THE BATH-BUILT Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer, left, is underway alongside the Republic of Korea multi-role guided-missile destroyer Wang Geon during a bilateral exercise, as seen in In this Tuesday photo released by the U.S. Navy. Wayne E. Meyer was on a scheduled western Pacific deployment with aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.

THE BATH-BUILT Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer, left, is underway alongside the Republic of Korea multi-role guided-missile destroyer Wang Geon during a bilateral exercise, as seen in In this Tuesday photo released by the U.S. Navy. Wayne E. Meyer was on a scheduled western Pacific deployment with aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.

BATH

THE FUTURE USS THOMAS HUDNER, a U.S. Navy destroyer named after Korean War veteran Thomas Hudner, looms over the audience during a christening ceremony at Bath Iron Works April 1.

THE FUTURE USS THOMAS HUDNER, a U.S. Navy destroyer named after Korean War veteran Thomas Hudner, looms over the audience during a christening ceremony at Bath Iron Works April 1.

On Monday, the Bath Iron Worksbuilt USS Mahan fired a warning flare at an Iranian vessel in the Persian Gulf that continued toward the U.S. ship despite evasive maneuvers. The encounter ended without hostilities, but such high tension incidents are increasingly common in the area.

 

 

Earlier this month, the U.S. used two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers positioned off the coast of Syria to attack airfields controlled by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad following his government’s use of chemical weapons on its own citizens. The two vessels, which were not built at BIW, launched dozens of cruise missiles in retaliation.

Even when shots aren’t being fired, the Arleigh Burke-class plays a key role in the fleet. As tensions mount between the U.S. and North Korea, Arleigh Burkes are escorting the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vincent to the Korean Peninsula. As the Trump administration presents a more aggressive front against the nuclear-capable North Korean government, Arleigh Burkes will be at the center of whatever happens there.

After nearly 30 years in production, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers (DDG-51) built by Bath Iron Works and Huntington Ingalls in Mississippi remain a key part of the United States Navy’s fleet.

BIW and Ingalls split the construction of the guided missile destroyers roughly evenly, and the 62 active Arleigh Burkes make up more than a fifth of the total size of the current fleet. Just over 500 feet long and with a displacement of 9,200 in the Flight IIA iteration, Arleigh Burkes are a majority of the country’s large surface combatants.

Armed with the Aegis Combat System, Arleigh Burkes are a multi-mission guided missile destroyer that can alternatively serve in missile defense, anti-submarine warfare and counter-piracy capacities explained Bryan Clark, a senior fellow with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), a DC-based think tank.

“The Arleigh Burkes, especially the new ones, are the front line ship that the Navy uses for the bulk of its missile defense and security cooperation type missions,” said Clark. “The Aegis Weapons System is fundamentally a missile defense system, so the Arleigh Burkes are really doing the mission today that they were originally envisioned to do.”

First introduced at the tail end of the Cold War, Arleigh Burkes were designed with the Aegis Combat System in mind, which has been successfully deployed on the Ticonderoga class cruisers — also built at BIW. The powerful system can track potential threats and guide missiles to destroy those targets.

Since then, the ship’s mission has been slightly expanded to include ballistic missile defense.

“Missile defense used to be just cruise missiles, like you saw with the Tomahawk or the anti-ship cruise missiles that you see the Iranians occasionally trying to use, and the Bahoothi’s used to shoot at the Mason,” said Clark. “That used to be the extent of missile defense, but now with ballistic missiles being much more common with countries like North Korea, Iran, and along with Russia and China obviously.

“As ballistic missiles become much more proliferated, the Arleigh Burke has been pressed into service to do ballistic missile defense missions in addition to its normal cruise missile defense missions, which means we’ve been using Arleigh Burkes to do defense of places ashore a lot more than the original vision was for it,” he added.

Arleigh Burkes are deployed all over the world, from the Mediterranean to the Korean Peninsula.

No ship lasts forever. The Bathbuilt USS Arleigh Burke, the first of its class, was commissioned nearly 30 years ago. The Zumwalt-class destroyers were actually meant to replace the DDG 51s, but rising costs and other concerns ultimately convinced Congress to cut the class short, only having three of those ships built. Instead, the Navy restarted the DDG 51 program with some upgrades to the design.

“They won’t be built indefinitely, but they will be built for the foreseeable future, because the Navy is just now starting the construction of the first Flight III Arleigh Burke,” said Clark. “And the Navy looks like it will build at least a dozen of those, and maybe more.”

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