The USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) is the first in the Arleigh Burke-class of guided missile destroyers, systems that offer up a multi-pronged offensive and defensive approach in her destroyer role. The ship is classified as a "multi-purpose" destroyer, allowing her to be called up for a variety of mission types that include offensive strike operations, anti-ship warfare, anti-submarine warfare and anti-aircraft warfare roles. The vessel was designed in the early 1980's and took under consideration much of what was learned by British naval forces in the Falklands War against Argentina and was highly-tailored to suit Cold War threats and tactics for the Americans.
The Arleigh Burke-class destroyers maintain a distinct profile and sports a single aluminum mast atop her superstructure. She is noted in US Navy history for being the first warship of size to incorporate any semblance of stealth characteristics and does this through specialized shaping consistent with the stealth technology of the time. A special-engineered steel hull provides better operation in most rough seas than previous hulls and her armor consists of Kevlar-protected areas of critical operating posts throughout the ship. Another interesting note of the Arleigh Burke design is that she is a vessel capable of operating in dangerous areas contaminated by radiological, biological and chemical weapons thanks to her Collective Protection System.
Noted systems aboard the USS Arleigh Burke include AN/SPY-1D radar, AN/SPS-67(V)2 and AN/SPS-64(V)9 surface search radar systems, AN/SQS-53C sonar array and AN/SQR-19 tactical towed array. Her electronic warfare system consists of the AN/SLQ-32(V)2 EWS while decoys are provided through CHAFF buoys, torpedo countermeasures and the Mk 36 MOD 12 decoy launching system. Power for the vessel is supplied by four General Electric LM 2500-30 gas-powered turbines operating twin shafts and delivering up to 100,000 shaft horsepower allowing for speeds in excess of 30 knots in ideal conditions. The USS Arleigh Burke is crewed by 323 personnel and sports a helipad at her stern for operations of a single Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk LAMPS III, a pivotal addition to the anti-submarine operation role.
As a destroyer, the USS Arleigh Burke operates a variety of situation-specific weaponry making her a truly multi-faceted platform. Accessible systems include twin Mark 32 torpedo tubes (triple launchers) for anti-ship duty. She sports a single 5" gun turret at her bow with additional firepower provided by 2 x 25mm chain gun systems. Anti-aircraft and anti-missile support is handled by 2 x 20mm Phalanx Close-In Weapon System(s) (CIWS) which is further augmented by up to 4 x 12.7mm (.50 caliber) heavy machine guns. Probably the most important aspect of the USS Arleigh Burke's firepower, however, are her two collection of missile launchers firing from 29 and 61 cell groupings. These Vertical Launch Systems (VLS) can fire off either RIM-66 SM-2 missiles, BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles or RUM-139 VL-ASROC missiles as needed.
While undergoing a variety of deployments, the USS Arleigh Burke has more recently seen extensive action in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom utilizing her Tomahawk cruise missile launchers to strike at targets inland while previously having served in the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, the Black Sea and the Persian Gulf. More recently, the USS Arleigh Burke has been called upon to quell piracy operations now active off the coast of Somalia. In her time abroad, the vessel and her crews have been the recipient of no fewer than 15 honors in the form of ribbons, medals and commendations.
The USS Arleigh Burke was ordered in 1985 and not laid down until 1988. She was launched the following year and officially commissioned in 1991. The vessel makes her home port out of Norfolk, Virginia and fights under the motto of "Fast and Feared". As of this writing, she is in active service. The USS Arleigh Burke is named after former United States Navy Admiral Arleigh Albert Burke.
The Arleigh Burke-class family of ships is broken down into three distinct groupings known as Flight I (DDG-51 through DDG-71), Flight II (DDG 72 through DDG 78) and Flight IIIA (DDG 79 through DDG 112). Flight IIIA can be further broken down into three sub-groups from DDG-79 through DDG 80, DDG 81 through DDG 84 and DDG 85 through DDG 112 for various minor differences. Construction of the USS Arleigh Burke was handled by Bath Iron Works within Flight I.