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Zumwalt Brings Mix of Challenges, Opportunities to Fleet

USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) transits the Atlantic Ocean during acceptance trials April 21, 2016. US Navy Photo

USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) transits the Atlantic Ocean during acceptance trials April 21, 2016. US Navy Photo

ABOARD GUIDED MISSILE DESTROYER ZUMWALT – One of the most conspicuous ships in the Navy is among the least understood.

Moored to General Dynamics Bath Iron Works delivery pier on May 13, destroyer Zumwalt’s (DDG-1000) stark angles towered over the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Rafael Peralta (DDG-115) nearby. The destroyer that delivered last week displaces 7,000 more tons and is a hundred feet longer that its pier-side neighbor.

But beyond its size and its jagged silhouette, little is public about what role the ship will serve in the fleet and how a ship that was built for a world of low-intensity conflicts will fit into one that has shifted toward high-end warfare.

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.

Capt. James Downey, Zumwalt program manger, on May 13, 2016. USNI News Photo

Capt. Jim Downey, Zumwalt program manager, on May 13, 2016. USNI News Photo

USNI News took a tour of the ship with outgoing Zumwalt program manager – Capt. Jim Downey – shortly before it delivered to the service last week and got an inside look at the potential the ship brings to the U.S. Navy.

Aboard, USNI News learned why almost every sailor onboard has a Top Secret clearance, where the ship keeps its anchor and where embarked SEALs would live on the ship.

‘Clean Design’

Designed to operate close to shore, Zumwalt shares several features with stealth aircraft – like avoiding curves in the design — to keep its radar cross section low.

That effort also involves keeping ship functions that would ordinarily occur on deck hidden below low-profile hatches in the ship’s tumblehome hull.

Ship designers traded the flow and curves of traditional ship hulls for stark angles that give the ship a jagged profile as it cuts through the water to reduce the ship’s size on radar screens – down from a 610-foot warship to the size of a 50 foot fishing boat, according to an April report in The Associated Press.

One of Zumwalt's aft mooring stations on May 13, 2016. USNI News Photo

One of Zumwalt’s aft mooring stations on May 13, 2016. USNI News Photo

“As you look at the stern of the ship, what you’re seeing here are mooring stations that are open,” Downey told USNI News while boarding the ship.
“They are handled here within the ship because of the nature of the topside of the design, which is a very clean design. That relates to the radar cross section of the ship.”

Another cross section consideration is the ship’s anchor.

“You see no external anchor on the ship, it’s right centerline on the keel,” Downey said.
“That’s a mushroom-shaped anchor, very similar to a submarine’s anchor. It fits right into the hull form.“

The ship’s flight deck – twice the size of an Arleigh Burke – is free of the fixed personnel protection barriers on other ships in the fleet and instead features pop-up barriers in the rare instance the crew needs to go on the weather deck.

Even the ship’s helicopter recovery scheme is designed to bring helos into the large hangar mechanically without the air detachment traveling out on the flight deck.

The hangar – large enough to store and maintain either two MH-60 Seahawks or one Seahawk and three MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicles – leads to a large passageway designed to supply the ship’s primary weapon – the Advanced Gun System.

Bringing Out the Big Guns

Artist's concept of an Advanced Gun System Firing a Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP).

Artist’s concept of an Advanced Gun System Firing a Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP).

While Zumwalt is technically a multi-mission ship, much of the design of the ship supports the two 155 mm BAE Systems-built AGS at the front of the ship. An abnormally wide passage way for a surface ship – large enough to operate a forklift – allows the crew to move Lockheed Martin LRLAP shells easily into the ship from the flight deck following a yellow and red painted line on the deck to the ship’s weapon elevators and then down to the LRLAP magazines.

“There’s dual redundant handling systems in each magazine. It’ll grab the rounds, which are on a specially designed palette system. The rounds within the gun system are actually small missiles,” Downey told USNI News while standing underneath the ship’s aft gun mount.
“They’re each seven-and-a-half feet long and about 230 pounds for the LRLAP, and then it has a six-foot long prop charge which aids its release.”

