This article is about the warship. For other meaning, see destroyer (disambiguation).

In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and manouverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet or battle group and defend them against smaller, short-range attackers (originally torpedo boats, later submarines and aircraft).


Genesis of the destroyer

The destroyer originated in Britain shortly after the Chilean Civil War of 1891 and in the Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895). In those conflicts, a new type of ship proved to be devastatingly effective—the swift, small torpedo-boat invented by John Ericsson. These small boats had speed greater than that of the larger ships, and could dash in close to them, loose their torpedoes, and dash away.

While normally a small, short-range boat of this sort would be easily destroyed long before getting into range, they could be operated within a fleet with larger ships as long as the fleet was close to base. In this case the defending force had to choose which set of targets to attack: the larger ships which they were built to counter, or the smaller torpedo boats which were charging in to attack. Yet this one-two punch cost almost nothing to the attacker, as the small torpedo boats were very inexpensive.

The world's navies recognized the need for a counter weapon and developed the torpedo-boat destroyer. The basic idea was to have a screen of ships that were as fast as the torpedo boats, but armed with guns instead of torpedoes. They would operate at a distance from the main fleet of capital ships to keep the torpedo-boats from ever getting into torpedo firing range.

However it was clear even at the time that this concept had problems of its own. The ship would indeed be capable of holding off an attack by torpedo boats (which typically have no guns of their own), but while operating away from the fleet they would be easy targets for any other capital ship. Thus they were often given torpedoes of their own.

Another problem was that the torpedo-boats were short range and thus easy and cheap to produce. However the destroyers had the problem of needing to operate as a screen for the fleet. This required them to have the speed and range of the battleships, so destroyers were often much larger than the boats they were designed to counter.

The first effective design of torpedo boat destroyer, with the range and speed to keep up with battleships, was the Havock class of two ships of the Royal Navy, launched in 1893.

The torpedo boat destroyer later on took over the role of the smaller torpedo boats, performing torpedo attacks on fleets, such as the devastating Japanese attack on the Russian fleet in Port Arthur at the opening of the Russo-Japanese war in 1904, and attacks in the Pacific theatre of World War II.

The threat evolved by World War I with the introduction of the submarine. In general terms the submarine, or U-boat, is nothing more than a torpedo boat with the ability to submerge for a short period of time. However this change allowed the submarine to hide from the guns of the destroyers and close to torpedo range while underwater. This led to an equally rapid evolution of the destroyer during the war, which was quickly equipped with depth charges and sonar for countering this new threat.

By World War II the threat had evolved once again. Submarines were more effective, and aircraft had become important weapons of naval warfare; once again the fleet destroyers were unequipped for combatting these new targets. They were re-equipped with new anti-aircraft guns and radar, in addition to their already-existing light guns, depth charges, and torpedoes. By this time the destroyers had become large multi-purpose vessels, expensive targets in their own right rather than expendable vessels for the protection of others. This led to the introduction of smaller and cheaper specialized anti-submarine warships by the Royal Navy: corvettes and later frigates.

Modern US destroyers

The United States commissioned its first destroyer, USS Bainbridge, Destroyer No. 1, in 1902. In the US Navy, destroyers operate in support of carrier battle groups, surface action groups, amphibious groups and replenishment groups. Destroyers (with a DD hull classification symbol) primarily perform anti-submarine warfare duty while guided missile destroyers (DDGs) are multi-mission (anti-submarine, anti-aircraft, and anti-surface warfare) surface combatants. The relatively-recent addition of cruise missile launchers has greatly expanded the role of the destroyer in strike and land-attack warfare.

Two classes of destroyers are currently in use by the US Navy: the Spruance class and the Arleigh Burke class. The Zumwalt class was planned to replace them; on November 1, 2001, the US Navy announced the issuance of a revised Request for Proposal (RFP) for the Future Surface Combatant Program. Formerly known as DD 21, the program will now be called DD(X) to more accurately reflect the program purpose, which is to produce a family of advanced technology surface combatants, not a single ship class. DD(X) is no longer called Zumwalt class, and is much larger than traditional destroyers, being nearly three thousand tons heavier than a Ticonderoga-class cruiser. It will potentially employ advanced weaponry and an all-electric Integrated Power System.

Modern Royal Navy destroyers

Missing image
Type 45 (artist's conception)

The Royal Navy's first destroyers were the Havock-class destroyers of 1893. The Royal Navy currently operates 11 ships of Type 42 class. The destroyers (as well as frigates) are, as always, the workhorses of the fleet, the former being optimised for air defence and the latter for surface and subsurface warfare. They are equally at home in large task groups or on independent operations which may include sanctions enforcement, humanitarian relief or anti-drug patrols. British destroyers (of recent times) have an average displacement of around 5,000 tonnes, and are armed with a mixture of guns and missiles including 114 mm (4.5 inch) Mk 8 guns, Sea Dart Missiles, 20 mm Close range guns, Vulcan Phalanx close in weapons system (CIWS), anti submarine torpedo tubes.

The current Royal Navy destroyers are to be replaced by the new Type 45 Daring Class from 2006 onwards. A class of 12 ships is envisaged, with an entire programme budget of 6 billion. The Type 45, displacing around 7,200 tons, will be equipped with the UK variant of the Principal Anti-Air Missile System (PAAMS). Design and construction of the first ships is to be split between BAE Systems and Vosper Thornycroft. Overall project management is the responsibility of BAE systems, with two of the ships being assembled at Scotstoun, by BAE Systems and the other by Vosper Thornycroft at a new shipbuilding facility at Portsmouth Naval Yard.

TYPE 45 - Daring-class specifications

  • Length: 152.4 m
  • Displacement: 7,350 tons full load
  • Max Speed: 29 knots
  • Range: 7,000 nm at 18 knots
  • Complement: 187
  • Armament: (Estimated)
  • Missiles SSM:
  • 8 x Harpoon (2 quad)
  • Surface-to-Air (SAM): 6 x DCN Sylver A 50 VLS PAAMS (Principal Anti-Air missile system
  • 16 x Aster 15 and 32 x Aster 30 weapons or combination
  • Guns: 1 x Vickers 4.5 in (114 mm)/55 Mk 8 Mod 1
  • 2 x 20 mm Vulcan Phalanx Close-in Weapon Systems
  • Helicopters: Lynx or Merlin

See also

de:Zerstrer es:Destructor fi:Hvittj (laiva) fr:Destroyer he:משחתת ms:Kapal pemusnah nl:Torpedojager ja:駆逐艦 pl:Niszczyciel sl:Rušilec fi:Hvittj (laiva) zh:驱逐舰


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