Navy to Test Hybrid-Propulsion on Destroyers

DDG 93The U.S. Navy plans to conduct a series of tests on its hybrid-electric propulsion system for destroyers in order to assess its potential for future application on one of the ships’ two propellers, service officials said.

The technology, now in use on the USS Makin Island and being engineered into the next-generation America-class, big-deck Amphibious Assault Ships; the USS America (LHA-6) and the USS Tripoli (LHA-7) are engineered with a hybrid-drive propulsion system, meaning the ships can use both diesel electric propulsion as well as gas-turbine engines.

“We’re beginning to explore the possibility on some other surface combatants such as DDGs (destroyers) and we’ll be looking to do more of those tests over the next few years. If those prove out as they have aboard the amphibs, that is something that we’ll look to take out to more and more DDGs during their upgrade cycle,” said Tom Hicks, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Energy. “Based on the success of the Makin Island, we’ll look to begin to identify ships that are in their mid-life upgrade where we could bring that type of technology aboard.”

When it comes to ship propulsion, hybrid-electric propulsion involves a gas turbine engine as well as an electric motor and diesel generator. The electric motors can help propel the ship at speeds up to around 12 knots, and the generator can generate electricity for the ship.

When traveling at speeds greater than 12 knots, the ship can then rely upon its gas turbine engine. At the same time, the generators can also provide on-board power for many of the ships systems such as sensors, weapons and other electronics, according to Navy officials.

Much like their amphibious counterparts, the DDGs are equipped for missions likely to require moving at slower speeds, potentially closer to shore, Hicks explained.

“We’d be looking to potentially put hybrid-electric drive aboard one of the two propellers on a DDG. We think that is all that is going to be necessary to get the maximized impact. Those types of surface combatants do spend a fair amount of time not operating at high speeds, so that seems to be a perfect sweet spot for hybrid electric drive,” Hicks said.

Another energy-efficiency technique being utilized by the Navy is the addition of what’s called a “stern flap,” essentially an additional piece of the ship which changes the flow characteristics under the boat, impacting how water flows under and around the hull, Navy engineers explained.

Hicks also talked about anti-corrosion hull coatings and paints which make the surface of the hull more slippery and therefore able to more smoothly glide through the water.

“Hull coatings or propeller coatings are things which make the ship more resistant to the turbulent effects of the water,” Hicks said.

Each of these innovations wind up reducing the amount of fuel needed to propel the ship, Hicks added.

Another energy-efficiency increasing innovation is something called “Smart Voyage Planning Software,” a software program able to maximize route efficiency by calculating and integrating a wide swath of weather conditions and environmental factors likely to impact ship propulsion.

“We’re getting more fidelity in terms of the data that exists out in the ocean. All of the conditions that exist such as water conditions, current, temperature and wind all really have an impact on a ship’s ability to reach certain points. The idea is to look at all the environmental factors that impact the ship’s ability to get from one point to another,” Hicks explained.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • Stan

    They should go for a plug-in!

  • Lance

    How about long extension cords for a ship at sea no engines for Obama and his tree huggers to whine about LOL.

    • Steve B.

      Hey A Wipe

      I’m one of thus tree huggers. If I had my way, we’d go back to sails.

    • retired462

      Nuclear power is a better idea, and dependable.

      • Thunder350

        True, but there is that “tiny” issue of what happens when the reactor is compromised. It is a vessel of war after all… so it’s not really “safe”. Not many countries like the idea of a nuclear powered vessel in their countries ports.

      • joe

        It is, but it’s also massively over-expensive for non capital ships. For a carrier, or heavy assault ship, or sub – sign me up. But frigates and light ships are supposed to be cheaper to build.

        Note that I said *supposed* to be.

  • XYZ

    Navy research remains my favorite research aspect of any branch.


      *Ahmm* Area 51 *Ahmm*

      • d. kellogg

        Sure there’s a Navy equivalent of Area 51…

        …Bermuda Triangle.



    USS Prius doesn’t have that ring to it, you know?

    • wpnexp

      Well, that would be a Japanese Navy Ship Prius anyway. LOL.