The guns are designed to fire 10 rounds-per-minute per gun, sustained. Both guns firing at that rate would empty the 600-round magazine in 30 minutes.

The LRLAP “is a gun-fired guided missile. There is no equivalent to this round anywhere else in the world,” an industry source told USNI News last week.
“It has been tried before and failed, but this the only naval guided gun-fired projectile and performs flawlessly.”

Early tests of LRLAP have been positive, but the Navy has been reluctant to talk about the cost of the rounds. Later this year, the service plans to issue a limited production contract to Lockheed to purchase test rounds for Zumwalt’s initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E). Ultimately the Navy is expected to buy just 1,800 to 2,200 LRLAPs for the planned three-ship class.

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.

In a 2002 promotional video for the AGS, a potential fire mission called for 12 rounds to strike an urban target. At $500,000 per LRLAP, the 2002 scenario would cost about $6 million in munitions. Multiple fire missions could bring the total for a day of operations – just for munitions – easily into the tens of millions of dollars.

The Navy has explored alternative rounds for AGS, Downey said.

“It’s not impossible, but you can’t directly fire [other rounds] out of that barrel without modifications,” he said.
“There are studies to look at other rounds, but none of that is in the program right now.”

Naval Sea Systems Command is considering installing an electromagnetic railgun on the third Zumwalt — Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002), NAVSEA commander Vice Adm. William Hilarides Naval Sea Systems Command told USNI News in 2015.

Ship of Secrets

A mock-up of the the Zumwalt mission center in Raytheon's facility in Portsmouth, R.I. Raytheon Image

A mock-up of the Zumwalt mission center in Raytheon’s facility in Portsmouth, R.I. Raytheon Image

The ship’s main command and control space looks more like the interior of a black box theater rather than a traditional combat information center (CIC) on a modern cruiser or destroyer.

About twenty operational consoles – like the terminals on a modern destroyer or cruiser with an upgraded Aegis combat system – are arranged in rows ahead of three giant monitors in the two-story space. In addition to the combat system operators, the ship’s engineering division also makes their home in the ship’s mission center. Aft and above the main mission center are twin spaces used for mission planning for use of embarked command staffs or other units assigned to the ship.

The spaces above the mission center floor are glassed off so personnel can see the main screens – like a luxury box in a sport’s stadium – but not disturb the crew operating the ship.

The entire space is classified as a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), which is one reason the ship’s crew needs the highest clearances to operate on Zumwalt.

“The majority of the crew has to have the most highly classified clearances, Top Secret essentially,” Downey said.

Other features aboard that add to the security are the ability for the crew to access classified networks from their staterooms, which are protected by special locks to prevent unauthorized entry.

Part of the secrecy comes from the design of the ship’s network and part from the sensitivity of some of the missions the ship could be tasked to do, Downey said.

Those potential Special Operations missions are evident in the ship’s boat dock. Large enough to handle two rigid hull inflatable boats, the space also contains berthing for a SEAL detachment and features a decontamination station in case personnel encounter dangerous chemical and biological agents on a mission.

The ship’s shallow stern allows recovery of the RHIBs while the ship is underway at 12 knots in up to 15-foot seas.

Zumwalt's boat bat capable of holding two 11-meter rigid hull inflatable boats. USNI News Photo

Zumwalt’s boat bay capable of holding two 11-meter rigid hull inflatable boats. USNI News Photo

Given the low radar cross section and the ship’s ability to operate close to shore, Zumwalt could conceivably be a credible special operations insertion platform like how the service uses its guided missile and attack submarines, Bryan Clark, a naval analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and former aide to retired Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, told USNI News last week.

“Originally because the class had this focus on the littoral, it seems like there was always some expectation that they may do special ops off the ship. It’s always been focused on littoral environments and some of those things were baked in at the beginning,” Clark said. The additional features the Navy has added over the last ten years appeared to have increased the special mission emphasis.

