The Navy this week showcased the DDG(X) next large surface combatant’s draft capabilities that could accommodate multiple directed energy laser weapons, hypersonic missiles, and a more powerful radar.

The Navy is developing the DDG(X) as a new hull with new space, weight, power and cooling (SWAP-C) allowances for future advanced systems but while using the combat system of the new Arleigh Burke

-class DDG-51 Flight III destroyer and an Integrated Power System (IPS) like the Zumwalt-class DDG-1000 destroyer. 

“DDG-51 Flight III is going to be in the fleet through the [2060s]. So the threat is going to continue to evolve and there will be new threats out there. We on the Navy side will continue to evolve our combat and other capabilities to deter the threat and we will need a platform that can accommodate those new technologies. So when we upgraded the [DDG-51]to the Flight III capability, we took up all of the service life allowance on that platform. So all of the space, weight, power has all been allocated. There’s not enough room on that ship to put a new combat capability that takes more power or a larger footprint within the ship. So in order to accommodate that and to continue to keep pacing the threat in the future, we need to upgrade to a new hull form, hence DDG(X),” Katherine Connelly,  deputy program manager for the DDG(X), said during a presentation at the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium on Jan. 12.

She said that capabilities the Navy plans to need later into the 21st century include increased missile capability, sensor growth, power-intensive directed energy weapons, increased survivability, and increased power availability.

The initial baseline capabilities for the DDG(X) include the new hull, the Flight III’s combat system, two 21-cell Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) launchers to target anti-ship missiles, the DDG-51 Flight III’s 14-foot SPY-6(V)1 Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) and 32 MK 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) cells.

Artist rendering of the first Flight III DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the future USS Jack H. Lucas (DDG-125). (Image: Huntington Ingalls Industries)

The Navy is considering a sweeping set of future capabilities including replacing the RAMs with two 600 kW laser weapons, adding another 150 Kw laser, adding more Mk 41 VLS cells or replacing them with 12 Large Missile Launcher cells that could field hypersonic missiles, replacing the 14-foot AMDR with an 18-foot AMDR radar and replacing the IPS with an Integrated Power and Energy System (IPES).

The directed energy lasers are several times larger than the Navy’s currently deployed Solid State Laser – Technology Maturation Laser Weapons System Demonstrator (LWSD) Mark 2 MOD 0 aboard the USS Portland (LPD-27), which is undergoing testing as a 150-kW class system against small targets (Defense Daily, Dec. 16, 2021).

At 600kW, the future frigate system could be powerful enough to defeat guided missiles.

The 12 Large Missile Launcher cells are similar to Navy plans to replace the Zumwalt-class’ unused Advanced Gun Systems with the capability to field up to 12 Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) hypersonic weapons on each vessel via a new large missile launcher (Defense Daily, June 8, 2021).

Last year, Rear Adm. Paul Schlise, Director of Surface Warfare Division (OPNAV N96), said part of studying how to integrate CPS into DDG-1000 was getting a new larger diameter Vertical Launch System than the existing Mark 41 VLS (Defense Daily, Jan. 12, 2021).

Connelly noted the program  is also considering a destroyer payload module option.

“We are designing this ship with the capability to, in the future, be increased in size with that block, so you would cut the ship and slide the block in to increase the size of the ship and allow for additional capability in the future. So that is another option that we’re looking at.”

The service is also pushing for mobility improvements so FFG(X) has 50 percent larger range, 120 percent greater time on station for distributed maritime operations and with 25 percent of the fuel usage compared to DDG-51 Flight III.

In December 2020 the Chief of Naval Operations approved Top Level Requirements (TLR) to provide guidance to the office. Connelly said the program evolved past the TLR  and “we also got a draft Capability Development Document (CDD) that we finished up in October. So we will continue to do design trades based on what that draft CDD says.”

The DDG(X) program particularly aims to meet TLR flexibility directives to establish new construction SWAP-C margins with arrangeable area margin of five percent beyond reservations, weight margin of 10 percent, power margin of 20 percent, a cooling margin of 20 percent upgradeable to 30 percent, and the ability to feed propulsion plants into power via the IPS.

Connelly argued history has shown the Navy the most successful way to introduce a new platform or capability is to either upgrade the hull or combat system, but not both at the same time.

“This is a successful model that was followed on destroyers, cruisers, frigates, CG-47 to DDG-51. So that is what DDG(X) plans to do. We are going to execute an evolutionary vice revolutionary technology incorporation process. So the DDG(X), the first ship, will focus on a new hull form and a new integrated power system. We will use the proven combat system from the Flight III ship. So we are designing the ship with the flexibility and the margins to accommodate the future of the Navy and the needs and where we’re going,” she said.

“The first ship will minimize incorporation of new technologies. New technologies will be monitored – when they are fully mature and ready to actually be implemented, we will put them on the ship, but not until then. We are trying to reduce risk as much as possible,” Connelly added.

As for the current program status, she said that preliminary through detail design for DDG(X) is being worked through with a “collaborative interdisciplinary team” that includes current destroyer producers General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works (BIW) [GD] and Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Ingalls Shipbuilding [HII]

“BIW and Ingalls got integrated into the team as official partners last March and will continue to be part of that team. Having them as part of the team helps us inform the design process and helps us make the right decisions as to how we can actually afford to build the ship and how producible the design is. So it’s a key enabler to success, Connelly noted.

She said the Navy is trying to be thoughtful in how to transition company production lines from the DDG-51 to DDG(X).

The program is currently in the concept formulation phase and plans to enter the preliminary design phase “when it is appropriate,” Connelly said. A slide on her presentation said the Navy plans to enter this phase in fiscal year 2022. The acquisition strategy is still under development.

The Navy is not yet committed to a particular hull design while the program office presented a concept closer to a DDG-51 than the angled Zumwalt.

“We haven’t actually locked down the hull form yet, that’s the concept, it is one of the many options still in play. We do not have a directed hull form. We, as the design team, are going thru all of the different options to see which one performs best for the long term and the mission,” Connelly said.