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class of warship very fast relative to its length, generally equipped with torpedos, antisubmarine equipment, and medium-caliber and antiaircraft guns. The newest destroyers are equipped with guided missiles as their chief offensive weapon. The destroyer, originally called the torpedo-boat destroyer, was introduced in 1892 as an answer to the torpedo boattorpedo boat,
small fast warship built specially for using the torpedo as a means of attack. The first modern torpedo boat was the Lightning, built for the British navy in 1877 by the shipyards of Sir John Isaac Thornycroft.
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, but it rapidly replaced that type by taking over its functions. Later, its role as a torpedo launcher declined, and today destroyers have a mainly defensive role; they are used for convoying merchant ships and as escort vessels in a battle fleet. Destroyers were of great importance in World War II; equipped with new electronic devices, they proved highly effective as antisubmarine weapons and, hence, as escorts for convoys. Specialized types include the radar picket destroyer, designed for detection of enemy aircraft and control of friendly combat air patrol, and the minelaying destroyer. The USS Truxtun (launched in 1964) was the first of a class of nuclear-powered destroyer-type ships, officially categorized as frigates.


See E. Brookes, Destroyer (1962); E. J. March, British Destroyers: A History of Development 1892–1953 (1966); Jane's Fighting Ships (pub. annually since 1897).



a class of surface warships first used on the eve of World War I and designed to fight torpedo boats, conduct reconnaissance, defend battleships and cruisers, and carry out torpedo attacks on large ships. The first destroyers had displacements of 1,000–1,500 tons and maximum speeds of 35–36 knots (64–66 km/hr). They were armed with 8–12 torpedo launchers and three or four artillery guns with calibers ranging from 100 mm to 120 mm. During the war, the role of the destroyers was expanded, and they were fitted with additional artillery guns and with mechanisms for releasing antisubmarine depth charges.

In World War II, destroyers were used to protect transport convoys and tactical units of large naval vessels from attack by aircraft and light surface ships. They were also used to destroy submarines and to lay minefields. After the war, with the development of missiles and atomic weapons, the destroyer class of vessels evolved into separate classes of medium-tonnage, narrow-purpose warships with antiaircraft and antisubmarine capabilities. Vessels of the US Navy’s Coontz class are representative of the modern destroyer. Such vessels have a displacement of 5,800 tons and travel at speeds of up to 34 knots. They are equipped with one 127-mm gun, two triple torpedo launchers, and one 8-tube rocket launcher.


(naval architecture)
A small, fast, lightly armored warship capable of a variety of functions, usually armed with 5-inch (127-millimeter) guns, torpedoes, depth charges, and mines, and sometimes with guided missiles.
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