  • Benjamin

    Good way to save money in the longrun

  • PolicyWonk

    More efficiency means more time at sea without a fleet oiler having to refuel. From a logistical, tactical, and strategic standpoint – it makes all the sense in the world.

  • CG6569

    “Much like their amphibious counterparts, the DDGs are equipped for missions likely to require moving at slower speeds, potentially closer to shore, Hicks explained.”
    DDGs closer to shore? Thought that was LCS territory.

  • SJE

    Makes sense. If you have greater electrical requirements of weapons systems then you might as well use the extra power for slow speed propulsion if the weapons are not being used, and lower fuel usage.

    Hybrid systems can also be used to lower the heat and noise signal for stealth purposes.

  • Big-Dean

    hybrid makes sense in the larger view, but we also need to bring back nuclear power, with the current tech the newer plants can last the lifetime of the hull (no need for mid-life refueling). Secondly, we need lots and lots of electrical power in the future and nuclear plants are the way to go for that.

  • S O


    State of the art (and in production) in Europe.
    Type 23 (first commissioned 10+ years ago)

    The USN still needs to experiment with it?
    How incompetent can they be?
    Why not simply ask competent Europeans about it?

    • GSM1 McSwain

      I got a chance to go aboard a Type 23 many years ago. I was thinking the same thing, why are we considering this only now.

    • RunningBear

      Type 23 frigate 5,000 tons
      LHD 41,500 tons

      minor bit of difference, rather than just “scale it up”.

      Significant difference in design requirements for electrical power. More than just “add another generator”.

  • Tony C.

    USN is not comfortable with hybrid drive systems in large deck ships is why there is more analysis being performed. Hybrid sounds easy enough and is in use on the LCS, but they are low tonnage class ships. The German Navy is using hybrid drive successfully, there is high expectations for the technology in larger ships. Some concern for power generation in the configuration that has to be resolved.

    • joe

      Note that no-one has used it to date on a heavier ship. Type 45 destroyers are about the largest to date (note: British RN types things by function, not displacement – the USN would probably call it a cruiser if they’d built it) but even they don’t approach the size of assault ships/light carriers.

      I’d assume the carriers the British are building will use it (they aren’t nuclear), but they’re not in service yet.

      • Matt

        It really depends if they are taking about a CODLAG system like the Type 23, which has a direct connection between the gas turbine and the propeller shafts (via gear box of cause) or a Integrated electric propulsion system like the Type 45. In which neither the diesel engines or the gas turbine have a direct connection and all connect to generators and the propellers are only driven by electric motors.

        In terms of a Integrated electric propulsion system, then as well as the Type 45, the Albion and Bay class LPDs (all bigger than a Type 45) have similar systems. Although in their cases, as they don’t need the high top speed of a destroyer, they don’t have any gas turbines, and rather each have four diesel engines.

        Also you are correct in that the new carriers will have Integrated electric propulsion, with each one having two gas turbines and four diesel engines, all connected to generators.

  • Dfens

    Thank God they cut up the Sea Shadow last year or someone might have asked why they didn’t just use it for these “tests” like they did back in the 1980s.

    • blight_

      Or another Spruance, or a old Tico…

      Maybe a Perry? Hah.

      • Dfens

        The Sea Shadow was designed to be propelled by electric motors. The generators were turned by diesel engines, much like a train locomotive. Actually, they probably stole the whole propulsion system for that ship out of a couple of locomotives.

  • brian conway

    I thought the Navy was using diesel electric hybrids since WW II. Sub, tugs, DE’s etc

    • Dfens

      Funny, but I never thought about a sub having a diesel electric power system, but finally I clued into what you’re saying. I suppose a sub is more like a plug-in hybrid because of its large battery capacity.

    • cjleete

      The last one was decommisioned in the 80’s. Diesel/electric have the advantage of being quieter than nukes when on battery power, but those batteries run down. Germany, Russia, Norway have extremely quiet diesel subs, but they have short legs.

  • hunter76

    Nuclear power has political aspects that cannot be dismissed.

    • d. kellogg

      Another d-wad admin deletes a perfectly good reply.

