If you haven’t already, check out this article from the U.S. Naval Institute about the Navy’s new stealth destroyer.
The author, Sam LaGrone, editor of USNI News, is one of the few journalists to have actually stepped aboard the future USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000), which the Navy officially accepted last week from the manufacturer, General Dynamics Corp.’s Bath Iron Works subsidiary in Bath, Maine. (Christopher P. Cavas, naval warfare reporter for Defense News, recently got a chance to actually ride aboard her at sea.)
The ship’s commanding officer, Capt. James Kirk (his real name), has described the 610-foot destroyer, with its sleek design and sharp angles that reportedly reduce its radar signature to that of a 40-foot fishing boat, as “the most technically complex and advanced warship the world has ever seen.”
But, as LaGrone reports, how the Navy plans to use the multi-mission surface combatant is evolving:
The ship was conceived to support Marines ashore from the littorals with twin 155mm guns firing guided rocket-assisted Long Range Land Attack Projectiles (LRLAP) more than 60 miles.
However, that role is becoming more difficult as adversaries’ anti-ship guided weapons have taken a generational leap over the last decade. Since the ship has been truncated to three hulls — from a planned class of more than 30 — the Navy has inserted technologies into the $22.5-billion program that increase the ship’s utility as a special operations platform in addition to its original land-attack role.
In addition, LaGrone reports, the cost of providing volume fires using the Lockheed Martin Corp.-made LRLAP precision projectiles may be approaching that of the Tomahawk cruise missile found on surface ships and submarines — munitions with far greater range:
While the Navy won’t talk about LRLAP costs, several sources told USNI News the price range for the rounds could be from $400,000 to $700,000 per round. In comparison, a Raytheon Tomahawk Land Attack Missile with a range of 1,000 nautical miles is about $1 million.
The article is worth a read, especially as the Navy prepares the destroyer to enter the fleet. A crew of 143 sailors is now certifying the ship, which is scheduled to be commissioned Oct. 15 in Baltimore. Afterward, she will transit to her homeport in San Diego, where crew will activate her mission systems, according to the Navy.