Spruance-class destroyer

The Spruance-class destroyer was developed by the United States to replace the many World War II–built Allen M. Sumner- and Gearing-class destroyers and was the primary destroyer built for the U.S. Navy during the 1970s and 1980s.

Spruance-class destroyer
USS Spruance in her original configuration
Class overview
Name: Spruance class
Builders: Ingalls Shipbuilding, Pascagoula, Mississippi
Operators: United States Navy
Preceded by: Charles F. Adams class
Succeeded by: Arleigh Burke class
Subclasses: Kidd class
Built: 1972–1983
In commission: 1975–2005
Completed: 31
Active: 1 (Paul F. Foster) as SDTS
Retired: 30
General characteristics
Type: Destroyer
Displacement: 8,040 (long) tons full load
Length: 529 ft (161 m) waterline; 563 ft (172 m) overall
Beam: 55 ft (16.8 m)
Draft: 29 ft (8.8 m)
Propulsion: 4 × General Electric LM2500 gas turbines, 2 shafts, 80,000 shp (60 MW)
Speed: 32.5 knots (60.2 km/h; 37.4 mph)
  • 6,000 nautical miles (11,000 km; 6,900 mi) at 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph)
  • 3,300 nautical miles (6,100 km; 3,800 mi) at 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph)
Complement: 19 officers, 315 enlisted
Sensors and
processing systems:
Electronic warfare
& decoys:

list error: mixed text and list (help)
As built

Later fitted

Aircraft carried: 2 x Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk LAMPS III helicopters.
Aviation facilities: Flight deck and enclosed hangar for up to two medium-lift helicopters

First commissioned in 1975, the class was designed with gas-turbine propulsion, a flight deck and hangar for up to two medium-lift helicopters, all-digital weapons systems, and automated 127 mm (5-inch) guns. Serving for three decades, the Spruance class was originally designed to escort a carrier group with a primary ASW mission, and later had a land strike capability added with the addition of the Tomahawk cruise missile. Rather than extend the life of the class, the Navy accelerated its retirement. The last ship of the class was decommissioned in 2005, with most examples broken up or destroyed as targets.[1]



The class was originally designed for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) with point defense anti-aircraft warfare (AAW) missiles; upgrades provided anti-ship and land attack capabilities.

The ships were initially controversial, especially among members of the United States Congress who believed that their unimposing looks, with only two guns and an ASROC and Sea Sparrow missile launcher per ship implied that the vessels were weak compared to Soviet designs which carried large numbers of anti-ship missiles. The Spruance-class was also unfavorable compared to earlier U.S. designs which had more visible guns or launchers for the Standard medium range missiles. Despite the criticism they were successful in their intended ASW role due to their seaworthiness, quiet operation, and ability to operate two helicopters.[2]

The Spruances were much larger than destroyers of that era, being comparable in size to contemporary guided-missile cruisers (CG and CGN) and U.S. Navy light cruisers (CL) in World War II. Their hull dimensions allowed them not only to accommodate a helicopter landing pad, a first for a U.S. Navy destroyer as flight decks were previously only found on frigates and cruisers, they were the first U.S. Navy destroyer/cruiser class to have an enclosed hangar (with space for up to two medium-lift helicopters) which was a considerable improvement over the basic aviation facilities of earlier cruisers.[3] The "Spru-cans" were the first large U.S. Navy ships to use gas turbine propulsion; they had four General Electric LM2500 gas turbines to generate about 80,000 horsepower (60 MW). This configuration (developed in the 1960s by the Royal Canadian Navy for the Iroquois-class destroyers and known as COmbined Gas And Gas, or COGAG) was very successful and used on most subsequent U.S. warships. As of 2010, all U.S. Navy surface combatants (except nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and the LCS-1) use the LM2500 COGAG arrangement, usually with two such turbines per shaft.[4]

The Spruance-class received the "DD" designation in the hull classification symbol system which was previously applied to gun destroyers, though their primary armament as designed was missiles. However their original complement of 8 Sea Sparrow anti-aircraft missiles was only sufficient for point defense, compared to other American destroyers designated as DDG which were designed to provide anti-aircraft warfare screening to the fleet, while some newer DDG ships further added powerful surface-to-surface capabilities. A major update from the mid-1980s added a 61-cell Vertical Launch Missile System (VLS) for the Tomahawk surface-to-surface missile which modernized 24 members of the Spruance-class to a strike destroyer standard, although they remained as DD because they continued to lack the anti-aircraft capabilities of guided-missile cruisers (CG and CGN) and destroyers (DDG).[5]

The entire class of 30 ships was contracted on 23 June 1970 to the Litton-Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi, under the Total Package Procurement concept originated by the Whiz Kids of Robert McNamara's Pentagon. The idea was to reap the benefits of mass construction, but labor and technical problems caused cost overruns and delayed construction.[6][7]

One additional ship, USS Hayler, was ordered on 29 September 1979. Hayler was originally planned as a DDH (Destroyer, Helicopter) design, which would carry more anti-submarine helicopters than the standard design of the Spruance class. Eventually this plan to build a DDH was scrapped and a slightly modified DD-963 class hull was put in commission.

