Home » Budget Industry » Delays in Zumwalt Destroyer Program Hamper Production of DDG-51s at Bath Iron Works

Delays in Zumwalt Destroyer Program Hamper Production of DDG-51s at Bath Iron Works

Guided missile destroyer Zumwalt pier-side at General Dynamics Bath Iron Works on Oct. 9, 2014. US Navy Photo

Guided missile destroyer Zumwalt pier-side at General Dynamics Bath Iron Works on Oct. 9, 2014. US Navy Photo

Delays in the construction of the first two of three next-generation Zumwalt-class (DDG-1000) guided missile destroyers at the General Dynamics Bath Iron Works shipyard are partially to blame for slowing work on two Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) destroyers being built at the Maine yard, USNI News has learned.

Several sources told USNI News that due to myriad reasons — including the size of the yard, the composition of the workforce at BIW and continued setbacks in the delivery of the first two next-generation Zumwalts — production of the future Burkes Rafael Peralta (DDG-115) and Thomas Hudner (DDG-116) have been delayed by several months.

USNI News understands the delivery schedule of Peralta has been pushed back seven months, while Hudner has been delayed five.

It’s unclear exactly how much the $22.1 billion Zumwalt program production is responsible for the delays in building the two Arleigh Burke ships, but several sources pointed to an electrician shortage on the yard as a major bottleneck. The three Zumwalts are being built with a revolutionary new integrated power system (IPS) for which the Navy is undertaking a rigorous testing program alongside its installation.

Neither the Navy nor BIW specifically addressed the Burke delays at the Maine yard when contacted by USNI News.

However, both issued statements to USNI News that pledged a commitment to increased efficiency in the construction of both the DDG-1000 and DDG-51 lines.

As of Tuesday, Zumwalt was “approximately 96 percent complete with her production and testing in support of delivery by Bath Iron Works,” the Navy said, adding the ship would begin pier-side trials in November and get under way in December. “Schedules for follow ships of the Zumwalt-class—Michael Monsoor (DDG-1001) and Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002)—are likewise under evaluation.”

According to a Navy estimate in January, Johnson was 28 percent complete.

News of the bottleneck in Burke production comes at a bad time for the yard, as management is scrambling to improve overall efficiency for future destroyer work and a bid for a 25-ship, $10.5 billion contract for the U.S. Coast Guard’s new class of Offshore Patrol Cutters.

BIW’S Rising Costs

The stern section of the future USS Rafael Peralta (DDG-115) awaits transit into the Ultra Hull facility at the Bath Iron Works shipyard in Bath, Maine. General Dynamics Photo, via US Navy

The stern section of the future USS Rafael Peralta (DDG-115) awaits transit into the Ultra Hull facility at the Bath Iron Works shipyard in Bath, Maine. General Dynamics Photo, via US Navy

The two ships — Peralta and Hudner — were part of the Navy’s restart of the DDG-51 line announced in 2009 by then-Secretary of Defense Bob Gates following the cancellation of the service’s proposed next-generation cruiser (CG(X)) and the truncation of the DDG-1000 line to three ships.

In a series of deals between the Navy, BIW and its DDG-51 rival, Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., Bath was given the task of building the Zumwalt class following the reduction in the line.

“The agreement to have all three DDG-1000s built at BIW was a condition that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates set forth in an April 6, 2009, news conference on the FY2010 defense budget for his support for continuing with the construction of all three DDG-1000s (rather than proposing the cancellation of the second and third),” reads a June Congressional Research Service report on U.S. destroyer production.

While long-lead production work for the Zumwalts began at BIW, the yard won the contracts for the pair of Arleigh Burkes in 2011 when the yard soundly bested Ingalls in a split competition for the three Burke restarts. BIW offered a price-per-hull of $679.6 million versus a bid of $697.6 million from the Pascagoula yard.

Two years later, when the Navy awarded a $6.1 billion multi-year shipbuilding deal for nine Burkes, HII was the clear victor.

Not only did HII come in with the lowest bid per hull for the June 2013 award – $666.2 million per hull for five ships – BIW’s costs increased by $30.9 million, to $710.8 million per hull for four ships. BIW later was given a fifth destroyer contract in a subsequent award.

Since the loss in the 2013 multi-year, BIW has made attempts to increase the efficiency of the workforce — a key management initiative — to make the General Dynamics yard more competitive with its HII competitor.

“In order to improve our competitive position to win future work, BIW must reduce the cost of building ships in Bath, Maine, to a level the Navy can afford and at a price which is lower than our Mississippi competitors,” BIW officials said earlier this year, according to a May report in The Bangor Daily News.

