Named after a legendary admiral during World War II, Arleigh Burke is the most modern destroyer class of the US Navy. With a total of 67 ships in active, and about 20 more ships planned to be built, this warship class is considered the backbone of US Navy fleets.
USS Arleigh Burke with hull number DDG-51 is the lead ship of this destroyer class, this is the first American warship built on the basis of the Aegis combat system. It is one of the most sophisticated and modern combat system in the world, making Arleigh Burke-class destroyers an important part of the US ballistic missile defense system. Along with the massive arsenal she brought, Arleigh Burke is considered the pride of the US Navy.
The Arleigh Burke class is also the foundation for US allies such as Japan and South Korea to develop their main surface warships. The combination of these destroyers creates a “magic shield” that protects the United States and its allies from the threat of ballistic missiles.
In the 1980s, the US Navy wanted to create a warship class that combines the most advanced technology, capable of stealthing against enemy radar and sensors. These warships must be capable of defending against Soviet aircraft, cruise missiles and attack submarines. In addition, it has the other task of escorting the carrier combat group over far oceans.
Until the Zumwalt-class stealth destroyer was born, the Arleigh Burke-class was among the largest destroyers ever built by the United States. USS Arleigh Burke was was laid down at Bath, Maine, on December 6, 1988 and launched on September 16, 1989. She was designed to be a multi-purpose warship, allowing her to perform a wide range of missions from maintaining peace and providing humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and maritime control.
As the first member of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer family, DDG-51 follows a new design philosophy that incorporates many lessons learned by the Royal Navy during the Falklands campaign and from Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruisers.
The entire vessel is constructed from steel, with vital areas protected by two layers of steel and 70 ton of Kevlar armour. She sports a well-contoured hull with the bow raised slightly ahead. The major internal sections are concentrated along amidships and include the bridge, communications facilities and turbine smoke stacks. The sides of the vessel’s superstructure area are fused into the hull sides to promote inherent stealth characteristics against scanning surface radar – a common design element in modern surface ships. The stern area of the vessel can accept or launch helicopters as needed while an onboard hangar supports their operation. The main mast atop the major superstructure is home to a plethora of antenna, communications and sensor systems pertinent to her operating facilities. A deck gun is fitted ahead of the bridge superstructure along the forecastle. The vessel also to be fitted out with anti-NBC warfare protection.
The destroyer has an overall length of 155.3m, beam of 20m and draft of 9.4m. The vessel can accommodate up to 380 crew members. USS Arleigh Burke has 9,200 tons standard displacement. Its propulsion system is made up of 4 General Electric LM2500 gas turbines delivering up to 100,000 shaft horsepower driving two shafts arrangement. Two gas turbines coupled to a single shaft with a gearbox allows one or both engines to operate at any time – a proven fuel efficient measure. This offers the vessel a speed of over 30 knots and a range out to 5,500 nautical miles.
The soul of USS Arleigh Burke as well as her sisters is the Aegis combat system which integrates the ship’s sensors and weapons systems to engage anti-ship missile threats. The Aegis system has a federated architecture with four subsystems, namely an AN/SPY-1 multifunction radar, a command and decision system, an Aegis display system, and the weapon control system. The SPY-1 is one of the world’s most advanced and versatile maritime radar.
The USS Arleigh Burke is armed with a bevy of surface-to-surface and surface-to-air guided missiles. The missiles can engage airborne threats as well as naval vessels as needed. The missiles are stored and launched in vertically-set “cells” – one 64-cell collection and another 32-cell arrangement – a total of 96 missiles in all of various types. These include the venerable BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile to be used against land-based targets, the RIM-66 SM-2 medium range surface-to-air missile against aerial threats, and the Rum-139 VL-Asroc anti-submarine missile.
Close-in threats are dealt with the 130mm Mk38 deck gun. There are 4 of 12.7mm heavy machine guns defend the crew from even closer threats requiring automatic fire. There are also 2 Mk 46 series triple torpedo tubes. 1 20mm Phalanx Close-in weapon system providing a rate of fire of 4,500 Revolutions per minute. Only the first 28 Arleigh Burke-class ships were equipped with Harpoon anti-ship missiles, the rest had completely removed this weapon. USS Arleigh Burke and her sisters gradually shifted to ballistic missile defense roles with the arrival of SM-3 Block 1B missiles.
The ship’s electronic countermeasures system is the Raytheon AN/SLQ-32, which performs radar warning and jamming. Decoys include two Lockheed Martin Sippican SRBOC six-barrelled launchers for chaff and infrared flares and the AN/SLQ-25A Nixie torpedo decoy system.
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USS Arleigh Burke is capable of operating two SH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters at the same time. Sea Hawks are multi-mission helicopters utilized by the United States Navy and based on the US Army UH-60 Black Hawk model – both originally of the Sikorsky S-70 model family.With the motto of “Fast and Feared”, Arleigh Burke has participated in many US campaigns. She was deployed to the Mediterranean Sea and the Adriatic Sea in 1993, 1995 and 1998. She has also participated in many US military exercises and its allies. In 2003, Arleigh Burke and the other units of the USS Theodore Roosevelt-led carrier battle group participated in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. During this wartime cruise, Arleigh Burke fired Tomahawk missile strikes against targets in Iraq. She also undertook counter-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden. Most recent, on September 2014 Arleigh Burke took part in the 2014 military intervention against ISIS, firing Tomahawk missiles on targets in Syria while the ship was in the Red Sea.