The Arleigh Burke-class destroyers is the longest US Navy surface combatant production run since post-World War II, with over 70 ships built and currently operational, and a dozen plus more are expected to be delivered in the next two-three decades. The building contracts for these modern warships were split between America’s biggest defense technology manufacturers, including Ingalls Shipbuilding (now Northrop Grumman Ship Systems) based in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and Bath Iron Works, a subsidiary of General Dynamics based in Maine.

Powerful Destroyers

Similar to the larger Ticonderoga-class cruisers, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are equipped with Aegis Weapon System (AWS) that includes the SPY-1D multi-function phased array radar, advanced Anti-Air Warfare (AAW) and Anti-Surface Warfare (ASUW) systems, Vertical Launch System (VLS), and the Tomahawk Weapon System—giving more sophisticated capabilities compare to its predecessor the Spruance-class destroyer.

When the last Spruance-class vessel had been decommissioned, the Aegis-powered ships became the only active US Navy destroyers and fulfilled the role of providing tactical support on the multi-mission offensive and defensive, as well as operating independently or as part of carrier strike groups and other naval groups.

Since the commissioning of the lead ship USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) in 1991, the destroyers in the class have participated in numerous military operations and exercises, circumnavigating the vast ocean to support and protect US territories and its Allies. One of its notable involvement was during the fourth wave of Operation Desert Fox in 1998, where an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer launched a Tomahawk cruise missile toward Iraq.

The destroyer has three distinct “Flights,” namely: Flight I, which represents the first 21 destroyers that follow the original design; Flight II consists of DDG 72-78, which features the improvements over the original ship, such as the integration of combat direction finding; Flight IIA has been further subdivided into three types as a result of several changes in design, technology, and armaments, with DDG 79-112 as the main Flight IIA, DDG 113-115 as Flight IIA Restarts, and DDG 116-124 and DDG 127 as Flight IIA Technology Insertion.

Initially, the Navy planned to acquire a new generation destroyer class under its DD(X) program. However, it was later decided that it would revert to the production of the Arleigh Burke class and resume Flight III destroyers from DDG 125-126 and DDG 128-133 under construction beginning in the later part of the 2010s. Other vessels under the recent Flight from DDG 134-139 have also been approved for construction as of 2018.

The most recent destroyer to have its keel laying ceremony was the USS Sam Nunn (DDG 133), held at Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII)’s shipyard on December 12, 2022. Meanwhile, the first Flight III ship to be laid down was the USS Jack H Lucas (DDG 125), which took place in November 2019 and was launched in June 2021, with a commissioning date set for this year.

Flights I and II have similar measurements and displacements at 505 feet (154 meters) and more than 8,000 tons, respectively. On the other hand, due to the expansion of its flight deck, Flights IIA and III have significantly lengthier sizes of around 509-510 ft (155 m) and a heavier displacement between 9,500 to 9,700 tons when fully loaded. The entire ship is made of steel except for the two aluminum funnels, sporting two layers on its vital areas in addition to a 70-ton Kevlar armor and notably the first USN class to be outfitted with anti-Nuclear, Biological, Chemical (NBC) warfare protection.