Merz: Life of All Arleigh Burke DDGs to Be Extended to 45 Years
BY RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
WASHINGTON — Extending the service life of the Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class (DDG 51) guided-missile destroyers will enable the Navy to reach its goal of a 355-ship battle force sooner than the 2050s, a senior Navy admiral said.
“We saw a path to achieve this 355 [-ship fleet] achievement as quickly as the 2030s,” Vice Adm. William R. Merz, deputy chief of naval operations for Warfare Systems, testified April 12 before the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee. “NAVSEA [Naval Sea Systems Command] completed the analysis of the class, so we will in fact be extending the entire class out to 45 years.
“There are a couple of types of service-life extensions,” Merz said. “Individual hull platforms; a little laborious, ship by ship … The much more productive and helpful extension is when we extend the entire class. Through the terrific work of the NAVSEA engineers we’ve come through that [analysis] pretty quickly. Unfortunately, it was not completed in time for the current shipbuilding plan, but it will certainly be completed in subsequent plans.
“With that, now we know the life expectancy of the entire class,” he said. “We can roll in the right maintenance, the modernizations much more efficiently, much more affordably, for the entire duration of the class.
“The good news is, there’s no destroyer left behind [as] under the old plan,” he said. “Every destroyer will be modernized. … All will provide a ballistic-missile defense capability.”
Merz said that this will enable the 355-ship battle force level to “arrive in the mid-30s.”
He said that “with the extension of that class, with the modernization efforts, we don’t get the correct mix in the 2030s, but it is not a bad mix. If you have extra ships, destroyers are good ones to have.
“We’ll work with Congress with how we manage that inventory because we don’t want [the life extensions] to come at the expense of new construction, especially the overall driver of the correct mix, the SSNs [nuclear-powered attack submarines],” he said.
The Navy’s inventory includes 64 Arleigh Burke DDGs and more are being built.