Navy wants new destroyer with lasers, hypersonic missiles

Sep 6, 2022, 5:38 PM | Updated: Sep 7, 2022, 8:58 am
FILE - An Arleigh-Burke Class destroyer is christened at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, Aug. 1, 20...

FILE - An Arleigh-Burke Class destroyer is christened at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, Aug. 1, 2009. The U.S. Navy's workhorse destroyer went into production more than 30 years but will soon be replaced by a new destroyer that will feature lasers that can shoot down missiles and attack enemies with hypersonic missiles topping 3,800 mph. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

BATH, Maine (AP) — The U.S. Navy’s workhorse destroyer went into production more than 30 years ago, when Tom Stevens was a young welder.

Now, the Navy is getting ready to turn the page as it looks to a future ship brimming with lasers that can shoot down missiles and attack enemies with hypersonic missiles topping 3,800 mph.

Stevens, 52, said the warship provides an opportunity to build something new after a historic production run of the Arleigh Burke class.

“It will be an impressive destroyer that will absolutely launch us into the next generation of ships,” said Stevens, director of ground assembly at Navy shipbuilder Bath Iron Works.

The stakes are high when it comes to a replacement for the backbone of the fleet as the Navy faces a growing threat from China, whose numerical advantage becomes greater each year.

The first design contracts were awarded this summer to General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works in Maine and Huntington Ingalls Industries in Mississippi for a large surface warship that would eventually follow production of the ubiquitous Burke destroyers.

All of that warfighting gear won’t come cheap. The average cost of each new vessel, dubbed DDG(X), is projected to be a third more expensive than Burkes, the latest of which cost of about $2.2 billion apiece, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The Navy has vowed that it won’t repeat recent shipbuilding debacles when it rushed production and crammed too much new tech into ships, leading to delays and added expense with littoral combat ships, stealthy Zumwalt-class destroyers, and the USS Gerald Ford aircraft carrier.

“Rather than tying the success of DDG(X) to developmental technology, we’re using known, mature technologies on a flexible platform that can be upgraded for decades to come, as the technology of tomorrow is matured and demonstrated,” said Jamie Koehler, a Navy spokesperson.

A shipyard in Wisconsin started construction last week of the first in a new class of frigates, which are smaller than destroyers. Those ships used an existing design, and there are no new weapon systems.

Still, there continues to be concern about the destroyer’s cost. A high price tag would reduce the number of ships the Navy can afford to build, said Bryan Clark, defense analyst at the Hudson Institute.

“You’ll end up with the surface fleet that, instead of growing, it would be shrinking,” Clark said.

Production of the new ship is still years away.

For now, shipyards continue to produce Burke-class destroyers, which earned a spot in the record book for a production run that has outlasted every other battleship, cruiser, destroyer and frigate in U.S. Navy history. By the time the last Burke is built, it could surpass even the Nimitz aircraft carrier, which had a four-decade production run.

At Bath Iron Works, shipbuilders have worked nearly exclusively on Burkes, save for the three Zumwalt-class destroyers, and they have a backlog that’ll carry through the end of the decade.

Shipfitter Tim Garland, 57, started work in 1988 on the first Arleigh Burke destroyer, making ballistic doors and hatches. Over the years, he’s worked on just about every component of the ship, during freezing winter days and steamy hot summer days.

The shipfitter never figured that the same ship — upgraded over the years — would enjoy such longevity.

“We figured there would be a replacement ship well before now. But if it ain’t broke. Don’t fix it,” he said.

The Navy originally wanted to replace Burkes with stealthy Zumwalt-class destroyers with electric propulsion, unusual tumblehome hull and angular shape to minimize radar signature. The program was ultimately truncated from 32 ships to three because of the high cost but supporters said the technological leaps could be useful for future ships.

Indeed, the new destroyers will draw on that ship’s electric power plant to energize lasers while using a conventional hull and a radar and weapon system that’s similar to what’s currently in use, the Navy said.

Matt Caris, an analyst with Avascent, said the Navy is going to great lengths to prevent spending from getting out of control, from its view on mature technology and overall acquisition process to timetable. The first in the class of ship wouldn’t be commissioned until the mid-2030s.

“The Navy is trying to thread the needle with some potentially revolutionary capabilities in as low risk and evolutionary process as possible,” he said.

Others worry that the cost will become a drain on the rest of the fleet.

It’s possible that the Navy could afford only one of the ships per year, compared to current destroyer build rates of two to three per year, shrinking the size of the fleet over time, Clark said.

“They want to pile every mission on the the DDG(X) to make it sort of death star. They’re putting all their eggs in one basket financially,” he said.

The new destroyer represents the high end of the Navy’s aspirations.

At the other end, the Navy is also speeding research into less expensive drone ships that would extend the Navy’s sensors and offensive capability, working in concert with crewed ships that would be kept farther from harm’s way. Such a networked fleet would be spread out and harder to destroy.

In Bath, there’s a new generation of shipbuilders — thousands of them including Tom Stevens’ son, Shane Stevens — who are eager for the new program and a long stretch of steady work.

Big contracts ensure workers are busy for years to come, but there’s also enthusiasm about trying something new, Shane Stevens said.

“I’m always excited when I get to learn about something new that’s high tech. That’s what I’m excited about,” the 29-year-old said.

___

Follow David Sharp on Twitter at https://twitter.com/David_Sharp_AP

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen gives a press conference in front of Marienborg in Copen...
Associated Press

Danish prime minister calls general election for Nov. 1

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on Wednesday called a general election for Tuesday Nov. 1, seven months ahead of the end of her term in office. Frederiksen, who has headed the Social Democratic minority government since June 2019, has seen her popularity dwindle in recent weeks due to her role in […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

How company off-sites are changing business travel

Business travel used to mean sending employees from their home office to somewhere else — to meet with clients or coworkers at other offices. But for many remote-first companies, it now means the opposite: Bringing employees together from their far-flung homes to work and meet in person. These so-called “off-sites” — a holdover term from […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Serbian police detain migrant smugglers, find weapons, money

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbian special police on Wednesday raided a makeshift camp near the border with Hungary where they found 200 migrants, detained people smugglers and confiscated weapons and money. The police operation in Srpski Krstur, by the Tisa river that runs along the border with Hungary, comes just two days after Serbia, Hungary […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

EU agrees on price cap for Russian oil over Ukraine war

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union countries agreed on Wednesday to impose new sanctions on Russia after it illegally annexed four regions in Ukraine, according to an EU official, including an expected price cap on Russian oil. EU member-state diplomats struck the deal in Brussels, said the official representing the Czech Republic, which holds the 27-nation […]
1 day ago
Nigeria's Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director General of the World Trade Organisation, WTO, speaks to the...
Associated Press

WTO predicts trade growth to slow next year amid crises

GENEVA (AP) — The World Trade Organization is predicting global trade volumes will grow a lackluster 1% next year as crises and challenges weigh on markets, including high energy prices, rising interest rates and uncertainties about Chinese manufacturing output amid the lingering COVID-19 pandemic. The Geneva-based trade body said Wednesday that the amount of goods […]
1 day ago
A resident wades through floodwaters, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022, in Ubon Ratchathani province, northe...
Associated Press

Thai capital on alert for flooding as heavy rains expected

BANGKOK (AP) — Authorities in Thailand warned Wednesday of possible serious flooding in the capital and other parts of the central region from heavy seasonal rainfall expected through the rest of the week. The situation is being worsened by a large volume of water moving downriver from flooding in northern provinces and from discharges from […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Navy wants new destroyer with lasers, hypersonic missiles