Power Margins

Cables running to one of two Advanced Induction Motors on Zumwalt. USNI News Photo

Cables running to one of two Advanced Induction Motors on Zumwalt. USNI News Photo

The most unique feature of Zumwalt is its integrated power system (IPS). Shedding the traditional direct mechanical connection from a destroyer’s gas turbines to its props, the ship’s four gas turbines – two Rolls Royce MT-30s Main Gas Turbines (MGT) and two Rolls Royce MT-5s Auxiliary Gas Turbines (AGT) – feed into two massive Advanced Induction Motor which electrically feed the rest of the ship’s systems.

“Via the two MTGs and the two ATGs you have the capability of producing 75 megawatts of power on the ship,” Downey said during a tour of one of the engineering spaces.
“In other ships you would have propulsion capability via reduction gear to turn the shaft and you would have separate generators on the ship to provide power to the ship’s systems.”

With the ship moving at 18 to 20 knots, the ship has a surplus of almost 58 megawatts – enough electricity to power a small town.

The surplus power margins, plenty of space on the ship and additional cooling surplus allows Zumwalt to take on additional systems in the future without an extensive redesign.

For example, the Navy is in the midst of a redesign effort to find power and cooling for the new Raytheon AN/SPY-6 Air and Missile Defense Radar on the existing hull form of the Arleigh Burkes.

Part of those margins comes from the classes’ unique (and controversial) tumblehome hull, which creates a wider beam that can accommodate additional systems.

Tumblehome Throwback

Z004-DDG10001310-_I6Z7919-11No aspect of the Zumwalt class has come under more criticism than the ship’s tumblehome hull design. Instead of riding over waves like the traditional naval hull, the tumblehome hull cuts through waves while maintaining increased stability in most seas.

In the last year, several reports have quoted maritime museum and traditional ship design experts who have questioned the stability of the design.

Downey told USNI News that the requirements of the ship necessitated the hull type.

“[The] equipment, the acoustic signature, the radar cross section requirements drives you to this hull form,” he said.
“[Tumblehome] is the only way the best naval architects and designers could get to: how do you have the least bow wake, stern wake and reduce radar cross section.”

During the 13 days, the ship has been underway during trials, the ship proved to be stable in seas of up to 13 to 15 feet (Sea State 5), he said.

“It’s designed to handle better than anything we have in the U.S. Navy. Better sea keeping than anything we have,” he said.

Ship commander Capt. James Kirk told USNI News during the tour that, while underway, at high speeds a hard rudder turn only heeled the ship about seven degrees – half that of a standard U.S. destroyer.

In extreme sea states – with 20 to 40-foot waves – modeling showed there was a limited risk of the stern lifting out of the water in quartering seas – when waves hit the ship at a 45-degree angle to its direction of travel.

“If you go fast in the highest seas and you get seas on the quarter – which worries ship drivers for every ship type – you could have an issue where the ship digs in – because of the bow – and the stern lifts and it’s not too much direct pitch, but you can get some strong ship lateral motion where the bow digs in,” he said.

In that instance, there was a chance the side-to-side motion could subject the crew to higher G forces.

However, the risk is low, as the service estimates that over the 35-year life of the ship, Zumwalt would experience waves that high over only about 350 hours of its operational life.

Concept of Operations: Then and Now

A 2009 Lockheed Martin oil painting of a Long Range Land Attack Projectile Strike from a Zumwalt by artisit Richard Thompson. Lockheed Martin Image Used With Permission

A 2009 Lockheed Martin oil painting of a Long Range Land Attack Projectile Strike from a Zumwalt by artist Richard Thompson. Lockheed Martin Image Used With Permission

Now that Zumwalt has delivered, the service is working through how it will use the ship class.

At the moment, there are no obvious answers.

The ship is loaded with technologies that were conceived two decades ago for an asymmetric and stateless enemy that was the chief driver of U.S. military involvement. However, in the last decade, that threat has been superseded by the growing military might of China and Russia.