      Short form:
      To date, when was the last nuclear incident on a ship that caused the magnitude of damage that any number of oil spills has caused over the years?

      Yet we are in no rush to ban petroleum use, with all its inherent, proven risks.

  • tiger

    We now have a Navy worried more about Navy accountants than Enemy ships


    Nuclear power may have lost its momentum in civilian energy production but maintaining and advancing it for military use seems to me to be of prime importance for a strong military in the energy uncertain future. Predictions of a new wave of fossil fuel independence in the US are great to hear but haven’t come to fruition yet and depend on the whims of politicians; a fickle and largely uninformed electorate.

    • Bob

      Haven’t you heard? NOBAMA wants to cut nuclear power, he also wants to shut down the coal industry. This person is out to destroy America.

      • KevF
      • KevF
  • blight_

    Burkes have two shafts and four gas turbines. Is it 2 turbines/shaft then? In which case, going “hybrid” means modification to a pair of gas turbines.

    • Steve

      Electric drive is fitted to the reduction gear. Ship still has all 4 mains to get up and go.

  • Bob

    Sounds like we are behind, we should have contacted the railroad designers a long time back, Trains have been using this for years.

    • JCross

      Not just trains, many civilian ferries and cargoes have been using this tech for a long time too. I was honestly surprised to find out that even many of the newest and still under construction ships hadn’t switched over to CODLAG and Azipods.

  • Hefe

    The navy tested the x 47b on their carriers. They’ve tested laser defense systems. They’ve tested the electromagnetic railgun. Now energy and fuel saving techniques are being tested. Why aren’t other branches doing as well at pushing the envelope and incorporating new technologies?

    • d kellogg

      Actually they are.
      Despite the failures and cancellation of the Army’s FCS program, its hybrid drive capabilities were quite impressive in their efficiencies (engine hp and electricity output).
      Also, there are other hybrid drive programs currently still in progress in the Army (and surely in the USMC that we just don’t hear about) that replace older generation diesel vehicle engines with much newer, more fuel efficient ones driving electric motors that can switch between moving the vehicle, or parking it and offloading its electrical power instead of needing to tow heavy generators all around battlefields.

      Have already seen man-portable collapsible solar arrays designed for troops to keep a multitude of battery types charged up without needing generators at all…unfort those only work in clear weather.

  • Peter Guild

    The U.S. Navy needs more nuclear power. Peter Guild, Quincy, MA.

  • Ken Badoian

    To article writer …hey get to know when to call a ship a ship and not a ship a boat. MMCS(SW)(S)) USN Ret.

  • CorH

    Anyone who complains about tree huggers and the like has never served in the afloat Navy and has no clue what they are talking about. Greatly reduced fuel requirements means extended on station time without replenishment for the types of missions DDG’s do these days. Consider that the round trip from the Somali basin is nearly a week.

    “I don’t ever, ever, ever want to hear the term logistics tail again. If our aircraft, missiles, and weapons are the teeth of our military might, then logistics is the muscle, tendons, and sinews that make the teeth bite down and hold on— logistics is the jawbone! Hear that? The JAWBONE!” — Lt Gen Leo Marquez, USAF

  • Richard

    It seems to me that in the event of an atomic weapon delivering an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) that this ship is at more than average risk.

    • blight_

      The radars are inevitably a juicy EMP target.

  • Dokich, Cloid L.

    Since I no nothing about ship building or high-tech up grades on our Navy’s ships?
    I was wondering why no-one has came up with the idea to interact solar panels into to flight decks or our carries to give solar power to our carriers need for extra electrical power on a clear day while most of the aircraft are off engaging the enemy or doing their regular mission requirements like surveillance? Just a thought mind and you don’t have to pay me or it any mind at all?

  • weakleyhollow

    Hybrid sounds like a great idea, but I’d be concerned about the noise introduced by reciprocating machinery such as a diesel.

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  • Walter

    It will be interesting to see how they solve the engineering dilemma of two shafts one with considerably more torque than the other assuming to reach maximum speed the electric motor driven shaft will need to be at full output. It would seem having one shaft pushing much harder than the other would put some pretty serious stresses on the rudders just to keep the thing going straight