Five Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers (DDG-51) will forgo a combat system upgrade that would allow the ships to fight ballistic missile threats as part of a reduction in modernization funding included in the Navy’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget that will save the service $500 million over the next five years.
Modernization periods for five Flight IIA Burkes — USS Howard (DDG-83); USSMcCampbell (DDG-85); USS Mustin (DDG-89); USS Chafee (DDG-90); USS Bainbridge(DDG-96) — will not include the Baseline 9C Aegis Combat System series of processing power and software upgrades to bring an Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) capability to the destroyers, according to an unclassified version of the current modernization plan. Instead, the ships will undergo a much more modest upgrade that will focus on hull, mechanical and electrical (HM&E) systems repairs, leaving the ships — all commissioned between 2001 to 2004 — without any ballistic missile defense (BMD) capability.
Equivalent cuts to the Burke modernization line in the Navy’s Future Years Defense Plan (FYDP) created a knock-on effect for the McCampbell, Mustin, Chafee and Bainbridge modernizations preventing the service from buying long-lead materials for the ships and allowing even a basic BMD capability. Currently, the Navy’s number one priority is the $100 billion design and construction effort for a new nuclear ballistic missile submarine to replace the aging Ohio-class boomers (SSB).
Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) — chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee — said the reduction in the modernization was shortsighted: “This is just another example of a critical upgrade being deferred by budget cuts. This decision was not strategy-driven, it was budget-driven. Demand for ballistic missile defense capacity and for ships that can be integrated into Navy anti-aircraft battle networks is higher than ever. These kind of decisions ought to be based on what we need for national security, not what we want to spend.”