ARLINGTON, Va. — The next five-year defense budget plan, slated for release later this month, will focus its surface Navy investments on Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and Constellation-class frigates, according to the service’s surface warfare director.

Rear Adm. Fred Pyle last week said the service is working to provide long-term modernization plans to industry to ensure its programs stay on track. Among its top priorities are the DDG(X), Integrated Combat Systems and directed energy weapons.

An ongoing Battle Force Ship Assessment and Requirement report will translate those priorities into planned purchase numbers for large, small and unmanned combatants, Pyle said March 3 while addressing the Navy League.

Pyle said this force assessment is “getting up to senior leadership” for review and signature, but for now, he’s trying to give industry “the longest set of headlights I can give you on where we’re going to go,” which can be looked at through the lens of the next three five-year Future Years Defense Programs.

In the first FYDP, which spans fiscal 2024 through FY28, Pyle said Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and Constellation-class frigates would begin to join the fleet.

Pyle said this first FYDP would also include investments in unmanned surface vessels, directed energy weapons, the Conventional Prompt Strike hypersonic missile system and upgrades to the Zumwalt-class destroyer.

The admiral said the Navy will kick off its Large USV procurement program in 2025. LUSV will serve as an adjunct magazine, with 32 vertical launching system cells that could be ordered remotely by manned combatants to launch offensive missiles at enemy ships and other targets.

Pyle likened LUSV to “a row of ducks.”

“Mother duck is the [destroyer], the LUSV is the baby duck trailing behind,” he said. “We’ve got an opportunity there to expand your VLS capacity and to put more weapons to sea.”

Though Congress pushed back against the Navy’s 2019 announcement of the LUSV adjunct magazine concept, Pyle said that, thanks to several years of land-based testing and other efforts to drive down risk, “I think we’ve achieved equilibrium” and gotten lawmakers, Defense Department leadership and the Navy on the same page about the LUSV and its missions, thanks to land-based testing and prototyping work at sea.

The Navy will also spend this first FYDP conducting land-based testing for its future DDG(X) program to reduce risk later in the program, as the service seeks an Arleigh Burke replacement with more space and power for future weapons and sensors.

The second FYDP will span FY29 to FY33.

“We’re going to be knee-deep in Integrated Combat Systems and DDG Mod 2.0,” he said, referring to two programs aimed at adding lethality to current ships in the fleet.

DDG Mod 2.0 would take the Flight II Burkes and upgrade them with the AN/SPY-6(V) radar, the SEWIP electronic warfare package and the Aegis Combat System Baseline 10. This modernization program is “taking the fleet we have today and making it as lethal as we possibly can.”

Integrated Combat Systems aims to digitize and merge the two main combat systems in the surface fleet — Aegis Combat System on the combatants and Ship Self-Defense System for amphibious ships and aircraft carriers — to allow new capabilities to be coded, tested and fielded more rapidly.

This second FYDP also includes investments in larger VLS launchers for larger offensive missiles, continued spending on directed energy weapons and award of a detail design and construction contract for the DDG(X) program.

The third FYDP, from FY34 to FY38, will be marked by production of the DDG(X) ships, refining ICS for insertion onto ships, and scaling up the power and capability of directed energy weapons.

Megan Eckstein is the naval warfare reporter at Defense News. She has covered military news since 2009, with a focus on U.S. Navy and Marine Corps operations, acquisition programs and budgets. She has reported from four geographic fleets and is happiest when she’s filing stories from a ship. Megan is a University of Maryland alumna.

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