From Cruisers to Guided Missile Destroyers

Over the past few decades, the distinction between cruisers and destroyers in naval ship classification has become increasingly blurred. Many navies, including the United States, Russia, and China, have favored building larger, multi-mission destroyer designs rather than dedicated cruiser classes.

From Cruisers to Guided Missile Destroyers.

During World War II, battleships were replaced by aircraft carriers as the main capital ships. However, it is not entirely accurate to state that all countries stopped building battleships immediately after the war. Some navies, like the US and UK, continued to operate battleships until the 1990s before retiring their last examples.

From Cruisers to Guided Missile Destroyers

Guided missile destroyers have taken over the role of traditional cruisers, which were large surface combatant ships designed to operate for long periods. The Ticonderoga class of the US Navy, which has a displacement of over 9,000 tons, is considered by some analysts to be equivalent to a cruiser despite not being officially designated as such. Currently, the US Navy operates around 22 Ticonderoga-class ships, which are planned to be retired by the 2030s.

China’s modern People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has not built any ships that are classified as cruisers. However, their latest Type 055 destroyer weighs over 10,000 tons, making it one of the world’s largest surface combatants. This destroyer can perform long-endurance missions that are typically assigned to cruisers.

China’s navy (PLAN) has increased the size of its surface combatants over time, although they are not officially classified as cruisers. The Beiyang Fleet operated two armored cruisers built by Germany in the late 19th century, each with a weight of about 7,000 tons. In the early 2000s, China purchased four Sovremenny-class destroyers from Russia, each weighing 7,900 tons.

From Cruisers to Guided Missile Destroyers

However, the Type 055 represents the first truly large, modern surface combatant designed and constructed entirely domestically for China’s naval forces. Its guided missile destroyer classification may be a matter of terminology, as its size and capabilities blur the line between traditional cruisers and destroyers. The trends point to a continued PLAN focus on developing larger, multi-role surface combatants that are able to operate globally.

Here is a list of some major navies and the number of cruiser/large destroyer equivalents they currently operate:

United States:

From Cruisers to Guided Missile Destroyers
Arleigh Burke
  • 22 Ticonderoga-class cruisers (to be retired by 2038)
  • 67 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers
From Cruisers to Guided Missile Destroyers
Spruance-class destroyer (left) and Ticonderoga-class Aegis cruiser (right)

Russia:

China:

  • 8 Type 055 large destroyers (more planned)
  • 25 Type 052D destroyers

United Kingdom:

  • 6 Daring-class air defense destroyers

France:

  • 8 Horizon/Aquitaine-class large air defense destroyers

Japan:

  • 8 Atago/Maya-class destroyers
  • 2 Kongou-class guided missile destroyers

India:

  • 3 Kolkata-class destroyers
  • 3 Delhi-class destroyers

Italy:

  • 2 Horizon-class large destroyers

Spain:

  • 5 Alvaro de Bazan-class frigates (comparable to large destroyers)

This covers most major navies that operate the larger multi-mission destroyer/cruiser equivalent type ships in their fleets as of 2023 data. The numbers provide context on their respective surface combatant forces in this class of warship.