As the costs of the program grew, the size of the planned fleet shrank. An original plan of more than 30 shrank to nine to seven and ultimately to three, as announced by then-Secretary of Defense Bob Gates as part of the Fiscal Year 2010 budget submission.

“The trimming of the program came from – obviously the cost going up – but also the Navy over time was becoming less and less seized with this mission to be addressed,” Clark said.

For example, the 2002 concept of operations video for the AGS, the filmmakers illustrated ranges of the gun with a generic series of small islands that bear a resemblance to the Philippines – a country grappling with a decades-old Islamic insurgency.

The current technological mismatch was in part due to requirements in the early 2000s from then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Clark said.

“Rumsfeld and that crew came in, they were preaching transformation and everything had to be transformational to survive program budget review,” he said. “What that did was lead the ship to be very technologically risky and contributed to its cost overruns and its schedule delays… They gave it the electric drive and they made it stealthy and put on the dual band radar and the dual-band sonar and all of these new technologies that have mostly not been used before to try and maximize its ability to be transformational and improve its ability to survive program budget review. Technologies that they were going to put into multiple different ships and test them out now all went to one class of ship.”

An image from a 2002 video on the AGS showing gun coverage over an unspecified chain of islands.

An image from a 2002 video on the AGS showing gun coverage over an unspecified chain of islands.

One criticism recently leveled at the Zumwalt-class is the ship’s lack of anti-surface firepower. The LRLAP was originally intended to be one of several of the rocket-assisted rounds that would be launched from the AGS. Other variants would have been designed for surface targets as well as land targets, an industry official with knowledge of the LRLAP program told USNI News.

“There was early in the program an initiative out of the Navy to look at alternative gun fired rounds out of this but as the number of ships reduced, that kind of development program was unaffordable,” the source said.

The ship’s blue water punch was further reduced by a 2014 decision to replace twin 57mm with two 30mm guns set to defend against a small swarm boats.

The ship will be able to field Raytheon Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAM) and could deploy a modified version of the missile the Navy is acquiring as an anti-ship missile.

Still, Zumwalt will commission and enter the service during a time when the Navy’s destroyer and cruiser communities are fighting budget battles to put as many ships capable of high-end warfighting to sea and as reports emerge of new more lethal and complex Chinese and Russian anti-ship weapons emerge.

With less missile and radar capability than existing DDG-51s – about 80 VLS cells and no volume search radar – Zumwalt’s utility as an open-water combatant is less than its unique capability to carry out special missions.

“You’re not necessarily going to have it be an air defense ship,” Clark said.
“It’s a stealthy ship and it has some inherent ability not to be found. It’s got some air defense ability because it’s got a good radar and it’s got [vertical launch system] cells. A sneak attack isn’t going to be very successful against it and if you get into a war then you would use it differently than you would a regular DDG… They wouldn’t do regular patrols like the DDGs do, they would do intelligence gathering. They would do special ops they would do [singlas intelligence], [electronic intelligence] kinds of things, and I would use them as demonstrator platforms for new weapons and new unmanned vehicles and technology.”

One option, told to USNI News, would be to forward base two of the ships in the Western Pacific – Japan or Korea – while the third was back in San Diego.

The service has also studied using them as command ships to replace the two aging Blue Ridge-class Military Sealift Command ships.

Ultimately the concept of operations will be determined by the service’s new Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) – the Navy’s surface warfare “Top Gun” program – in the lead in cooperation with the DDG-1000 Squadron (Z-RON), a SMWDC official told USNI News in a statement.

Next for Zumwalt

Capt. James Kirk, Zumwalt commanding officer, on May 13, 2016. USNI News Photo

Capt. James Kirk, Zumwalt commanding officer, on May 13, 2016. USNI News Photo

Now the ship has delivered, Kirk and his crew will spend the next four months learning how to operate the ship ahead of an East Coast tour and an October commissioning in Baltimore.

Following commissioning, the ship will transit to San Diego, where it will complete activation and certification as part of an 18-month post delivery maintenance availability.

