Destroyers: “Tin Can” Legacy Forged of Lethal Steel

July 7, 2017
PACIFIC OCEAN (Sept. 23, 2014) Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers assigned to the George Washington and Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Groups are underway in formation at the conclusion of Valiant Shield 2014. Valiant Shield is a U.S.-only exercise integrating Navy, Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps assets, offering real-world joint operational experience to develop capabilities that provide a full range of options to defend U.S. interests and those of its allies and partners. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Trevor Welsh/Released)

Destroyers, a.k.a., “Tin Cans”-the legendary Greyhounds of the Sea, have patrolled the world’s oceans with domineering force since 1902. Over the last 116 years, these U.S. Navy warships have made their name as the most unique and capable surface combatants.

This month will see the addition of two of the most lethal and advanced destroyers to ever cut through the seas. Of the Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) class of destroyers, PCU John Finn (DDG 113) will be commissioned July 15th at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii; and PCU Rafael Peralta (DDG 115) will be commissioned July 29th at Naval Air Station North Island, Coronado, California. Both will be homeported at Naval Base San Diego following their commissioning ceremonies.

PACIFIC OCEAN (June 19, 2014) The Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) launches a Standard Missile-6 (SM-6) during a live-fire test of the ship’s aegis weapons system. Over the course of three days, the crew of John Paul Jones successfully engaged six targets, firing a total of five missiles that included four SM-6 models and one Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) model. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)







These two ships will serve to advance the well-established stature of the Arleigh Burke destroyers which have been in service since 1991. Logging an incredible amount of water under their collective keels, a robust amount of time is spanned between the oldest and newest ships in the class. To bring continuity of capability across the class, the Navy has implemented programs to modernize the warships as they age, allowing the crews of both older and newer destroyers to monitor, detect and respond to any threat using the same modern Aegis combat system. In this case, the latest upgrade of Aegis, called Baseline 9, brings enhanced ability to the anti-air warfare and ballistic missile defense capabilities to the ships.

Arleigh Burke Class: 1991-Present

Named for Adm. Arleigh Burke, the most famous American destroyer officer of WW II, and later Chief of Naval Operations, these guided-missile destroyers are multi-mission surface combatants capable of conducting anti-air warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and anti-surface warfare. The class leader, USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51), was commissioned in 1991, during Burke’s lifetime. Like most modern U.S. surface combatants, the DDG 51 class is powered by gas turbine propulsion. They employ four gas turbines to produce 100,000 horsepower through two propellers. Arleigh Burke-class destroyers can achieve more than 30 knots in open seas, while crewed by various sized crew complements.

These ships have been dominating the seas since 1991, and with combat system upgrades, shall continue their reputation of durability and flexibility for years to come. The Aegis software allows for streamline integration – the state-of-the-art system creates an environment for extreme and rapid use of technology, without extreme and rising cost to the Navy. As a result, when the older, modified Arleigh Burke crews put to sea, they won’t be relying on combat systems originated in the Cold War era – they’ll use the same, advanced and evolving systems available to sailors on the newly commissioned USS John Finn and USS Rafael Peralta.

Bonhomme Richard Conducts Fueling at Sea with USS John S. McCain (DDG 56)
PHILIPPINE SEA (June 14, 2017) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) maneuvers alongside the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) for a refueling-at-sea. Bonhomme Richard is the flagship of its expeditionary strike group, operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to serve as a forward-capability for any type of contingency. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Gavin Shields/Released)

Through the years, destroyers have evolved from small and agile close-quarter combatants to ships capable of a multitude of mission sets in both the offensive and defensive arenas. These ships operate independently, as part of a surface action group or as escorts within a carrier strike group. While the heritage is undeniable, of the 33 classes of destroyers, none can argue the versatility, lethality and dominance of the Arleigh Burke class since its introduction to the fleet.

These advanced guided-missile destroyers have been ensuring safety, stability and freedom of the seas around the world for decades. They have a proven track-record of being vital surface warriors, capable of sea control, power projection, and offensive and defensive battle group support over land, air and sea. Their contribution to the Navy team has been invaluable and irreplaceable. It is fitting that the destroyer’s remarkable 116-year legacy of service to the Navy will continue on with this month’s addition of USS John Finn (DDG 113) and USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115).

Caption: U.S. Navy History and Heritage Command’s “Evolution of the Destroyer” infographic.

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