enables
the Navy to provide warfighters with a capable, cost-effective solution to
expeditionary operations in the littoral. There are two variants of LCS, the
Freedom ((LCS-1) design (odd-numbered ships) and Independence (LCS-2) design
(even- numbered ships). The Freedom variant is a steel semi-planing mono-hull
with an aluminium superstructure, whilst the Independence variant is an
all-aluminium trimaran. As of late 2015, six Littoral Combat Ships had been
commissioned and another eighteen were under construction of contract. There
has been much debate over the level of capability the LCS offers compared with
its cost; this has resulted in a decision to progress to an upgraded light
frigate variant from LCS-33 onwards. Whether the recent reduction in the
targeted number of small surface combatants to just forty will result in
further changes remains to be seen.

The Littoral Combat Ships Fort Worth (LCS-3) –
foreground – and Freedom (LCS-1) pass each other off the coast of San Diego.
The US Navy’s increased interest in littoral operations following the end of
the Cold War eventually spawned the Littoral Combat Ship concept.


With the Soviets gone the United States no longer faced a
peer rival able to challenge global sea control, but it was clear that there
would still be conflicts and crises that would likely involve the United States
in some form or another. The US Navy responded to this new era in a series of
`capstone’ policy documents that articulated a shift in emphasis away from
`blue water’ operations towards a focus on responding to the challenge of what
the US Marine Corps described as `chaos in the littorals’. The first of these
documents, entitled The Way Ahead, was published in April 1991, shortly after
the conclusion of the Gulf conflict. This was followed in 1992 by… From the
Sea, in 1994 by Forward From the Sea, and in 1997 by Anytime, Anywhere: A Navy
for the 21st Century.

Despite some notable differences in emphasis between these
documents they all shared a common focus on a littoral approach and on the kind
of capabilities that would enable the navy to influence events on land from the
sea in a context where regional crises could occur in unexpected places.
Blue-water concerns were never entirely forgotten, and received enhanced
prominence in Forward From the Sea, but the US Navy had clearly repositioned
itself from being one designed primarily to fight for control of the sea
against a major peer rival to a force able to exploit its near-monopolistic
control in order to influence events ashore in a broad range of contingencies.
US Navy interest was matched by that of the US Marine Corps whose concept for
Operational Maneuver from the Sea, published in 1996, articulated a way for
amphibious forces to be employed to decisive effect in the post-Cold War era.

The need to project power ashore was evident in a series of
crises including Operations `Deny Flight’ (1994) and `Deliberate Force’ (1995)
in Bosnia, where US Navy and US Marine Corps aircraft and sea-launched cruise
missiles made an important impact. This was also the case with respect to
Operation `Allied Force’ in Kosovo (1999), where sea-launched missiles and
carrier aviation made another significant contribution to success ashore.
Sea-based missiles and aircraft also contributed to the constant sorties and
occasional strikes in the Persian Gulf that marked the interval between the
1991 Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In all three cases the US Navy
also undertook embargo operations in support of international sanctions. The
growing range of sea-based strikes was illustrated in 1998 when seventy-five
sea-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired at targets in Sudan and
land-locked Afghanistan in retaliation for the terrorist attacks on United
States’ embassies in East Africa in August that year. That the US Navy could
also fulfil more traditional forward presence and deterrence missions was
illustrated during the Taiwan Straits crisis in 1996 when two US Navy carriers
were deployed to the straits in response to provocative Chinese missile tests;
a rather traditional employment of naval forces to demonstrate United States’
capacity and resolve to protect its friends from potential aggression.

By 1999, ten years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the US
Navy had contracted significantly, from almost 600 (actually 566) ships and
submarines in commission to `just’ 317. The four old battleships were retired
and the navy cut the number of carriers in commission from fifteen to twelve.
Particularly heavy cuts were experienced by those forces whose primary
rationale related to Cold War missions. Thus, the number of strategic missile
submarines was halved from thirty-six to eighteen boats over the course of the
decade, nuclear-powered attack submarine numbers were similarly cut from
ninety-six to fifty-seven and conventional attack submarines were phased out
entirely. The number of frigates, intended primarily for anti-submarine work,
was cut by nearly two-thirds, from 100 to just thirty-seven. It should be noted
that over the same time period the number of amphibious ships was reduced from
sixty-five to forty-one hulls, although the replacement of older ships with
newer, more capable vessels mitigated the loss in expeditionary capability. As
Amund Lundesgaard has noted, the increase in the number of mine countermeasure
vessels, from five to sixteen, reflected the new emphasis on littoral warfare.

Forschungsmitarbeiter Mitch Williamson is a technical writer with an interest in military and naval affairs. He has published articles in Cross & Cockade International and Wartime magazines. He was research associate for the Bio-history Cross in the Sky, a book about Charles ‘Moth’ Eaton’s career, in collaboration with the flier’s son, Dr Charles S. Eaton. He also assisted in picture research for John Burton’s Fortnight of Infamy. Mitch is now publishing on the WWW various specialist websites combined with custom website design work. He enjoys working and supporting his local C3 Church. “Curate and Compile“
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