Why is the cruiser once again becoming a credible option for world navies?

On July 9, 1995, the USS Port Royal entered service, the last Ticonderoga-class cruiser to join the US Navy, but also the last cruiser produced in the West, or at least designated as such. On a planetary scale, it will only have been followed by the Russian nuclear battlecruiser Piotr Veliki (Peter the Great), 3ᵉ and last unit of the Kirov class to have joined the Russian Navy in 1998 after 15 years of construction and that the last three units were canceled following the collapse of the Soviet bloc.

Following this, none of the world's major navies produced a cruiser, until the entry into service in 2008 of the first of the 3 South Korean heavy destroyers of the Sejong the Great class and its 128 vertical silos for a displacement of 10.000 tons and 166 meters long. It will still be necessary to wait more than 10 years for a second class of heavy destroyers, the Chinese Type 055 of 12.000 tons, 180 meters and 112 VLS, does not come into service.

Since then, several Marines, including the US Navy with the DDG(x) program, Italy with the DDx program, or Russia with the Lider class, announced the launch of a program aimed at acquiring heavy destroyers or cruisers. It remains to be determined the reasons for these paradigm shifts leading to the renewed interest of the world's major navies in the cruiser, after it was unloved for nearly 30 years.

What is a cruiser?

To answer this question, it is necessary to start by defining what a cruiser is. Several definitions exist, based for example on the tonnage of the ship or its firepower. But the most relevant is none other than that allowing the classification of surface combat units according to their main mission structuring their design.

Thus, the frigates would be specialized escorts and the destroyers, heavier, versatile escorts. In this nomenclature, the cruiser is distinguished from the destroyer by the fact that it is not an escort intended to protect a major ship such as an aircraft carrier or a large amphibious ship, but that it alone represents a major ship. capable, as is the case of the aircraft carrier, of controlling a theater and therefore having all the means to strike air, naval or land targets.

Of course, a cruiser can act for the benefit of another capital ship, as was the mission of the American Ticonderoga, but it is above all able to control its own naval force in order to create a major operational and political effect.

Ticonderoga class cruiser Military planning and plans | Germany | Defense Analysis
The last cruiser to join the US Navy was a Ticonderoga-class ship in 1995

Therefore, on the basis of this definition, it clearly appears that the Chinese Type 055, like the South Korean Sejong le Grand, corresponds much more to the classification of cruiser than of destroyer.

This is confirmed by the frequently observed deployment format of these ships as they often constitute the Capital Ship of a flotilla made up of escorts, frigates or destroyers, and logistics ships, so as to be capable of carrying out their primary missions. , whether they are anti-ship, land strike or anti-ballistic and anti-aircraft protection.

The same will apply to the future DDGx and DDx of the US Navy and the Marina Militare, or three new Russian cruisers whose construction was announced by Vladimir Putin a few weeks ago, and which will probably be derived from the nuclear-powered Lider model presented on Russian salons for years. And if the rumor about the development of super-destroyers for the Bundesmarine remains very uncertain, it is no less true that, from now on, the cruisers have, again, the favors of the admiralties.

Sejong the Great, DDGx, Type 055..: Why is the cruiser returning to the forefront of world navies?

This return to grace of the cruiser results from the evolution or the appearance of numerous concomitant factors. The first of these is none other than the arrival of strike ammunition towards the ground, such as the cruise missile, but also the ballistic missile and the stalker type drone, now available in many countries.


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