A destroyer is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, short-range but powerful attackers. These fast warships provide multi-mission offensive and defensive capabilities, and can operate independently or as part of carrier battle groups, surface action groups, amphibious ready groups, and underway replenishment groups.
Guided missile destroyers are multi-purpose ships that are useful in almost any kind of naval operation. They are fast ships with a variety of armament, but little or no armor. For protection, they depend on their speed and mobility. The destroyer's armament has greatly expanded the role of the ship in strike warfare utilizing the MK-41 Vertical Launch System (VLS). The relatively-recent addition of cruise missile launchers has greatly expanded the role of the destroyer in strike and land-attack warfare.
The principal mission of destroyers is to operate offensively and defensively against submarines and surface ships and to take defensive action against air attacks. They also provide gunfire support for amphibious assaults and perform patrol, search, and rescue missions. The destroyer’s armament consists of 5-inch guns and a variety of anti-submarine weapons, such as torpedoes, anti-submarine rockets (ASROCs), and Terrier and Tartar missiles.
In the US Navy, destroyers operate in support of carrier battle groups, surface action groups, amphibious groups and replenishment groups. The destroyers currently in use by the US Navy are the Arleigh Burke-class. Destroyers (with a DD hull classification symbol) primarily perform anti-submarine warfare duty while guided missile destroyers (DDGs) are multi-mission (anti-submarine, anti-aircraft, and anti-surface warfare) surface combatants.
The destroyer is a light, fast, hard-hitting ship that serves a great variety of functions because of its speed, armament, and maneuver-ability. It evolved from the torpedo-boat destroyer designed to combat the torpedo boat. After the submarine was introduced into naval warfare, the destroyer, with acoustic and electronic underwater detection devices, was used for locating and destroying enemy submarines.
Destroyers also served as protective screens against enemy submarines for larger ships, as smoke-screen layers, as airplane guards for carriers, as escort ships for convoys, and as support ships for amphibious landings. They now provide antiair, antisurface, and antisubmarine warfare capabilities. Armed with 5-in. guns, a variety of anti-ship missiles, the Phalanx system, anti-submarine helicopters, and torpedoes, destroyers are ready to execute their missions.