Why is the Navy Building DDG-1000?

by Crocker on July 7, 2009, 5:53 am

in Military,Politics,Technology

For the uninitiated, the Navy has just about completed its production run of Arleigh Burke-class (DDG-51) destroyers. The 60+ Burkes are highly capable, versatile ships that were designed to do it all and do it well. In capability and survivability, they’re a throwback to the general-purpose destroyer of World War II, meant to be equally adept in air-defense, surface warfare and anti-submarine roles. The class has been a great success and will serve for many years to come.

But as capable as these ships are, they can’t last forever and the Navy has been hard at work designing their replacements. The problem is that the Navy doesn’t seem to know what it wants and appears determined to push the design and technology envelope beyond proven, mature technologies. While the hull form and stealth characteristics of the Burkes were new, the propulsion plant, weapons and electronics were evolutionary, not revolutionary.

Not so the planned replacement, designated the Zumwalt-class (DDG-1000). The Zumwalts represent a revolutionary departure in just about every category. While the Navy has touted the class as a “general purpose” design, its primary function is land-attack, being armed with Tomahawk TLAMs and either one or two 155mm naval guns of a new, longer-range design with the possibility that a naval rail gun could be retrofitted at a later date. The ship will be equipped with the AN/SPY-3 radar and advanced shipboard data processing systems.

But it is the hull design and propulsion plant that raise the most eyebrows.  The hull-form is a throwback to the “tumblehome” design in which the deck area tapers outward to its widest point at or beneath the waterline, while incorporating a wave-piercing bow shape that does not ride above the water, but moves through it. There are serious concerns about the design’s stability in following seas.

While the original design incorporated a Permanent Magnet Motor for main propulsion, because of technical problems the designers have shifted to an Advanced Induction Motor instead with both ship-service and propulsion power being supplied by an integrated system of gas turbine generator sets. In some respects, this is a throwback to the the older, turbo-electric designs of the 1920s and 1930s. Because of the shift to the AIM, however, the plant will require more space, more power and create more noise.

For survivability and to free up center line space, missile cells are dispersed throughout the periphery of the ship with the bulk of the missile load being Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs). The radars will be housed in a very high deckhouse structure constructed of composite materials, not steel. There are reportedly fabrication issues with the structure.

But the principal issues with DDG-1000 are (a) price and (b) mission. While the Navy originally wanted to build 30+ copies, the design’s $4B per copy price tag has forced a reduction to three, all of which are to be built by Bath Iron Works, with the composite deckhouses being fabricated by Northrop-Grumman at its Pascagoula shipyard.

When it comes to mission, does this class even have a future? If it’s a land-attack design, it’s meant to operate in the littorals. But couldn’t this job be done more effectively by purpose-built littoral combat ships? There have been disagreements as to whether the Zumwalts even have the air-defense and anti-ballistic missile capabilities of the Burkes or the later-flight Ticonderoga-class cruisers. According to Wikipedia,

In January 2005, John Young, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, was so confident of the DD(X)’s improved air defense over the Burke class that between its new radar and ability to fire Standard Missiles and SM-6, “I don’t see as much urgency for [moving to] CG(X)” – a dedicated air defense cruiser.

On 31 July 2008 Vice Adm. Barry McCullough (deputy chief of naval operations for integration of resources and capabilities) and Allison Stiller (deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for ship programs) stated that “the DDG 1000 cannot perform area air defense; specifically, it cannot successfully employ the Standard Missile-2 (SM-2), SM-3 or SM-6 and is incapable of conducting Ballistic Missile Defense.” Dan Smith, president of Raytheon’s Integrated Defense Systems division, has countered that the radar and combat system are essentially the same as other SM-2-capable ships, “I can’t answer the question as to why the Navy is now asserting…that Zumwalt is not equipped with an SM-2 capability”. The lack of anti-ballistic missile capability may represent a lack of compatibility with SM-3. In view of recent intelligence that China is developing targetable anti-ship ballistic missiles based on the DF-21, this could be a fatal flaw.

