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 and a former associate editor at

31 Comments on "Navy to Test Hybrid-Propulsion on Destroyers"

  1. They should go for a plug-in!

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

  3. Navy research remains my favorite research aspect of any branch.

  4. USS ENTERPRISE | August 6, 2013 at 7:02 pm | Reply

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

  5. Good way to save money in the longrun

  6. 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.

  7. "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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. CODLAG

    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?

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

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

  14. Nuclear power has political aspects that cannot be dismissed.

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

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

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

  19. 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?

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

  21. 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.

  22. 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

  23. 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.

  24. Dokich, Cloid L. | August 11, 2013 at 7:31 am | Reply

    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?

  25. 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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  30. 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

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