Even though the U.S. Navy will resume building Arleigh Burke-class destroyers because the ships are cheaper and the costs are predictable, the eight new Burkes may receive refinements that set them apart from earlier siblings.
The Navy has several options to improve and accessorize the new series of destroyers that will resume with the ship carrying hull number DDG 113.
The new ships, will take the place of five bigger, more advanced Zumwalt-class destroyers. The general sense was that the new Burkes would correspond to the Flight IIA standard — including the latest SPY-1 radar — and be equivalent to ships that had been upgraded with the Navy's DDG Modernization, which includes open architecture, consumer off-the-shelf systems.
According to statistics provided by the Navy, the estimated cost for two new DDG 51s is about $3.5 billion, as compared to an estimated $3.2 billion per ship for DDG 1000.
A recent report spells out a number of options that the Navy could request for its new ships, from money-saving possibilities to new propulsion systems to new weapons.
Apart from adding technology, the report's first money-saving option is to reduce crew sizes as much as possible. The goal is to reduce destroyer crew sizes from around 300 people to 200. A Burke class Destroyer costs $25 million per year to operate, of which its crew cost $13 million. The more people the Navy can take off its warships, the more money it saves.
The report also points out that a new DDG 51 could be outfitted with the 155-mm Advanced Gun System that the DDG 1000 was intended to carry. With a range of 63 nautical miles and highly precise guided ammunition, the AGS is a much deadlier and longer-range gun than the 5-inch gun carried aboard today's Burke-class destroyers.
Navy studies found that a DDG 51 could carry an AGS forward of its superstructure, but only if its existing gun and missile tubes were removed. Even then, the ship could only carry 120 rounds for the larger gun, as opposed to the 600 rounds a DDG 1000 would carry for its two AGS guns.
There is a limit to how many upgrades engineers can shoehorn into a DDG 51 hull that is about 100 feet shorter and 6000 tons lighter than a DDG 1000. If the Navy wants its new Burkes to have a radar system comparable to the one meant for the DDG 1000, there's a good chance the new destroyers would need to be longer and heavier, or forfeit some of their existing weapons.