Four additional ships were built originally for the Iranian Navy with the Mark 26/Standard AAW missile system and commissioned as the Kidds for the U.S. Navy. The Kidd-class destroyers used the same hull as the Spruances but they were more advanced general-purpose ships with significant anti-air warfare capabilities that the Spruance-class lacked. It was once planned to build all of the Spruance class up to this standard, but it was too expensive. A slightly lengthened version of the hull was also used for the Ticonderoga-class cruisers, originally planned as DDG-47-class destroyers but redesignated as cruisers in 1980 to emphasize the additional capability provided by the ships' Aegis combat systems, and their flag facilities suitable for an admiral and his staff.

An air-capable mini V/STOL aircraft carrier with fighters and ASW helicopters based on the Spruance hull was seriously considered but not produced.[8][9]


The Spruance design is modular in nature, allowing for easy installation of entire subsystems within the ship. Although originally designed for anti-submarine warfare, 24 ships of this class were upgraded with the installation of a 61 cell Vertical Launch Missile System (VLS) capable of launching Tomahawk missiles. The remaining seven ships not upgraded were decommissioned early. Deyo was the only Spruance-class destroyer that received the armored box launchers for Tomahawk that also later received the VLS upgrade, while Harry W. Hill was the only one that never received the Tomahawk, having had its VLS upgrade cancelled.

  • Merrill served as the Navy's test platform for the Tomahawk Cruise Missile Program receiving armored box launchers and test launching a Tomahawk 19 March 1980. Merrill carried two ABLs and an ASROC launcher into the 1990s until the ASROC launcher was removed.
  • David R. Ray tested the RAM system in the 1980s, but had the system removed after the tests.
  • Oldendorf was the test platform for the AN/SPQ-9B Anti-ship Missile Defense (ASMD) Firecontrol Radar to be outfitted on the San Antonio-class amphibious transport docks. The AN/SPQ-9B is used to detect all known and projected sea skimming missiles.
  • Arthur W. Radford tested the Advanced Enclosed Mast/Sensor system which helped in the mast design of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ships.

At least ten VLS ships, including Cushing, O'Bannon, and Thorn, had a 21 cell RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile launcher mounted on the starboard fantail.

Spruance-class destroyers fired 112 land attack Tomahawks during Operation Desert Storm.[10]


In order to save $28 million a year, the Navy accelerated the decommissioning of the Spruance class, though they could have served to 2019 had they been maintained and updated.[11] Despite the recent modifications to the Spruance and Kidd classes, they were still considered expensive and manpower intensive to operate, while the succeeding Arleigh Burke-class were more capable and versatile due to their Aegis combat system while also being more cost-efficient, and by the end of the 1990s many Arleigh Burke-class destroyers had entered the fleet. While the early Flight I Arleigh Burke ships only had a flight deck, Flight IIA and subsequent vessels added the enclosed hangar which made their aviation facilities comparable to the Spruance-class.

The US Navy planned to replace its current destroyers and cruisers with the new Zumwalt-class (DDG-1000) vessels, but the 2010 U.S. Defense budget funded the construction of only three DDG-1000s[12] and production of Arleigh Burke class continued and it became the U.S. Navy's only operational class of destroyers after the USS Cushing was decommissioned on 21 September 2005.[13]

Rather than being preserved in storage like some older classes or offered up for sale to foreign navies, some were broken up and the remaining majority of the class finished their lives as targets in various fleet exercises. The last Spruance-class destroyer on active service, USS Cushing, was decommissioned on 21 September 2005. It was unsuccessfully offered to the Pakistan Navy before being sunk as a target 29 April 2009. The four Kidd-class destroyers were decommissioned in 1998 and were sold to Taiwan in 2005 and 2006.

One notable exception to this fate is the ex–Paul F. Foster which replaced the ex-Decatur in 2005 as the Self Defense Test Ship. The SDTS is remotely-controlled to tow a barge targeted by live weapons. This avoids the safety concerns and other problems associated with manned ship exposure to live weapons.[14][15]

