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Arleigh Burke-Class Guided-Missile Destroyers: The Navy’s Ultimate Weapon?

Arleigh Burke-class
Image: U.S. Navy.

This past weekend, the U.S. Navy christened its newest Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers (DDGs), the future USS Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG-123). The warship is being manufactured by Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (HII) Ingalls Shipbuilding division.

A New Arleigh Burke-class Hits the Waves 

Due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, HII conducted the event with limited numbers. The commissioning of this Flight IIA version of the DDG had originally been scheduled for christening last year but was delayed due to Covid-19 related restrictions.

“The christening of Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee is a significant milestone that brings our 34th destroyer one step closer to being introduced into the fleet,” said Kari Wilkinson, president of Ingalls Shipbuilding. “In these ever-changing times, the significance of what we do has never been more important.”

The destroyer was named in honor of Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee, who was the first woman to receive the Navy Cross. She also served as the second Superintendent of the Navy Nurse Corps in 1911. When she entered the naval service in 1908, she was one of the first twenty women – who have become known as the “Sacred Twenty” – to join the newly established Navy Nurse Corps. She contributed her nursing skills to the Navy during the First World War.

This is the second ship to be named for Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee, the first was the USS Higbee (DD-806), the first combat warship named after a female member of the U.S. Navy. The Gearing-class destroyer saw service during the Second World War, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War and was retired in the 1980s. One of her anchors is on display outside of Naval Station Mayport’s medical building.

“The future USS Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee will serve for decades as a reminder of Ms. Higbee’s service to our nation and her unwavering support of a strong and healthy Navy and Marine Corps team,” said Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Harker. “This ship honors not only her service but that of all of our Navy nurses who support the strength and wellbeing of our service members and their families.”

Arleigh Burke-class: A Primer 

The warship will be the seventy-third Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, and is one of twenty ships currently under contract for the DDG 51 program. She is configured as a Flight IIA destroyer, which enables power projection and delivers quick reaction time, high firepower and increased electronic countermeasures capability for anti-air warfare.

She is 509.5 feet long, 59 feet wide and has a displacement capacity of 9,496 tons. USS Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee will be homeported in San Diego.

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are multi-mission ships that can conduct diverse operations, including peacetime missions, crisis management, sea control, and power projection. The first of the Arleigh Burke-class DDGs was commissioned on July 4, 1991, and for nearly thirty years it has been a true workhorse for the U.S. Navy, and it has the longest production run for any post-World War II U.S. Navy surface combatant.

With the decommissioning of the last Spruance-class destroyer in 2005, the Arleigh Burke-class became the Navy’s only active destroyer until the USS Zumwalt joined the fleet in 2016.

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.