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In naval terminology, 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. Destroyers were originally called torpedo boat destroyers from about 1885[1] through the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, and were "large, swift, and powerfully armed torpedo boats which were designed to destroy other torpedo boats."[2]

Before World War II, destroyers were light vessels without the endurance for unattended ocean operations; typically a number of destroyers and a single destroyer tender operated together. During and after the war, larger and more powerful destroyers capable of independent operation were built, particularly as cruisers ceased to be used in the 1950s and 60s.

At the dawn of the 21st Century, destroyers are the heaviest surface combatant ships in general use, with only three nations (the United States, Russia, and Peru) operating the heavier class cruisers and none operating battleships[3] or true battlecruisers.[4] Modern destroyers, also known as guided missile destroyers, are equivalent in tonnage but vastly superior in firepower to cruisers of the World War II era, capable of carrying nuclear missiles. Guided missile destroyers such as the Arleigh Burke class are actually larger and more heavily armed than most previous ships classified as guided missile cruisers, due to their massive size at 510 feet (160 m) long and weighting in at 9200 tons and armed with over 90 missiles.[1]


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