The U.S. Navy is planning development of next generation heavy surface combat ship

WASHINGTON, (BM) – The U.S. Navy is planning to initiate a five year development effort for a next generation heavy surface combat ship – its first class of heavy cruiser developed since the Cold War, learned

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The research, testing and design effort will begin in 2021, according to recently released Navy budget documents, and aims to reduce difficulties with testing and development by relying on older proven technologies.

These would be integrated “into a new hull design that incorporates platform flexibility and growth capabilities to meet projected future Fleet system requirements.”

The service has requested $46.45 million for the program in 2021 and approximately $150 million for 2022. This comes as the U.S. Navy’s sole class of cruiser – the ageing Ticonderoga Class – is slated for retirement in the near future.

While formidable for its time, the Ticonderoga finds itself increasingly outmatched by modern warships fielded by rival powers – most notably the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy’s Type 055 Class destroyers – which integrate a similar number of very launch cells but have much more modern sensors and more capable munitions.

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China’s destroyers have an unrivalled four layered air defence system on top of their point defence systems, and deploy anti ship munitions with several times the speeds and ranges of their American counterparts such as the Mach 3 550km range YJ-18 and upcoming Mach 9 YJ-XX which has a range exceeding 1000km. Both China and Russia are investing in more modern air defences and cruise missiles for their surface combatants – as well as more capable ship designs.

Russia is currently developing a very heavily armed destroyer sized variant of the Admiral Gorshkov Class frigate while China is thought to be developing multiple successors to the Type 055 Class.

The emphasis on using existing technologies for the development of a new class of destroyer follows the failure of the U.S. Navy’s two recent programs to develop major surface combatants. The Zumwalt Class destroyer saw orders cut from 32 to just three ships, its main weapons system removed due to excessive cost overruns and the warships themselves suffering from poor reliability, poor stability and multiple breakdowns.

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The ships had much less firepower than originally envisioned, and cost several times as much as was previously intended coming up to over $7 billion each. This has left the Navy without a viable successor to the Arleigh Burke Class destroyer. The Littoral Class combat ship program has suffered from many similar issues, leading the Navy to seek to retire the ships several decades ahead of schedule.

Should the Navy incorporate lessons from its mistakes in prior programs into the new cruiser program, it is possible that a world class warship capable of bridging the growing qualitative gap with the Chinese PLA Navy’s own surface combatants could begin to enter service in the early 2030s.

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Editorial team / Military Watch