In November 2013 General Dynamics placed NASSCO president Fred Harris — responsible for turning the beleaguered Lewis and Clark–class cargo ship (T-AKE) from one of the service’s worst performing shipbuilding programs into one of the best — in charge of BIW.

Harris spearheaded a series of workforce efficiency drives that have sparked conflicts between unions and management at BIW.

In particular, the lack of qualified electricians at BIW to work on both the Burkes and the Zumwalts has been a bottleneck in both lines, several sources confirmed to USNI News.

A proposal to import electricians from other General Dynamics shipyards – Electric Boat in Groton, Conn., and NASSCO in San Diego, Calif. – was met with intense resistance by the local unions.

“We don’t know if you realize it, but we’re not used to people coming into our yard,” Local S6 machinist union president Jay Wadleigh told The Bangor Daily News in March.

The Heart of the Zumwalt

Still from a Raytheon promotional video of the Zumwalt ship. Raytheon Image

Still from a Raytheon promotional video of the Zumwalt ship. Raytheon Image

Both the promise of the 16,000-ton Zumwalt-class and its ongoing delays are tied to its unique power scheme—the Navy’s new integrated power system (IPS).

Unlike the Burkes’ direct mechanical connection to its props from its gas turbine engines, the Zumwalts’ IPS creates a ship-wide power grid that not only powers the electric advance induction motors (AIM) that move the ship, but all of the ship’s other systems.

The twin Rolls-Royce MT-30 gas turbines and the two smaller Rolls-Royce RR450 gas turbines of the IPS provide a combined maximum of almost 80 megawatts of power—enough electricity to light a small town.

IPS is the Navy’s most recent and best expression of an electric ship concept—removing direct mechanical connections from the ship’s prime movers to its drive train and using the output to power electric motors that would drive the vessels through the water.

The Navy tried the concept in experimental U.S. nuclear attack submarines in the 1960s and 1970s, but shelved the effort because the output of contemporary electric motors did not propel the attack boats quickly enough.

Improved electric-motor technology in the past 20 years gave the electric ship effort new life and thus was made the centerpiece of the new Zumwalt class.

(An electric ship concept is also in development for the Navy’s $100-billion Ohio-class Replacement Program).

An electric configuration gives commanders many more options to route ship’s power to other systems. The IPS on Zumwalt also gives weapons and sensor makers more power margin to design new systems for the platform.

For example, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) is considering installing a high-powered electromagnetic railgun on board the third ZumwaltLyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002).

With the first Zumwalt, the Navy has elected to undertake a thorough testing program with the IPS to guarantee the health of the system before delivery—which led to a delay announced in March. The Navy pointed to the complexity of installing the IPS systems.

“The schedule delay is due primarily to the challenges encountered with completing installation, integration and testing of the highly unique, leading-edge technology designed into this first-of-class warship,” Cmdr. Thurraya Kent, acquisition spokeswoman for the Navy’s acquisition arm, said in a March statement.

In its Tuesday statement to USNI News, the Navy reiterated the importance of the testing regime for first-in-class Zumwalt.

“In view of the highly complex ship systems that underpin Zumwalt’s unique warfighting capabilities, the Navy and shipbuilder are executing the test program for this first of class ship with extreme rigor to ensure the highest standards of quality and completeness when the ship sails,” Kent said in a written statement. “Our current forecast, based on latest test program trends, is that Zumwalt will commence Dock Trials in November, in preparation for the ship’s first underway trial period in December.”

For its part, BIW said it was working with the service.

“BIW continues to work hard on the complex phase of test and activation, alongside the Navy and other navy contractors,” read a statement provided to USNI News.

The following are the complete written statements provided by the Navy and Bath Iron Works in response to questions from USNI News on how delays in the Zumwalt-class were affecting the Arleigh Burke line at BIW.


Zumwalt is approximately 96 percent complete with her production and testing in support of delivery by Bath Iron Works. With limited exceptions, the current forecast is for production to complete by September 2015. The shipboard test program, which is approximately 65 percent complete, comprises the preponderance of remaining effort in support of sea trials and ship delivery. In view of the highly complex ship systems that underpin ZUMWALT’s unique warfighting capabilities, the Navy and shipbuilder are executing the test program for this first of class ship with extreme rigor to ensure the highest standards of quality and completeness when the ship sails. Our current forecast, based on latest test program trends, is that Zumwalt will commence Dock Trials in November, in preparation for the ship’s first underway trial period in December. Schedules for follow ships of the ZUMWALT class, MICHAEL MONSOOR (DDG 1001) and LYNDON B. JOHNSON (DDG 1002), are likewise under evaluation. The Navy is working closely with the shipbuilder to ensure that lessons learned in the course of building and testing the first of class are being fully leveraged to improve performance on these follow ships. As we work to overcome schedule issues on this new ship program, we will maintain our priority on quality and efficiency in order to deliver both destroyer classes under construction at Bath Iron Works, DDG 1000 and DDG 51, in the most cost effective manner possible.


