In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and maneuverable warship of long-endurance intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers. They were originally developed in the late 19th century as a defense against torpedo boats, and by the time of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, these torpedo boat destroyers (TBD) were large, swift, and powerfully armed torpedo boats designed to destroy other torpedo boats. Although the term destroyer had been used interchangeably with the terms TBD and torpedo boat destroyer by navies since 1892, the term torpedo boat destroyer had been generally shortened to simply destroyer by nearly all navies by the First World War.\r
Prior to World War II, destroyers were light vessels with little endurance for unattended ocean operations; typically a number of destroyers and a single destroyer tender operated together. After the war, the advent of the guided missile allowed destroyers to take on the surface combatant roles previously filled by battleships and cruisers. This resulted in larger and more powerful destroyers more capable of independent operation.\r
At the beginning 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 or true battle-cruisers. 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 class are ually 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, displacement (9200 tons) and armament of over 90 missiles.