The U.S. Navy deployed a fleet including Bath Iron Works-built destroyers to Europe earlier this month as a standoff grinds on between Russia, Ukraine and NATO nations.

The Navy deployed four Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, three of which were built at BIW, to the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations. The 6th Fleet is headquartered in Italy and the fleet covers the Mediterranean Sea. The USS Mitscher and USS Gonzalez, homeported at Norfolk, Virginia, and the USS The Sullivans and USS Donald Cook, based at Mayport, Florida, made up the fleet. All but the USS Mitscher were built at BIW.

Navy spokesman Cmdr. Arlo Abrahamson told The Times Record the destroyers will “participate in a range of maritime activities,” but did not disclose whether the deployment is connected to the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

“These deployments provide additional flexibility to the Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe,” Abrahamson wrote in a statement. “One of the unique value of naval forces is their mobility and ability to deploy for a range of contingencies and operations.”

This latest deployment of four destroyers comes after the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, flanked by several destroyers, was sent to the Mediterranean in December 2021. Two BIW-built Arleigh Burkes — the USS Bainbridge and USS Jason Dunham — are in the fleet, according to the U.S. Naval Institute.

According to a Dec. 1, 2021 news release from the Navy, the USS Harry S. Truman Strike Group was deployed to conduct “operations to support maritime security and stability in international waters across the globe.”


“Carrier strike groups have a wide range of capabilities to respond wherever and whenever required through a variety of mission sets,” the statement reads. “Additionally, strike groups possess the flexibility and sustainability to fight major wars and ensure freedom of the seas.”

Craig Hooper, CEO of Themistocles Advisory Group, a Maryland-based national security advisory firm, said the Navy may be interested in sending Arleigh Burke-class destroyers to Europe because they were “designed” to face the Russian military, should they need to.

“Given the range of potential naval activity from the Russians — deployments of old carrier-killing cruisers and submarines, the (Arleigh Burkes) are ready for it,” Hooper said. “The (Arleigh Burke destroyer) was designed at the height of the Cold War, and optimized to take on the Russians, so they are perfect to handle any old Russian ships and subs that might be out there trying to serve as a distraction as NATO focuses on Russian aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere.”

The Arleigh Burke program launched in the late 1970s when the Cold War between the U.S. and Soviet Union was in full swing. Construction of the first Arleigh Burke-class destroyer – the USS Arleigh Burke – began at BIW in 1988. That ship is now based in Spain alongside two other Arleigh Burkes, which were built at Mississippi-based Huntington Ingalls, the only other shipyard that builds Arleigh Burkes.

Though Arleigh Burkes are tried and true, the Navy now has another ship in its arsenal: Zumwalt-class destroyers, built exclusively by BIW. The third and final Zumwalt, the future USS Lyndon B. Johnson, left the Bath shipyard last month.

Zumwalts, identified by their sloped tumblehome hull design and sharp lines designed to deter radar detection, are considered the most technologically advanced destroyer the Navy has. They were designed to be able to move close to shore to attack land targets and support military personnel on the ground, so why haven’t they been included in these fleets deployed to Europe?

Aside from the fact that completed Zumwalts are in the Pacific, Hooper said Zumwalts just aren’t ready yet.

“They are still experimental platforms, while the Burkes are known, solid performers, capable of missile defense and anti-submarine warfare – the things that NATO needs if things get out of control,” said Hooper. “Even if the Zumwalts were ready, I’d be loath to send them into the Black Sea, where they’d be really at the mercy of Russian aircraft and subs.”

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