DDG 1000 is the first ship of its class and incorporates many cutting edge technologies, integrating them together for the first time. BIW continues to work hard on the complex phase of test and activation, alongside the Navy and other navy contractors.
We are fully under way on the restarted DDG 51 program, with two ships well into construction and a third in early stages. We continue to work with the Navy to manage risk across all our programs, control costs and balance BIW’s workload so we can deliver ships to the fleet as efficiently as possible.

  • John Tomlin

    Some very elementary workforce strategic planning would have identified the need for additional electricians early enough in the process to identify, select, train, and deploy them to prevent this from happening.

    • aniptofar

      Not to defend BIW but sometimes you just run out of bodies. People on the gulf coast ran out of people who could or wanted to be aluminum welders.

      • John Tomlin

        Agree, but that’s why workforce planning is critical. When I was HR Director at NSWC Carderock, we worked with the technical staff to identify the need for additional electrical engineers to help with the design of the new power systems. We started about 10 years before the need matured. You can’t just put up “Help Wanted” signs anymore for skills that are scarce.

        • aniptofar

          Agree but at some point you run out of bodies and the premium you have to pay to get people to take those jobs. Also, who wants to learn to become a shipboard electrician knowing they will have to find a new skill in two years as the zumwalt program finishes up.

          • John Tomlin

            I guess it’s not a perfect world at all. Sigh! Things were a lot different in the old days when the Navy built its own ships.

          • aniptofar

            Ships were much less complicated back then. I hate to think what a ship would cost in a navy yard these days. BIW/HII etc. are practically navy yards with contract workers in any case.

          • John Tomlin

            The only difference…the Navy didn’t have to make a profit.

          • aniptofar

            The cost of civil service far exceeds the cost of profit. What is the loaded rate for a civil service electrician vs. a civilian electrician. I bet it’s half per hour worked.

          • John Tomlin

            There are more dimensions to this than just cost of salaries and benefits. Workforce stability is one of them. The private sector mantra of “Bid low, get the work, hire the cheapest you can find, do a crappy job, fire the workers” is not a good model.

          • aniptofar

            I’ve never heard that civil service did a better job than contracted. It’s usually because the civil service takes over and anyone in that position is going to find the mistakes. Generally the contractors know much more about ship construction than the civil service.

          • John Tomlin

            Again, it’s more than cost/quality; it is workforce stability and quality of the deliverables. I would love a discussion over coffee…are you in the DC area?

          • aniptofar

            Fortunately I live far from the belt way. While i’ve met many capable civiil service people over the years, the majority of them are know far more about how to operate in their organization than how to build ships. But thanks for the offer.

          • johnbull

            If Bath is stretched and behind schedule with the DDG 1000s and the two Burke’s already under construction, it’s little wonder that the navy looked to NASSCO and HII for its new LHAs and new tankers.

          • aniptofar

            I doubt BIW could build something that big. Their access is limited. Someone could buy the old avondale or another yard and do it.

          • johnbull

            I think HII stills owns Avondale, but it’s being used for energy stuff now instead of shipbuilding. It’s a shame. That yard built a ton of good ships for a long time in its day.

          • aniptofar

            Avondale had a lot of problems in the end. Part of is was katrina, part of it was the design and location of the yard. Once you lose the technological base, it’s very hard to bring it back.

          • don

            yea we lost that with the democrat party in charge

          • Secundius

            @ johnbull.

            Mike Peters, is the current President and CEO. Of Avondale Shipyards, Litton Industries, Northrop-Grumman, Ingalls Shipyards, Huntington Shipyards, and NOW Huntington-Ingalls Industries…

          • UnionMan

            Bath has not built LHA or tankers in the last 50 years

          • Secundius

            @ aniptofar.

            Unfortunately Henry J. Kaiser, isn’t still alive. If he was, Problem would have already been solved…

          • don

            let put it this way—with obama in charge people in goverment make 3 times the pay as we the people do– big goverment never works– it slows down everything

          • USNVO

            Yes, but Navy yards have incentive not to finish a job, since it keeps the workers employed. they also have incentive not to modernize or innovate for the same reason. And they didn’t.