Given the schedule, the ship will probably reach an initial operational capability (IOC) sometime in 2020.

Speaking with USNI News, Kirk stressed that while the details of the technical aspects of the ship were important, so was the legacy of the namesake – former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, who guided the Navy through a rocky period during the Vietnam War.

Photo of then-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo Zumwalt hung in the the ship's chief's mess. USNI News Photo

Photo of then-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo Zumwalt hung in the ship’s chief’s mess. USNI News Photo

“We’ve got a ship that’s very obviously technologically advanced to be operated with a fairly small crew,” Kirk said.
“More importantly, we’ve got a ship named after Adm. Zumwalt, a reformer of the Navy. … It’s not just a powerful ship but a powerful legacy.”

  • PolicyWonk

    So – it seems that one question regarding her deployment has been answered: she’ll be doing SIGINT as an individual platform, as opposed to operating with the rest of the fleet, or doing standard patrols.

    And given her design, this makes sense.

    • John B. Morgen

      A replacement for the USS Long Beach (CGN-9).

  • But no capability of firing SM-3 to 6? Can it sail independently by itself like a Burke class destroyer without escort?

  • John B. Morgen

    This warship is no destroyer, but it should have been called as a guided missile light cruiser (CLGH) which would been the correct classification, due to tonnage and armaments.

    • El_Sid

      The Burkes could be light cruisers, this is significantly bigger, it’s the size of the Graf Spee. Reviving the BM classification, last used for the USS Wyoming commissioned in 1902, would have been the obvious way to go.

      • John B. Morgen

        I agree. The Burkes are light cruisers but with weak main armament by having one 5 inch DP gun, which they could have been designed of having a 6 inch gun—instead. The tonnage of 8,950 Brukes matches more with the British Kent class heavy cruisers of 9,500 tons of standard displacement than the German Admiral Graf Spee of 14,890 tons of standard displacement. Although the Deutschlands were classified as heavy cruisers (CAs) in 1940, but during the post-World War II era some naval historians, including myself, think the Deutschland class should be reclassify as light battlecruisers (BCLs).

        • El_Sid

          Just for clarity, I was comparing the Zumwalt to the Graf Spee, not the Burkes.

          I wouldn’t translate WWII displacements too literally, just because higher standards of accommodation and eg HVAC and signature reduction mean that a WWII combatant would be much bigger these days for the same armament – easily 40-50% like-for-like. In that light I’d view Burkes as the size equivalent of the 7000t Didos and Atlantas of WWII, as well as playing a similar functional role.

          • John B. Morgen

            The USS Admiral Zumwalt maybe more advanced than the KMS Graf Spee, but both are cruisers [frigates]; however, the Graf Spee can still sink the Zumwalt, if the German is well within sighting range. Of course, the Zumwalt could easily sink the Graf Spee with long range surface to surface missiles because of former’s advanced radar systems.

            The pre-World War II displacements set the tone for classifying warships, which brought some discipline and order for proper designating and classifying warships. Both tonnage and main armaments are paramount for this type of naval art and science; although, there were still some problems. I agree that both the British Didos and the American Atlantas were the Burkes’ ancestors.

          • Secundius

            The Navy Should “Dazzle” the Hull too, to Break-Up ANY Visual Anomalies the Hull has to Offer. ANY Advantage, EVEN a Visual One, is an “Cheating Advantage” over HER Enemy…

          • John B. Morgen

            The Navy needs to despatch her to the South China Sea; especially, for night operations to see how well the PLAN responds to her existence.

          • Secundius

            Zumwalt’s, NOT even Commissioned Yet? And Won’t be until October 2016 (Maybe)!

          • John B. Morgen

            That’s what I’d meant when she’s ready for operations. Of course, I expect both the Russians and the Chinese will try to track her down. Wrap speed Captain Kirk.

