After decades of service, the guided-missile destroyer Arleigh Burke — the first of its class — appeared likely ready to retire.
Commissioned in 1991, the warship may have in recent years started mapping out its shadowbox for when its reaches the end of its expected 35-year service life, in fiscal 2026.
But Big Navy has other plans.
Naval Surface Force Atlantic announced this week that the Arleigh Burke will continue plying the seas through fiscal 2031, when the ship will be 40 years old.
The Navy in 2020 scrapped a plan to extend the service lives of its entire destroyer fleet, and SURFLANT officials said any decision to extend the lives of other destroyers would be made on a hull-by-hull basis.
“(Arleigh Burke) was evaluated and approved for extra service life based on the lethality she delivers as a result of the DDG Modernization program and a thorough assessment of her material condition and adherence to class maintenance plans,” SURFLANT spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Jason Fischer said in an email.
To date, 71 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers have been delivered to the fleet, with 18 more on contract and 11 ships at various stages of construction, he said.
“DDG 51s are the best warships in history,” SURFLANT commander Rear Adm. Brendan McLane said in a statement announcing Arleigh Burke’s life extension. “Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are the backbone of the Navy’s surface fleet.”
The Navy’s DDG modernization program is providing mid-life upgrades to ensure the entire class can remain in action longer, while sporting “the latest long-range fires and terminal defense capabilities,” according to a service statement. Such modernization changes are also being folded into ships under construction.
Arleigh Burke spent its first 30 years of service in Norfolk, Virginia, and was relocated to Rota, Spain, in March 2021, where it is forward-deployed for the Europe-based U.S. 6th Fleet.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at [email protected]