USS Decatur (DDG-73) forms one of the sixty-eight completed (2018) guided-missile destroyer warships of the Arleigh Burke-class of the Untied States Navy (USN). The class represents one of the more important surface-fighting groups of the service, the warships charged with variable mission types ranging from submarine-hunting and cruise-missile strikes to Search-and-Rescue (SAR) and fleet support. Their design is such that the warships can operate wholly independently or as part of the main fighting force owing to their all-modern systems, propulsion scheme and strong "Blue Water" capabilities.
USS Decatur, named after former USN officer Stephen Decatur, Jr (1779-1820), was constructed by the shipbuilding specialists of Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine. She was ordered on January 19th, 1993 and saw her keel laid down on January 11th, 1996. Launched on November 8th of that year, she began formal service in the USN when commissioned o August 29th, 1998. She is in active service as of this writing (2018) and fights under the motto of "In Pursuit of Peace".
As completed, the warship has a running length of 505 feet with a beam measuring 66 feet and a draught down to 31 feet. Displacement reaches 6,750 tons under light loads and up to 8,885 tons under heavy loads. Power is from a 4 x General Electric LM2500-30 series gas turbine arrangement outputting 100,000 horsepower to 2 x Shafts under stern. The vessel can make headway at slightly over 30 knots and range out to 4,400 nautical miles - giving her "good legs".
As part of the Arleigh Burke-class, USS Decatur follows the same lines as the lead ship of the class. The forecastle holds a single turreted deck gun. The forward multi-cell Vertical Launching System (VLS is installed aft of the turret while the bridge section is featured atop the forward portion of the hull superstructure. This structure also holds the sweptback main mast which towers over the design and carries various sensors and communications systems. Smoke funnels are paired in two independent housings, seated inline, and featured near midships. They are of a low-profile design and fully enclosed to reduce the profile and signature of the warship at range. This also creates a noticeable break in the side profile lines of the superstructure. The aft smoke funnel pair is integrated into the aft hull superstructure which also encompasses the second VLS installation, a full-service helicopter hangar and the helipad seated over the stern. USS Decatur can field two Sikorsky SH-60 Sea Hawk medium-lift helicopters (or similar). These are further equipped for the ASW role and can assist in Search-and-Rescue (SAR) endeavors, training, at-sea resupply, over-the-horizon spotting/reconnaissance, humanitarian relief and the like.
Onboard Personnel and Systems
Aboard is a complement of approximately 280 personnel made up of 33 Commissioned Officers (COs), 38 Chief Petty Officers (CPOs) and around 210 enlisted sailors tasked with various duties about the ship. Decatur carries the latest suite of sensors, processing systems and Electronic Warfare (EW) equipment common to other USN surface combatants including the AN/SPY-1D 3D radar, the AN/SPS-67(V)2 surface-search radar and the AN/SPG-62 Fire-Control radar. The AN/SQS-53C is the fixed, bow-mounted sonar array while the AN/SQR-19 is the towed sonar array unit. The ship also carries the advanced AN/SQQ-28 "LAMPS III" series Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) fit to serve its air arm. The EW suite is made up of the AN/SLQ-32(V)2 EW system, the AN/SLQ-25 "Nixie" torpedo countermeasures fit, the Mk 36 Mod 12 decoy launching unit and the AN/SLQ-39 Chaff buoy dispenser.
Armament begins with the single 127mm /54 caliber Mark 45 turreted deck gun at the forcastle. There are two Vertical Launching System (VLS) banks of 29-cell and 61-cell counts supporting the launching of the RIM-156 SM-2, BGM-109 Tomahawk, and RUM-139 missiles of which ninety are carried. Beyond this are 2 x Mk 141 Harpoon anti-ship missile launchers, 2 x 25mm chain guns, 2 x 20mm Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems (CIWSs), 2 x Mk 32 triple torpedo tubes and 4 x 12.7mm Heavy Machine Guns (HMGs). All told, this provides the warship with a solution for just about any ranged or close-in threat - from inbound enemy aircraft, drones or missiles to undersea threats or suicidal speed boats.
While built in East Coast waters, USS Decatur completed her shakedown cruise and trials in West Coast waters (she currently homeports out of San Diego, California - 2018). Her initial Pacific deployment occurred in January of 2000 and has been a stout presence in the volatile region ever since - completing stops at Allied ports/cities and enforcing various U.S.-related campaigns including those in the Persian Gulf region. In February of 2007, she was awarded the "Battle E" award marking the vessels' notable efficiency (thanks in large part to her crew). The powerful, advanced AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense System was trialed in mid-2007 and she conducted the first destroyer-based launches of the RIM-161 Standard (SM-3) missile coupled with the AEGIS system.
When tensions between North Korea and the West heated up in early/mid-2013, USS Decatur was sent to the Korean Peninsula region to quell its unpredictable leader. Once there, Decatur took part in USN and joint-exercises as a show-of-force and to maintain system readiness.
More recently, on September 30th, 2018, USS Decatur had a run-in with an aggressive Chinese warship (CNS Lanzhou) while sailing in the hotly contested South China Sea. The vessels reportedly came to within 50 yards of one another with the USN citing the Chinese crew for "...an unsafe and unprofessional manner...".