          • Secundius

            Probably More Like “Impulse Drive”? The Zumwalt’s Primary Weapon is the 64-MJ Rail Gun, and with General Atomics Current Track Record with the System and the Ford’s EMALS. Zumwalt is Probably going to go GUN LITE! Or at the Most with the 6.102-inch 155mm AGS’s aboard. And I suspect their going to Place Her in the “MED”, to Shore Up NATO Defenses…

          • John B. Morgen

            We should send her into the Baltic, and have her be based at a Polish naval base. The Russians will just love her in complete fear.

          • Secundius

            They’ll probably send Zumwalt to England First as a Courtesy Call. I STILL think the “MED”, because of “Calmer Waters” and it’s proximity to the Turkish Straits to the Black Sea…

          • John B. Morgen

            Sending her into the Black Sea would caused the Russians to have nightmares. The Black Sea is the under belly of Russia. Okay I agree.

    • Secundius

      Compare it to a WW2 ship of Comparable Size, it would be called a Heavy Cruiser. Or a WW1 Battleship. Let’s face it, Ship’s are Getting Bigger, NOT Smaller…

      • John B. Morgen

        No, the Admiral Zumwalts would have to be armed with 8-inch guns, in order to be classified as heavy cruisers. That is the standard requirements set by the Washington and London Naval Disarmament Treaties.

        • El_Sid

          That’s starting to get a bit silly – you can’t compare different eras that literally. If you want to get that picky, Zumwalt has 80 weapon tubes of 25″. The Mk57 may be a single-shot, but the treaties would have regarded each one as a “gun”…..

          • old guy


            Little fleas have lesser fleas upon their backs, that bite ’em.
            And the lesser fleas have tiny fleas…. and so ad infinitem.
            Now,.the little fleas have bigger fleas, upon whose backs to go on,
            and the bigger fleas have larger fleas and greater fleas….and so on.

            BUT, they are all FLEAS

          • John B. Morgen

            No it is [NOT] silly because only weapon systems do changed, but not the basic norms of classification based on tonnage and the types of armaments. The Zumwalt is a light cruiser (frigate) because of its two 155 mm guns. As for its missiles, missiles are considered as secondary armament, just like torpedoes.

            My apologies for this belated response.

      • old guy

        It’s like the inverse of the value of the DOLLAR. if you equate the size of a WW2 ship to a year 2015 ship, of the same nominal class, you can see it takes a lot more of each to do the same job.

      • John B. Morgen

        No. The real problem, and that is many navies, including the United States Navy, has lost the art and science of properly classifying warships. Classifying one type of warship, [destroyer] fouled up everything, and stopping from using the terms corvettes and sloops made the situation even a lot worst; plus, stop using the term frigate and then replacing it with [cruiser]: really made the classification process into a bloody folly.

  • madskills

    Scary stuff. There is a picture of $2.1 million dollars of ordinance being fired at a fox hole and a small tank. Biggest boondoggle out there. About $7 billion per ship or more then the cost of a fully stocked, Nimitz class, aircraft carrier.

    • Icepilot

      The biggest boondoggle was Seawolf, with the F-35 rapidly overtaking. A-12, B-1, B-2, LCS, Tankers; all are/were either failures or hugely overexpensive for the actual hardware that ever became operational. And there are hundreds of other, innovative systems that got cancelled by mega-programs like Seawolf & the F-35 sucking up every penny not nailed down.
      Military procurement has been broken since Polaris, with few exceptions.

      • Mastro63

        Seawolf actually looks OK to the disasters that happened since. Remember that the first Virginias cost as much as the Seawolves- with less capability.

        If the USSR didn’t collapse they should have made a few more-

        • Icepilot

          If only they’d built a dozen, so they could have a nucleus for training, parts support, etc! Instead, we end up with two hanger queens for the Carter.

  • vincedc

    Surface version of the Seawolf.

    • Icepilot

      Yep. They’ll probably maintain the naming convention, that is, whatever is politically correct for that week, but not build as many – a Virginia class SSN costs half as much.

