Similarly, the Burke class destroyers are an anchor around the Navy’s neck. Huh?! You can’t be serious. The Burkes are the most (only?) successful surface ship design we have. Why, the Burke is the star of the Navy team (oh, oh … I don’t like where this is heading!). How can they be anything but a benefit?
Well, let’s look at the situation.
When the Navy wanted to replace the Ticonderogas, did they look to design a new, optimized cruiser to take full advantage of the desired AMDR radar? No, they stuck with the Burke because they were afraid of a new design after the recent string of disastrous new designs. So, we’re now saddled with a Ticonderoga replacement, the Burke Flt III, with a half-AMDR instead of what we really want.
When the Navy wanted to build a better LCS (the new frigate program) did they look to design a new, dedicated ASW vessel, which is what they really needed? No, they opted for a mini-Burke because it was what they were comfortable with. The ‘new’ frigate is actually a manifestation of the illusion of the Burke’s ‘safety’ by insisting that the ‘new’ design be an existing design which, by definition, makes it an old design.
When combat comes and the Navy wants to conduct ASW, does anyone really believe that the Navy will risk $2B+ Burkes playing tag with submarines? Of course not! That means that for practical purposes we have no ASW capability! Our star ship is now quite limited in realistic capability by its price. On a related note, does it make sense to risk the proposed new frigates which will cost around $1.5B (I’m laughing at the Navy’s cost estimate of $800M)? Of course not, again! Our desire for mini-Burkes is preventing us from building the ASW corvette we really need and the Burkes are too expensive to risk doing the ASW job which is, supposedly, one of their core capabilities.
Let’s be clear. The Burkes, at one time, served a very valuable role as the world’s most advanced AAW system. Now, however, the Burke is at the low end of ship stealth and Aegis and Aegis-clones are everywhere and it’s even debatable whether Aegis is still the world’s premier AAW system. There’s a plethora of radar manufacturers who claim their radars are superior and for a fraction of the cost. So, what do the Burkes represent now? Well, they’re a good AAW system but that’s about as far as we can go with our praise. Even the Navy recognizes the shortcomings of Aegis and are replacing it with AMDR which they claim is vastly superior. The Navy is saddled with a vast fleet of decent AAW Burkes and no hope to break out of the mold and produce something better.
Because they represent something ‘safe’, albeit no longer state of the art, the Burkes are stifling innovation and new designs by the Navy. Unwilling to risk another Zumwalt or LCS, the safety of the Burke now drags the Navy down and prevents the adoption of new designs.
The Burkes are an anchor on the Navy’s development.