Ships in class

Ship Name Hull No. Crest Laid Down Launched Commissioned Decommissioned Disposition Link
Spruance DD-963 27 November 1972 10 November 1973 20 September 1975 23 March 2005 Sunk as target, 8 December 2006
Paul F. Foster DD-964 6 February 1973 22 February 1974 21 February 1976 27 March 2003 Struck 6 April 2004; in use as a Self Defense Test Ship
Kinkaid DD-965 19 April 1973 25 May 1974 10 July 1976 7 January 2003 Sunk as target, 14 July 2004
Hewitt DD-966 23 July 1973 24 August 1974 25 September 1976 19 July 2001 Sold for scrap, 9 August 2001
Elliot DD-967 15 October 1973 19 December 1974 22 January 1977 2 December 2003 Sunk as target, 25 June 2005
Arthur W. Radford DD-968 31 January 1974 1 March 1975 16 April 1977 18 March 2003 Scuttled as artificial reef off coast of Delaware, 10 August 2011
Peterson DD-969 29 April 1974 21 June 1975 9 July 1977 4 October 2002 Sunk as target, 16 February 2004
Caron DD-970 1 July 1974 24 June 1975 1 October 1977 15 October 2001 Sunk as target, 4 December 2002
David R. Ray DD-971 23 September 1974 23 August 1975 19 November 1977 28 February 2002 Sunk as target, 11 July 2008
Oldendorf DD-972 27 December 1974 21 October 1975 4 March 1978 20 June 2003 Sunk as target, 22 August 2005
John Young DD-973 17 February 1975 6 January 1976 20 May 1978 30 September 2002 Sunk as target, 13 April 2004
Comte de Grasse DD-974 4 April 1975 26 March 1976 5 August 1978 5 June 1998 Sunk as target, 7 June 2006
O'Brien DD-975 9 May 1975 8 July 1976 3 December 1977 24 September 2004 Sunk as target, 9 February 2006
Merrill DD-976 16 June 1975 1 September 1976 11 March 1978 26 March 1998 Sunk as target, 1 August 2003
Briscoe DD-977 21 July 1975 28 December 1976 3 June 1978 2 October 2003 Sunk as target, 25 August 2005
Stump DD-978 25 August 1975 1 January 1977 19 August 1978 22 October 2004 Sunk as target, 7 June 2006
Conolly DD-979 29 September 1975 3 June 1977 14 October 1978 18 September 1998 Sunk as target, 29 April 2009
Moosbrugger DD-980 3 November 1975 23 July 1977 16 December 1978 15 December 2000 Scrapped, 2006
John Hancock DD-981 16 January 1976 29 October 1977 10 March 1979 16 October 2000 Scrapped, 2007
Nicholson DD-982 20 February 1976 11 November 1977 12 May 1979 20 December 2002 Sunk as target, 30 July 2004
John Rodgers DD-983 12 August 1976 25 February 1978 14 July 1979 4 September 1998 Scrapped, 2006
Leftwich DD-984 12 November 1976 8 April 1978 25 August 1979 27 March 1998 Sunk as target, 1 August 2003
Cushing DD-985 2 February 1977 17 June 1978 21 September 1979 21 September 2005 Sunk as target, 14 July 2008
Harry W. Hill DD-986 1 April 1977 10 August 1978 17 November 1979 29 May 1998 Sunk as target, 15 July 2004
O'Bannon DD-987 21 February 1977 25 September 1978 15 December 1979 19 August 2005 Sunk as target, 6 October 2008
Thorn DD-988 29 August 1977 3 February 1979 16 February 1980 25 August 2004 Sunk as target, 22 July 2006
Deyo DD-989 14 October 1977 20 January 1979 22 March 1980 6 November 2003 Sunk as target, 25 August 2005
Ingersoll DD-990 5 December 1977 10 March 1979 12 April 1980 24 July 1998 Sunk as target, 29 July 2003
Fife DD-991 6 March 1978 1 May 1979 31 May 1980 28 February 2003 Sunk as target, 23 August 2005
Fletcher DD-992 24 April 1978 16 June 1979 12 July 1980 1 October 2004 Sunk as target, 16 July 2008
Hayler DD-997 20 October 1980 2 March 1982 5 March 1983 25 August 2003 Sunk as target, 13 November 2004


  1. Military Officer Greyhounds of the Sea By Gina DiNicolo Archived 20 September 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  2. Bishop, Chris. Encyclopedia of World Sea Power. 1988. ISBN 0-517-65342-7. Page 94-95
  3. "Bigger, Costlier Destroyers". The Morning Record. Meriden, Connecticut. 15 July 1970.
  4. Bishop, Chris. Encyclopedia of World Sea Power. 1988. ISBN 0-517-65342-7. Page 94-95
  5. Bishop, Chris. Encyclopedia of World Sea Power. 1988. ISBN 0-517-65342-7. Page 94-95
  6. Associated Press (18 September 1975). "Spruance Akin to Vacation Cruise". Times Daily. Florence, Alabama. DD-963 ... is a year behind schedule due to a strike, a drydock accident and other instances of what Ingalls calls "excusable delays."
  7. Associated Press (23 October 1975). "Shipyard Begins Design Work on Sub for Saudis". Times Daily. Florence, Alabama. The Litton-owned shipyard has come under heavy fire from the Navy and Congress for delays and cost overruns on U.S. destroyers and assault ships.
  8. "Historical Review of Cruiser Characteristics, Roles and Missions". Aandc.org.
  9. John Pike. "CG-47 Ticonderoga-class". Globalsecurity.org.
  10. "DD-963 SPRUANCE-class – Navy Ships". Fas.org.
  11. Dunnigan, James F. (2 August 2008). "USN Abandons New Ship Designs". Strategypage.com.
  12. Bennett, John T. and Kris Osborn. "Gates Reveals DoD Program Overhaul". Defense News, 6 April 2009.
  13. "US guided missile destroyer to visit Subic Bay Tuesday". Philippine Star. 4 February 2013. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
  14. "Paul F Foster EDD-964 Final DOI Naval Vessel Historical Evaluation" (PDF). navsea.navy.mil. 5 March 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 February 2015.
  15. John Pike. "Global Security information". Globalsecurity.org.
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