    • old guy

      In a hard turn, in high seas that is EXACTLY what it would become

  • Icepilot

    The USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) can serve the the same purpose as all skimmers, as a target.

  • Matthew Schilling

    Big ship, small crew. Tempting target to try board and steal?

  • zolf

    This thing looks evil. I love it.

  • Gregory Dittman

    The size of an anti-ship missile, mine or torpedo would sink a ship with four or five feet thick of armor so the idea is not to get hit. Littoral ships have their purpose. They are for humanitarian missions, diplomatic missions, anti smuggler missions and anti-pirate missions. Frigates have not been considered war ships since WW2.

    • Curtis Conway

      I guess that is why the FFG-7s were sent everywhere to do everything.

    • El_Sid

      Frigates aren’t littoral ships though. They can be used in the littorals, but that’s a different thing. It doesn’t help that ship names have been so abused over the years – compare a Zumwalt with the original (torpedo-boat) “destroyers”.

      Corvettes should be littoral – but again the perception has been warped by the Flower class getting pressed into service for mid-Atlantic ASW in WWII when they shouldn’t have left the North Sea.

      • Gregory Dittman

        For me, the definition of a frigate is the smallest and fastest armed surface vessel a navy has that can cross the Pacific Ocean or the Atlantic Ocean on its own. The littoral design fits that description.

        • El_Sid

          You realise that “littoral” is a general term that could apply to a variety of ships designed for use inshore – the way you talk about “the” “littoral design” suggests you think that it applies specifically to the (two designs of) littoral combat ships of the USN?

          The USN is always a bit of a special case (eg with 16,000t destroyers), but in some ways the LCS is taking the idea of a “frigate” back to Napoleonic times where the emphasis was on speed and its sensors – the “eyes of the fleet”. OTOH the modern RN types frigates purely by function – they are escorts dedicated to ASW, hence the Type 26 will be a frigate of close to 8000t. The rest of Europe uses frigate to describe a variety of escorts, with different emphases. But I think most people would agree that a frigate is more bluewater-y than a corvette, and better armed than an OPV – and these days it would always include helicopter facilties. Beyond that, it covers a multitude of sins.

          • Gregory Dittman

            So far the U.S. navy has just one definition of a littoral ship.

          • El_Sid

            Umm – littoral is a perfectly normal dictionary word, which is not defined by the USN, no more than they define “apostrophe” or “guacamole”. What’s more it has a useful meaning in general military discussion, and it’s confusing to try and reduce it just to ships, let alone two specific classes of ships.

            The way words work is that if it’s in the dictionary, you use that definition; if you make up a word or phrase then you get to decide what it means. The USN can choose to define the phrase “littoral combat ship” as meaning two specific ship classes, but it doesn’t get to decide what “littoral” means.

          • old guy

            They’re definition is probably derived from LITTER and ALL.

          • Curtis Conway

            The United States Navy has been HiStorically a traditional bunch with its own flair for the dramatic . . . and deadly. Since the USN entered the war-at-sea fray with a frigate, it has been anything but a traditional design according to the standard. The USS Constitution applies.

            The LCS is a continuation of that flair. However, I fear that the redefinition of traditional and specifically defined terms like “Survivability” have been so skewed that the safety of our sailors are at risk in an ever more prolific ASCM environment.

          • old guy

            The best LITtoral (to be correct, the accent is on the first syllable) ships were the PHMs. They had shallow water capability (foils up), High speed (foils down), long range (CODAG). big firepower and great maneuverability.

          • El_Sid

            I’ll see your PHM and raise you the Bora/Dergach and Lun….

        • old guy

          SO does the Desidiero, the SS United States, the Endeavor of the Seas and lots more.

        • Secundius

          From th 18th Century to the Early 20th Century is was called a “Brig”. NOW it’s called a “Gunboat”…

  • Curtis Conway

    “The service has also studied using them as command ships to replace the two aging Blue Ridge-class Military Sealift Command ships.” Not enough room and birthing for a Joint Combined Staff.