On 22 February 2009 James Lyons, the former commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, stated that the DDG-1000’s technology was essential to a future “boost phase anti-ballistic missile intercept capability”.

So, it would appear that the Navy isn’t quite sure about its capabilities. And Congress apparently has some heartburn about the class as well. The House likes the Burke class and wants the Navy to build more. The Senate, however, wants the Zumwalts. Earlier this year, the warring factions compromised by assigning all three Zumwalts to Bath while re-starting the Burke production line at Pascagoula.

What do I think? DDG-1000 looks to me like the USS Timmerman, an experiment that never worked right and had a short and unhappy life, although it did serve as a test-bed for future technologies.  I have to wonder, though, whether there aren’t more cost-effective ways to test new technologies.

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Pem Schaeffer July 7, 2009 at 6:37 am

It’s tragic how the Navy let the cost of the Zumwalt get away from them.

The ship had incredible promise for taking ship design, in every area, to a new and exciting generation. At one point, the propulsion concept was azimuthing pods for superb maneuverability, coupled with interior design freedom because shafts and reduction gears would not be required. Crew size, and hence “ownership” costs, were to be reduced by more than half, with superb quality of life.

I was involved in the proposal process for 3+ years, and after 35 years in Naval ship systems, it was a pure delight to watch the brightest and the best given the opportunity to advance the state of design, through very intensive efforts, to a remarkable concept.

Somehow, and I was retired by then so no longer in close touch, the Navy let the concept get away from them. Too much technology, too much risk, many say. But those are things to be managed actively, and scaled back when appropriate. The ship was originally planned to cost approx $750 million a copy (in 97 dollars) once in production. Cost control was a fundamental of the design process, as was risk management.

Now the program hangs by a thread as more or less a curiosity, and were it not for the shipyard political support involved, the program would likely be dead.

Does anyone remember the so called Arsenal Ship that never made it to detailed design?

It’s a sad, sad thing to watch so much superb innovation and hard work by brilliant minds hanging by a thread rather than leading the way in a new Surface Navy of the future.

Mike Burleson July 7, 2009 at 12:55 pm

David, to me it more resembles the HMS Dreadnought of 100 years ago, which it nearly matches in size, and almost as outdated! 14,000 ton destroyer? Please! I think the size and cost bothers me the most, as another wasting asset leading to the further decline of USN ship numbers and influence.

Bill Aston July 7, 2009 at 1:19 pm

It seems to me that Time has flown past this ship.
Cost considerations have become more important during the birthing process. Some smart people consider the ship to be entiely too much “state of the art”. More consider it to be far too expensive to procure in numbers. The fiscal stress of the DOD and that of the Nation argue for a quick termination. Sad.

MAURICE KEMP November 29, 2009 at 2:23 am

The Navy doesn’t know what it wants in a warship these days. I knew the Zumwalt was going to fail. Despite all those new technologies and new concepts in DDG-1000/DD(X), I was waiting for this ship to sink! But, I do agree with one thing, we need to advanced beyond DDG-51. Every other country is designing and building new warship designs and we’re still stuck with the Burke. The design is late ’70s and ’80s. It’s too bad the Navy doesn’t have a backup in case Zumwalt doesn’t make it, other than the Burkes. And, finally, where are all those new sensors, propulsion and weapon systems (Mk57 PVLS) for DDG-1000 are going? I doubt that they will fit on DDG-51, especially the PVLS.

mike June 6, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Isn’t it the responability of the most advanced nation to advance the best and brightest possible futures. Arn’t we building the equalant of the Saturn V here. And why not. Are we in fiscal uncertanty, yes. Are we crippled, no. Should we invest in our future, YES! England proved the nessicity of maritime strenght. WWII proved our world wide presence and the need to be of the world. We are the prime mover of good. We are and have the responcablity to make the world a better place for our childern and all childern. If this ship takes our nation into the 21st century then we have done the right thing. Good luck Zumwalt.

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