The Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Surface Warfare Division (N96) has approved a service-life extension for four Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers as the first of a newly upgraded version of the surface combatant enters service.
USS Ramage (DDG 61), homeported in Norfolk, Virginia in the US, and USS Benfold (DDG 65), based in Yokosuka, Japan, have been extended by five years to FY2035 and FY2036, respectively. USS Mitscher (DDG 57) also homeported in Norfolk, and USS Milius (DDG 69), homeported out of Yokosuka, have been extended by four years to FY2034 and FY2035, respectively.
The life extensions follow the March 2023 extension of USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) by five years through FY2031.The extension puts each destroyer beyond their estimated service life of 35 years.
“These service-life extensions demonstrate the US Navy’s commitment to ensuring the surface fleet has the right capability and capacity,” said Rear Admiral Fred Pyle, director of Surface Warfare (N96).
“Adding 23-years of service life cumulatively over the last six months is a significant investment in surface warfare. These extensions align to Secretary of the Navy [Carlos] Del Toro’s commitment to Congress during the FY2024 posture hearings to analyse service life on a hull-by-hull basis and extend the correct ships in order to be good stewards of resources.”
Each of these ships have received Aegis baseline nine upgrades through the DDG Modernisation programme. The programme provided a comprehensive mid-life modernisation to the destroyers.
Based on analysis by the US Navy, the life extensions were deemed feasible because each ship properly adhered to lifecycle maintenance plans and were well maintained in good material condition by their crews.
“These DDGs bring the right capability and capacity to our operational commanders in an affordable manner maximising the US Navy’s targeted return on investment for these ships,” said Admiral Pyle. “Each of the extensions takes into account where these ships are in their lifecycle maintenance schedules.
“Extending Mitscher and Milius by an additional year to five years would require each ship to spend a year of that extension in a docking availability, which would not be a prudent use of resources.”
The surface community will continue to evaluate the service life of each surface ship based on combat relevance, reliability data, and material condition. Currently, the US Navy has 73 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in service and is continuing to modernise the class with the latest technologies and capabilities.
The decision to upgrade the quartet of vessels was taken shortly before the first example of the Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, USS Jack H Lucas, was due to join the fleet.
USS Jack H Lucas (DDG 125) was, at the time of writing, due to join the active fleet on 7 October 2023, with a commissioning ceremony in Tampa, Florida.
As the first Flight III vessel, DDG 125 has a number of notable technological upgrades, centred on the AN/SPY-6(V)1 Air and Missile Defense Radar and upgrades to the ship’s electrical power and cooling capacity.
Guided-missile destroyers provide multi-mission offensive and defensive capabilities. Destroyers can operate independently or as part of carrier strike groups, surface action groups, and expeditionary strike groups. They are capable of conducting anti-air warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and anti-surface warfare.
Following commissioning, USS Jack H Lucas will transit to its homeport of San Diego.