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Arleigh Burke-Class Destroyer Flight III: Future of the Navy?

Arleigh Burke-Class Destroyer
030313-N-0115R-077 The Mediterranean Sea (Mar. 13, 2003) -- The guided missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) steams through the Mediterranean Sea. Arleigh Burke is currently deployed in the Mediterranean Sea conducting missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 2nd Class Patrick Reilly. (RELEASED)

The U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke­-class destroyer (DDG) has been in service for 30 years, and it now has the distinction of having the longest production run for any post-World War II U.S. Navy surface warship. And thanks to a mix of naval needs, technology, and costs, this legendary warship will now get an important upgrade.

A Legendary Warship

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer has been the backbone of the U.S. Navy’s surface fleet, and to date sixty-eight have been delivered. These highly capable, multi-mission vessels are able to conduct a variety of operations including peacetime presence.

Originally, the USS Michael Murphy (DDG-112), the sixty-second in the class, which was delivered in October 2012, was intended to be the last ship of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. However, following the proposed cancellation of DDG 1000 Zumwalt-class destroyer program, the Navy opted to continue with the DDG-51-class program.

However, don’t let the name fool you, these are very much a new and improved version of the versatile destroyer.

Enter Flight III

This Flight III upgrade will not only extend the life of the program but will also deliver critical Integrated Air and Missile Defense capability to the Navy’s fleet.

The Flight III upgrade has been centered on the AMDR/SPY-6(V)1 Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) system, which can provide improved capability over earlier Arleigh Burke-class vessels as it will enable the latest ships in the class to simultaneously perform Anti-Air Warfare and Ballistic Missile Defense.

USS Forrest Sherman

Atlantic Ocean (Jan. 9 2007) – Guided-missile destroyer USS Forest Sherman (DDG 98) test-fires its five-inch gun on the bow of the ship during training. The Sherman is currently conducting training exercises in the Atlantic Ocean. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Joshua Adam Nuzzo (RELEASED)

In November 2020, the Navy announced that to support this upgrade it began testing and integrating ship systems at existing land-based facilities.

“This has been an extremely exciting few weeks for the DDG 51 Aegis shipbuilding program,” said Capt. Seth Miller, DDG 51 program manager in a statement in November. “The program remains on track to deliver this tremendous capability to the fleet. Completion of these most recent milestones is a significant accomplishment and is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the Flight III team.”

The first Flight III ship, USS Jack H. Lucas (DDG-125), began fabrication in May 2018, and the Navy has so far awarded two contracts for a total of ten of the upgraded destroyers, which will be produced through fiscal year 2022 (FY22). In addition to being larger than the previous ships in the class, the Flight III vessels will also have new features that will increase the capabilities. These will include hangers for two SH-60B/F LAMPS helicopters, as well as a new combat system software, an enlarged flight deck.


DDG-125 will also be powered by four LM2500 General Electrics Marine Gas Turbines, which will enable the ship to reach a top speed of 30 knots. Its armament will include one 32 cells, one 64 cell Mark 41 Vertical Launching System, ninety-six RIM-66 SM-2, BGM-109 Tomahawk, RIM-162 ESSM, or RUM-139 VL-Asroc, missiles, one five-inch (130 mm)/62 naval gun, two 25 mm Mk 38 automatic cannons, four .50 cal. machine guns, two Mk 46 triple torpedo tubes, and one 20 mm Phalanx CIWS (Close-In Weapon System).

With these upgrades, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer will remain the backbone of the Navy for decades to come as a multi-mission platform for the 21st century.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.



  1. Jizmo

    December 29, 2020 at 9:36 am

    It can do all kinds of stuff, including “peace time presence”. Hell, you could do that with a conoe.

    • Philly

      January 1, 2021 at 9:34 pm

      How much loiter time do you have in your canoe “Jizmo”?

    • Jorge Cartaya

      January 2, 2021 at 11:38 am

      Yeah, I suppose you could send a canoe on a “Show The Flag” tour to third world nations….how much of an impact that would have is the question…..

  2. T. Miller

    December 29, 2020 at 8:13 pm

    Still – Very limited to poor anti-surface and ASW capability. Guess what, the sub threat is bigger now than during the cold war!

  3. Captain Burrito

    December 29, 2020 at 9:17 pm

    US Navy no longer deploys SH-60B/F aircraft on ships because that type/model/series are no longer in US Navy inventory. Flight III are designed to deploy with two (2) MH-60R aircraft instead.

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