As the US Navy begins to think about what will replace its aging Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruisers, the vision taking shape doesn’t look like a cruiser.
The Ticonderoga-class ships have been in service since 1980, but even then they were already a somewhat aging design. With a hull design borrowed heavily from the then-new Spruance-class destroyers, the 9,800-ton ships became the first designed around cruise missile-based land strikes. However, the compact design resulting from their destroyer heritage has placed limitations on how much the ships can be modified, and how easily that is done.
Traditionally, cruisers have been the largest surface ships short of battleships, although the biggest cruisers have rivaled them in size, armament and deadliness to foes. The German Navy between the world wars famously got around naval treaties limiting the sizes of their ships by placing battleship guns on cruisers, for example, and the US’ Alaska-class cruisers were big enough to be called “cruiser killers.”
Destroyers, by comparison, have been assigned to defensive duties, providing fleet escort, anti-submarine and anti-air defenses for the main fleet, especially aircraft carriers. However, with the advent of missile cruisers and missile destroyers, these duties have largely overlapped to the point that distinguishing between the two classes is more of an academic exercise than a real summary of naval duties.
That said, the US Navy doesn’t want…