US Navy Surface vessels as of June, 2015
Cruisers are large surface combat vessels that conduct anti-air/anti-missile warfare, surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and strike operations independently or as members of a larger task force. Modern guided missile cruisers were developed out of a need to counter the anti-ship missile threat facing the United States Navy. This led to the development of the AN/SPY-1 phased array radar and the Standard missile with the Aegis combat system coordinating the two. Ticonderoga-class cruisers were the first to be equipped with Aegis and were put to use primarily as anti-air and anti-missile defense in a battle force protection role. Later developments of vertical launch systems and the Tomahawk missile gave cruisers additional long-range land and sea strike capability, making them capable of both offensive and defensive battle operations. All cruisers since CG-47 have been named for famous battles with USS Thomas S. Gates (CG-51) as the only exception. Previously, cruisers were either named for cities (until CG-12), former important navy figures (CG-15 to CG-35), or states (CGN-36 to CGN-41).
Destroyers are multi-mission medium surface ships capable of sustained performance in anti-air, anti-submarine, anti-ship, and offensive strike operations. Like cruisers, guided missile destroyers are primarily focused on surface strikes using Tomahawk missiles and fleet defense through Aegis and the Standard missile. Destroyers additionally specialize in anti-submarine warfare and are equipped with VLA rockets and LAMPS Mk III Sea Hawk helicopters to deal with underwater threats. When deployed with a carrier strike group or expeditionary strike group, destroyers and their fellow Aegis-equipped cruisers are primarily tasked with defending the fleet while providing secondary strike capabilities. Destroyers have been named for important navy personnel and heroes since USS Bainbridge (DD-1).