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DDG 1000: On Target

by jnoonan on September 3, 2009

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Amidst the Navy’s leadership attempt to explain — some would say rationalize — the massive cost increases and delays in several major shipbuilding programs, the Zumwalt (DDG 1000) program appears to be on cost and on schedule. Writing in Navy Times, Christopher P. Cavas observes, “Often overlooked in all the chatter is that, methodically, steadily — and even quietly — major components of the first ship are taking shape all across the country. When ready, the parts will be shipped largely by barge and rail to the General Dynamics Bath Iron Works shipyard at Bath, Maine, where, since February, shipbuilders are welding together the steel that make up the ship’s 600-foot-long hull.”

Cavas interviewed DDG 1000 project manager Captain James Syring for his 17 August article, who ticked off progress on 13 major engineering development models critical to the DDG 1000, all but three of which have begun production. The status of these projects are highly significant because the DDG 1000 introduces many new systems to the fleet.

For example, development is complete on the ship’s 155-mm Advanced Gun System (AGS), which will be the largest shipboard gun in the fleet. Each DDG 1000 will have two of these weapons, developed by BAE Systems, which will fire Lockheed Martin’s Long-Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP). That “bullet” has a range goal of 83 nautical miles and a rate of fire of ten rounds-per-minute. The 155-mm gun weapon will partially compensate for the Navy’s ignoring the surface fire support requirements. Cavas reported that in July the LRLAP was fired at a White Sands, New Mexico, test range to its threshold range of 63 nautical miles; further “tweaking” of the rocket motor’s chemistry should push the shell ten miles farther, Syring said.

Another innovative feature of the DDG 1000 will be the Peripheral Vertical Launch System (PVLS), now in production at Raytheon, and seven of eight Peripheral VLS modules are being welded together at Bath. The PVLS replaces the Mark 41 VLS systems now found in U.S. missile-armed cruisers and destroyers. The Mark 41 has 25-inch VLS canisters while the PVLS will have 28-inch canisters that could permit the development of larger weapons for the DDG 1000. Reportedly, the PVLS also provides enhanced survivability against a missile hit.

A third innovative feature of the DDG 1000 will be its radar/computer capabilities. The ship will introduce the AN/SPY-3 Multi-Function Radar (MFR) and the AN/SPY-4 Volume Search Radar (VSR), combined with the dual-band radar, the effort led by prime contractor Raytheon. The radars have been installed together since January 2009 at the Wallops Island Engineering Center on the Virginia coast. Cavas quoted Syring saying that the SPY-3, an X-band radar, completed at-sea testing in the spring of 2008 off the California coast aboard the test ship Paul F. Foster (DD 964). The first two SPY-3 arrays for the DDG 1000 are being assembled; “Minor production issues” on the MFR have been worked through, Syring said. “We’ve had no operational issues.” The SPY-4, an S-band radar, developed by Lockheed, is in production, and six arrays — for the Zumwalt and also for the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) — are under contract.

These and other key components of the three DDG 1000-class ships apparently are on cost and on schedule. This is in sharp contrast to the Ford, the littoral combat ship (LCS), and LPD 17 amphibious ship programs.

This situation seems odd considering that a year ago the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Gary Roughead, truncated the DDG 1000 program to three ships. When originally conceived more than a decade ago, the DDG 1000 program — previously known by several other designations, including DD 21 — was envisioned as a class of about 30 ships to complement and then succeed existing major surface combatants. Subsequently, for budgetary and programmatic reasons, the program was reduced to seven ships.

It is difficult to ascertain the rationale for truncating the program. The reason most often given has been “cost overruns” and the inability of the DDG 1000 to perform in the Ballistic Missile Defense(BMD)role. With respect to the latter, the BMD role was not a requirement for the DDG 1000s nor for the Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) class; rather the latter ships, as well as Ticonderoga (CG 47)-class cruisers, are being upgraded to the BMD role. .There are 84 ships of the DDG 51 and CG 47 series available for conversion to the BMD role.

The DDG 1000 is controversial for several reasons — but the three ships now planned will be significant additions to the fleet.

Norman Polmar

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