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US Navy extends service life of lead Arleigh Burke destroyer to 40 years

USS Arleigh Burke will serve for 40 years
Photo: US Navy

The service life of the US Navy’s lead Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51), has been been extended by five years by the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV).

Arleigh Burke’s estimated service life was 35 years, expected to expire in FY 2026, but the service began efforts early last year to request additional service time for the ship. The approval extension carries the ship out through FY 2031 now, when the ship will be 40 years old.

According to Rear Adm. Brendan McLane, commander, Naval Surface Force Atlantic, the extension is “a testament to the success of the DDG 51 program as a whole and is an example of the Navy’s enduring relationship with industry partners.”

“DDG 51’s are the best warships in history. They demonstrate that there are no limits to what we can accomplish with a strong American Navy-industrial partnership,” McLane said. “Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are the backbone of the Navy’s surface fleet and critical to the Nation and the Navy today and long into the future.”

A DDG modernization program is underway to provide a mid-life upgrade that will ensure the DDG 51 class possesses the latest long-range fires and terminal defense capabilities. The modernization changes are also being introduced to new construction ships to increase the baseline capabilities of the newest ships in the class, and to provide commonality between new construction ships and modernized in-service ships.

Ever since the class started entering service, it has been undergoing gradual upgrades to remain operationally relevant. These upgrades are grouped into four separate variants or “Flights.” DDGs 51-71 represent the original design and are designated as Flight I; DDGs 72-78 are Flight II ships; and DDGs 79-124 and DDG 127 are Flight IIA ships. The Flight III baseline begins with DDGs 125-126 and continues with DDG 128 and follow-on ships. The destroyers are multi-mission surface combatants capable of conducting anti-air, anti-submarine, and anti-surface warfare.

Flight III ships will be assuming the air defense role of the aging Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers in carrier strike groups as the cruisers are slowly being phased out. The latest variant incorporates the AN/SPY-6(V)1 air and missile defense radar, as well as upgrades to the electrical power and cooling capacity.

The navy said the goal of the DDG modernization effort is to increase warfighting capabilities and drive commonality, which enable these ships to remain relevant, to their service life, against current and future threats.

After 30 years in Norfolk, Va., USS Arleigh Burke shifted homeports to Rota, Spain, on March 26, 2021, to be forward-deployed in US Sixth Fleet. The ship arrived at Naval Station Rota on April 11, 2021, and is on its third patrol.