          • don

            your wrong back then it was just as hard—today same—yesterday ideas were just as hard back then as todays ideas are to day

          • USNVO

            When exactly was that. Virtually every navy ship in the last 200 years has been built in commercial yards. Rickover famously wanted all the nuclear ships built in Navy yards but the price differential was so high even he didn’t have a leg to stand on. Every Naval Shipyard I have seen has been such a model of efficiency (oh wait, scratch that last).

        • don

          yes but today stupidy grows wild

    • don

      BUT BUT WE ARE NOT USE TO STRANGE PEOPLE COMING INTO OUR YARD—key word—our yard an here lies the problem

  • originalone

    Is it just my imagination, or does the stern section of the DDG-115 above look rusty? Also, what are the cost over runs going to on this story? It implies that the addiction to said cost over runs in the arms building industry if alive and well. Poor planning seems to be the forte of this industry. Oh well, it’s on the taxpayers dime, so who cares?

    • USNVO

      Yes it’s rusty. All steel ships are rusty at that point in construction with minor surface rust where they were welded. Once it is assembled, they blast, prep, prime and paint it with multiple coatings and there is no more rust. It would be cost prohibitive as well as not needed to try to keep rust at bay all the time.

    • don

      unions an politics –bad mix

  • F…the unions. Maybe they should all go to work in China. The PLAN would really welcome them. To the unions, Maine is a right to work state and the country’s defense comes before you bunk of overtime looking workers. A Bath built ship use to mean a great ship with great people.

    • don


  • UnionMan

    Ken, how is this the Unions fault? The electricians aren’t even working overtime. Maine is not a right to work state and you should do more fact checking. The 1000’s were an incomplete design when started and it has been a struggle to incorporate the tech.

    • don

      straight from the mouth of a slow down union man

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  • Hugh

    Electricity is the future. However, concerns are held – firstly regarding these ships being prototypes and what teething problems will inevitably appear; secondly the crew’s ability to keep such new and highly complex equipment fully functioning notwithstanding redundancies; and thirdly what happens should salt water enter the hull.

  • Ed L

    my brother works at newport news shipyard. He is currently working on the Ford. The Yard is currently keeping everyone busy but, he says a lot of the workers who were there in the 90’s remember the layoffs and they hope that it does not happen

  • VFRdilbert

    DDG-100 class violates Meyer’s Law – too many simultaneous inventions. The ‘sudden’ need to really test the IPS reveals the lack of a land-based test site to wring the system out before it is installed into a ship is another flaw in the DDG-1000 plan.

    • don

      please this is no diffrence than the f-35 project—america has trouble builting anything today

  • Fritzer

    It just makes sense to me that they should extensively test one (sea trials in some rough conditions) before building anymore. I know our capitalistic political system dictates that you keep the shipyards busy, but at what cost? I’d just test the first one and make sure everything’s hunky dory for safety’s sake. Know what I mean?

  • Mastro63

    So Bath beat Ingalls bid but now can’t deliver on time- gee – must be the first time ever-


  • don

    if there a problem in constuction an a union is on site look no futher–i have worked union an was told many times slow down slow down make this job last-these people have lots of money-this an this along is the problem of unions

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  • Worker

    There’s many issues here at BIW. Management is made of mostly junior inexperienced union members who moved to management to avoid a layoff. Planners are off the street worker’s with little or no ship building experience. The planning union got a contract change that blocked the construction union from carrying there seniority over to the planning union. No senior experenced shipbuilders would risk a layoff by taking a planning job. The planning department without experienced workers were issuing work packages that were full of mistakes. The reason the Nasco electricians didn’t happen wasn’t because of union resistance. It was that a Nasco supervisor came in before to setup work and discovered the work packages were incomplete or missing materials. He was impressed the worker’s got as far as they did. The workforce is made up of the most experienced Navy sahip builders in the world. Management needs to address their own problems before asking the best shipbuilders to take a poor contract to be competitive.

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  • Bob Peck

    Electric drive is far from recent. Diesel Boats, Submarine Rescue Ships (ASR-7 ), and Salvage/Tugs (pre-ARS-50) were all diesel electric. Diesel boats ran on batteries submerged, while diesels turned main propulsion generators that supplied power to the electric propulsion motors that turned the reduction gear. All sorts of configurations could be conducted, one to four main engines supplying power to propulsion switchboard, or you could put any one of the four engines on the Auxiliary Power Buss. This was WWII technology.