The origin of destroyers dates back to the early 1890s, when the British, in response to the fast torpedo boats operated by France, built two large torpedo boats of 55 meters in length and 260 tonnes of displacement, armed with three torpedo tubes and four small cannons, and capable of a speed of 27 knots. These ships were called "torpedo boat destroyers" and later simply "destroyers". Then the British started to build destroyers propelled by turbines, but their light hulls were not able to endure the efforts to which they were subject, so from 1901 it was decided to build larger units. In 1903 were launched destroyers of 540 tonnes and those of the Tribal class from 1907-1909 reached 870 tonnes with a length of 82.3 meters.

During the interwar period, many countries built units of 3000 tonnes, intermediate between the cruiser and the destroyer properly said, whose displacement was generally between 1000 and 1800 tonnes. Still, they were very fast units; for example, the French destroyer Le Terrible, with a standard displacement of 2569 tonnes, reached the extraordinary speed of 45.25 knots (with the not less extraordinary power of 100000 horsepower, however). The advances emerged during the Second World War and the postwar years turned the destroyer into a polyvalent weapon with a displacement generally above 3000 tonnes, for the addition of complex technical equipment and new roles required an increment in the size of the ships. The eight destroyers of the Daring class, completed in 1952-1954, were sixteen times larger than the first British destroyers.

Every cannon onboard had to be usable against surface or aerial targets, torpedoes and depth charges became standard equipment and from the 1960s the most modern destroyers would be armed with missiles capable of destroying aircraft, ships and even submarines. Paradigm of this new generation of destroyers were those of the Kashin class built for the Soviet Navy during the 1960s. Equipped with two missile launchers and six radar units and propelled by gas turbines exhausting through two bifid stacks, these destroyers were considerably different than those built just ten years before. On modern naval warfare, a prime purpose of destroyers is the localization and neutralization of the submarine threat, and thus the modern antisubmarine destroyer poses great danger for any submarine.

Arleigh Burke class missile destroyer

American missile destroyer of the ARLEIGH BURKE CLASS (1989-2015)

Spruance class antisubmarine destroyer Spruance class antisubmarine destroyer

American antisubmarine destroyer of the SPRUANCE CLASS (1972-1983)

USS Charles Ausburne destroyer

American destroyer USS CHARLES AUSBURNE circa 1943

HMS Cavalier destroyer

British destroyer HMS CAVALIER in 1972

Daring class destroyer

British destroyer of the DARING CLASS circa 1960

HMS Hesperus destroyer

British destroyer HMS HESPERUS in 1943

Town class destroyer HMS Campbeltown destroyer

American/British destroyers of the FLUSH DECK/TOWN CLASS (1916-1921)

HMS Cossack destroyer

British destroyer HMS COSSACK in 1938

Suffren missile destroyer

French missile destroyer SUFFREN circa 1970

Le Terrible destroyer Le Terrible destroyer

French destroyer LE TERRIBLE in 1943

B 110 destroyer

German destroyer B 110 in 1915

Hamburg class destroyer

German destroyer of the HAMBURG CLASS circa 1965

Nembo destroyer

Italian destroyer NEMBO circa 1903

Sovremennyy class destroyer Sovremennyy class missile destroyer

Soviet/Russian missile destroyer of the SOVREMENNYY CLASS (1978-1989)

Udaloy class antisubmarine destroyer

Soviet/Russian antisubmarine destroyer of the UDALOY CLASS (1980-1990)

Kashin class missile destroyer

Soviet/Russian missile destroyer of the KASHIN CLASS circa 1965

Skoryy class destroyer

Soviet destroyer of the SKORYY CLASS circa 1955

Gnevny class destroyer

Soviet destroyer of the GNEVNY CLASS (1936-1941)

Leningrad class destroyer

Soviet destroyer of the LENINGRAD CLASS (1933-1939)

Yukikaze destroyer

Japanese destroyer YUKIKAZE in 1945

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