Navy shipbuilders Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) and General Dynamics Bath Iron Works continue work on the Arleigh Burke–class destroyers USS Jack H. Lucas (DDG-125) and Louis H. Wilson Jr. (DDG-126), while completing integration and testing of ship systems. HII launched the Jack H. Lucas in June, and Bath is constructing the Louis H. Wilson Jr. The ships are the first of the Flight III series of the Arleigh Burke class. Twelve more Flight III ships are under contract; seven to HII and five to Bath.
Because of a Navy budgeting decision, the USS Patrick Gallagher (DDG-127), a Bath ship, will be the last of the Navy’s 47 Flight IIAs, the first being the USS Oscar Austin (DDG-79).
Flight III represents a near bow-to-stern transformation of the Arleigh Burke design. The most decisive upgrade is the SPY-6(v) air-and-missile defense radar (AMDR), built by Raytheon, replacing Lockheed Martin’s SPY-1 Aegis radar built for all earlier Arleigh Burkes.
Yet, with just one ship launched, the Navy already is looking past the Flight III. It awarded Fincantieri the Constellation-class frigate (FFG-62) contract, and last summer, the Program Executive Office (PEO)/Ships established a DDG(X) program office to work on the next large surface combatant. The Navy’s long-range shipbuilding plan released a year ago projected procuring Flight III ships through fiscal year 2025. The Navy’s FY2022 budget requested $122 million for the DDG(X). In announcing the DDG(X) office, the PEO said that the Electric Ships program office would be merged with the new office to “leverage expertise in developing and implementing an Integrated Power System.”
An integrated power system (IPS) is the baseline for an integrated electric drive (IED) ship propulsion architecture that has been a mantra for the surface navy for decades. The Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Carderock and Philadelphia divisions and the Office of Naval Research have looked at IPS concepts and designs that could couple ship propulsion power with ship service power, thereby simplifying the power system.
In June 2020, Naval Sea Systems Command released the Naval Power and Energy Systems Technology Development Roadmap, which proposed strategies for developing technologies to vastly expand ship power capacity to support such systems as the SPY-6(v), rail guns, and directed-energy weapons such as lasers. At the time, Commander, Naval Sea Systems, Vice Admiral Thomas Moore, said the roadmap “aligns electric power and energy system development with increasing warfighter power needs.”
The roadmap underlines Navy efforts to build and field IPS/IED systems that Naval Sea Systems officials have said over many years will eliminate the infrastructure of separate gas turbines or diesels for propulsion and other power needs. In 1988, then-Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Carlisle Trost declared that integrated electric drive would be the method of propulsion for the next generation of surface combatants.
The surface programs that followed made a lunge at electric drive. In the early 2000s, then-Navy Secretary Richard Danzig directed that the planned DD-21 program that became the Zumwalt-class destroyers would be the first true electric-drive ship. Eventually, the Zumwalt program dropped a revolutionary electric motor in favor of a proven technologically advanced induction motor. The Navy considered, then dropped, a hybrid electric-drive (HED) design for some of the Arleigh Burke class.
In 2015, Naval Sea Systems Command approved an HED architecture that incorporates an auxiliary power system of electric motors and zonal electrical distribution with gas turbines for the USS Makin Island (LHD-8), the last ship of the Wasp-class amphibious ships, and subsequently for the three America-class amphibious ships.
HII and Bath are ordering long-lead items for their later Flight III ships. Meanwhile, the PEO says the DDG(X) program office is working on conceptual designs and moving on to “collaboration with the DDG-51 shipyards to achieve the CNO targets for cost, schedule, and performance.”