The Zumwalt-class destroyer

The Zumwalt-class destroyer is a class of three United States Navy guided missile destroyers designed as multi-mission stealth ships with a focus on land attack. It is a multi-role class that was designed for secondary roles of surface warfare and anti-aircraft warfare and originally designed with a primary role of naval gunfire support. The class design emerged from the DD-21 “land attack destroyer” program as “DD(X)” and was intended to take the role of battleships in meeting a congressional mandate for naval fire support. The ship is designed around its two Advanced Gun Systems, their turrets and 920 round magazines, and unique Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) ammunition. LRLAP procurement was cancelled, rendering the guns unusable, so the Navy re-purposed the ships for surface warfare. Starting in 2023 the Navy will remove the AGS from the ships and replace them with hypersonic missiles.

These ships are classed as destroyers, but they are much larger than any other active destroyer or cruiser in the US Navy. The vessels’ distinctive appearance results from the design requirement for a low radar cross-section (RCS). The Zumwalt class has a wave-piercing tumblehome hull form whose sides slope inward above the waterline, which dramatically reduces RCS by returning much less energy than a conventional flare hull form. The appearance has been compared to that of the historic USS Monitor and her famous antagonist CSS Virginia.

The class has an integrated electric propulsion (IEP) system that can send electricity from its turbo-generators to the electric drive motors or weapons, the Total Ship Computing Environment Infrastructure (TSCEI), automated fire-fighting systems, and automated piping rupture isolation. The class is designed to require a smaller crew and to be less expensive to operate than comparable warships.

The lead ship is named Zumwalt for Admiral Elmo Zumwalt and carries the hull number DDG-1000. Originally, 32 ships were planned, with $9.6 billion research and development costs spread across the class. As costs overran estimates, the quantity was reduced to 24, then to 7, and finally to 3, significantly increasing the cost per ship to $4.24 billion ($7.5 billion including R&D costs) and well exceeding the per-unit cost of a nuclear-powered Virginia-class submarine ($2.688 billion). In July 2008, the Navy requested that Congress stop procuring Zumwalts and revert to building more Arleigh Burke destroyers. This final cut in procurement led to a dramatic per-unit cost increase that eventually triggered a Nunn–McCurdy Amendment breach. In April 2016, the total program cost was $22.5 billion.

Many of the features were developed under the DD-21 program (“21st Century Destroyer”), which was originally designed around the Vertical Gun for Advanced Ships (VGAS). In 2001, Congress cut the DD-21 program by half as part of the SC21 program; to save it, the acquisition program was renamed as DD(X) and heavily reworked.

Originally, the Navy had hoped to build 32 destroyers. That number was reduced to 24, then to 7, due to the high cost of new and experimental technologies. On 23 November 2005, the Defense Acquisition Board approved a plan for simultaneous construction of the first two ships at Northrop Grumman’s Ingalls yard in Pascagoula, Mississippi and General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine. However, at that date, funding had yet to be authorized by Congress.

In late December 2005, the House and Senate agreed to continue funding the program. The U.S. House of Representatives allotted the Navy only enough money to begin construction on one destroyer, as a “technology demonstrator”. The initial funding allocation was included in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2007. However, this was increased to two ships by the 2007 appropriations bill approved in September 2006, which allotted US$2.568 billion to the DDG-1000 program.

On 31 July 2008, U.S. Navy acquisition officials told Congress that the service needed to purchase more Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, and no longer needed the next-generation DDG-1000 class, Only the two approved destroyers would be built. The Navy said the world threat picture had changed in such a way that it made more sense to build at least eight more Burkes, rather than DDG-1000s. The Navy concluded from fifteen classified intelligence reports that the DDG-1000s would be vulnerable to forms of missile attacks. Many Congressional subcommittee members questioned that the Navy completed such a sweeping re-evaluation of the world threat picture in just a few weeks, after spending some 13 years and $10 billion on the development of the surface ship program known as DD-21, then DD(X), and finally DDG-1000. Subsequently, Chief of Naval Operations Gary Roughead cited the need to provide area air defense and specific new threats such as ballistic missiles and the possession of anti-ship missiles by groups such as Hezbollah. The mooted structural problems have not been discussed in public. Navy Secretary Donald Winter said on 4 September that “Making certain that we have – I’ll just say, a destroyer – in the ’09 budget is more important than whether that’s a DDG 1000 or a DDG 51”.

On 19 August 2008, Secretary Winter was reported as saying that a third Zumwalt would be built at Bath Iron Works, citing concerns about maintaining shipbuilding capacity. House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha said on 23 September 2008 that he had agreed to partial funding of the third DDG-1000 in the 2009 Defense authorization bill.

Est combined Procurement cost for 3 ships. A 26 January 2009 memo from John Young, the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) top acquisition official, stated that the per ship price for the Zumwalt-class destroyers had reached $5.964 billion, 81 percent over the Navy’s original estimate used in proposing the program, resulting in a breach of the Nunn–McCurdy Amendment, requiring the Navy to re-certify and re-justify the program to Congress or to cancel its production.

On 6 April 2009, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that DoD’s proposed 2010 budget will end the DDG-1000 program at a maximum of three ships. Also in April, the Pentagon awarded a fixed-price contract with General Dynamics to build the three destroyers, replacing a cost-plus-fee contract that had been awarded to Northrop Grumman. At that time, the first DDG-1000 destroyer was expected to cost $3.5 billion, the second approximately $2.5 billion, and the third even less.

What had once been seen as the backbone of the Navy’s future surface fleet with a planned production run of 32, has since been replaced by destroyer production reverting to the Arleigh Burke class after ordering three Zumwalts. In April 2016, the U.S. Naval Institute stated the total cost of the three Zumwalt ships is about $22.5 billion with research and development costs, which is an average of $7.5 billion per ship.

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