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United States Navy Burke-class destroyers are one of the few ship classes named for a living individual, Admiral Arleigh Burke. Burke (1901 - 1996) was a legendary World War II destroyer commander, who rose to become the youngest Chief of Naval Operations. He attended the dedication of the first ship of the class. Somewhat ironically given Burke's record against the Japanese in WWII, Japanese Kongo-class destroyers are authorized copies of Flight I Burkes, being upgraded for area ballistic missile defense (BMD) capability

Like most modern naval vessels, the Burke class, of 63 ships, follows a "spiral" development model. The first series was called "Flight I", and, while the most recent are "Flight IIA", there have been several significant "sub-flight" enhancements; see variants.

USS Winston Churchill (DDG-81), a Flight IIA Burke

These are not small ships; their displacement is more typical of a World War II light cruiser. All ships of the class share being multirole vessels built around the AEGIS battle management system, and having a principal weapons system of vertical launch system (VLS) missiles as well as secondary armament. They are built around the AN/SPY-1D radar; they do not have the secondary extra-long-range AN/SPS-49 radars of the Ticonderogas.

In a reversion of traditional doctrine of destroyer vs. cruiser; the Burkes have more Kevlar armor and radar signature reduction, as well as all-steel construction, than the Ticonderogas. The rationale is that Burkes are more likely to take damage on independent or outer picket missiles, and the Ticonderogas, either close escorts to high-value assets or surface action group leaders, can fire the Burke's weapons using the Cooperative Engagement Capability.

Primary weapons system

Vertical launch system for:

5" gun, several improvements

Defensive and countermeasures system


Many of the additions, especially of electronics, have been retrofitted to earlier versions. This table shows the ships in which a feature first appeared. Like the Ticonderogas, AEGIS has its own spiral improvement program.

Burke class spiral development
Flight DD hull numbers Enhancements
Flight I 51-71 AEGIS Baseline 4 with SPY-1D radar; 5"-54 caliber gun; 90 VLS cells
58- 67 JTIDS; Tactical Information Exchange System (TADIX B) satellite communications, AN/SLQ-32(V)3, SM-2 Block IV Extended Range Missile added.
68 AEGIS Baseline 5
69- 71 SPY-1D Track Initiation Processor (which permits the screening of transient detections prior to transition-to-track), X-Windows format Tactical Graphics Capability, and an embedded Command and Control Processor with joint Link 16 capability.
Flight II 72-78 AN/SRS-1A(V) Combat Direction Finding, SLQ-32(V)3 electronic warfare upgrade, SM-2 Block IV Extended Range Missile .
Flight IIA 79-80 Length and displacement extended to 509-513 feet overall, 9,192-9,217 tons. Helicopter hangar in place of Harpoon
81-84 5"-62 caliber gun; RGM-165 land attack Standard missile (LASM) was scheduled but suspended. AN/SYQ-27 Naval Fire Control System (compatible with Army Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS) and JTIDS Link 16).
85-90 Area TBMD (AN/SPY-2 radar enhancements)
91-107 AEGIS Baseline 7.1 with AN/SPY-1D(V) radar; AN/WLD-1 Remote Minehunting System

General characteristics

As seen above, there are variations and retrofits.

  • Builder: Bath Iron Works, Northrop Grumman Ship Systems.
  • SPY-1 Radar and Combat System Integrator: Lockheed Martin
  • Date Deployed: July 4, 1991 (USS Arleigh Burke)
  • Propulsion: Four General Electric LM 2500-30 gas turbines in a COGAG system; two shafts, 100,000 total shaft horsepower.
  • Length
    • Flights I and II (DDG 51-78): 505 feet (153.92 meters)
    • Flight IIA (DDG 79 AF): 509½ feet (155.29 meters).
  • Beam: 59 feet (18 meters).
  • Displacement
    • DDG 51 through 71: 8,230 L tons (8,362.06 metric tons) full load
    • DDG 72 through 78: 8,637 L tons (8,775.6 metric tons) full load
    • DDG 79 onwards: 9,496 L tons (9,648.40 metric tons) full load
  • Speed: In excess of 30 knots.
  • Crew:
    • DDG 79-84: 278 (24 officers)
    • DDG 85-102: 276 (24 officers)