    • El_Sid

      ” Not enough room and birthing for a Joint Combined Staff.”

      Always a consideration now we have female admirals…

      • Secundius

        Called JCC(X), Joint Command Ships, ALL Electric Propulsion. Four in class JCC-1 to JCC-4, Build Dates (?) 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. Other then that Virtually Nothing…

      • Curtis Conway

        Truncating the MARDET provides plenty of room. Than many Marines are not on the Blue Ridge or Mt. Whitney.

  • michaelstephani

    Maybe we can string x-mas lights all over it and use as a traveling circus-ship to laugh our enemies to death…. It beats trying to get close enough to tickle them to death……

  • Bill

    Is it really beyond our capabilities to develop an unguided round for the guns?

  • juliet7bravo

    What’s the point of a AGS firing limited availability $5-700k missiles for 60 miles, when a $1 million Tomahawk has a 1000+ km, bigger warhead, and can engage land and sea targets? Or, for that matter, a conventional extended range 155mm howitzer exceeds that range now IIRC, with the capability to put even more steel on target, for relative pennies in comparison.

    Cool technology, but the cost would have built, crewed, and armed a small-middling sized nations entire navy with state-of-the-art warships…

  • Banderas

    I see no reason why this can’t be our next cruiser replacement, and possibly our next primary surface combatant (aside from the future frigate). I understand the shortcomings of the AGS gun, which is more for surface bombardment. If we were to make a cruiser variant to replace the Ticos, it would be as easy as replacing the dual 155 AGS’s with as many VLS cells as we can fit in their place. Then when the rail gun is mature and tested, make a destroyer variant and shore bombardment variant with rail guns.
    As for radar, it’s design has ample power generation and cooling to accommodate the new AMDR radar.

  • Mastro63

    So basically the LRARP round is just too expensive to be used as intended.

    Rather like throwing away a $100 steak knife with every dinner.

    “The Navy has explored alternative rounds for AGS, Downey said.

    “It’s not impossible, but you can’t directly fire [other rounds] out of that barrel without modifications,” he said.
    “There are studies to look at other rounds, but none of that is in the program right now.” ”

    Wow- so you may run out of the expensive rounds on a cruise and have nothing to replace them- no wonder why they want to get a rail gun in there quick—

    Kills the entire argument for a big – gun ship. I guess they should have made an “Arsenal ship” with 200+ vertical launch cells?

    What I am still confused by is can the Zumwalts launch SM2 and SM3 missiles? Why not?

    • UKExpat

      Mastro63+ There is one possible light at the end of the tunnel which is the cost of a 23 lb kinetic sabot shot for a 155 mm railgun which is currently being quoted as $25,000 per shot which if it can be combined with IMU/GPS guidance system may well be able to be developed into a very cost effective lethal weapon with a 100+ mile range. Given the current fast advances in railgun technology it may well be that LRARP could well become time expired quicker than was previously thought and be replaced by a very effective railgun also sooner than expected. Mind you we all know how quickly time and costs can spiral out of control when it comes to developing new weapon systems so whilst it definitely has possibilities, it must remain in the lap of the Gods.

      • Secundius

        Your Probably looking at a “Dim Bulb” and NOT a “Bright Light”! The SAME Company that Produces the EMALS “Generally Atonic” ALSO Produce the 155mm “Blitzer” Rail Gun…

        • UKExpat

          Thanks for the information it encouraged me to further examine the subject, For the record, I was not looking at the “Blitzer” Rail Gun but the single demonstration railgun that the USN had contracted Bae Systems to build for the Zumwalt Class. This railgun has just been tested and seems to have passed with flying colours, Evidently the results were so good that USN now wants to curtail further tests so that Bae can use the time to actually install this gun in the aft turret of the 3rd Zumwalt Cass ship USS Lyndon B Johnson instead of Bae’s intended AGS Gun. This seems to be a sensible option given Bae’s expertise and experience in modern warship construction, building guns, like the AGS and others, integrating large Independent Power Systems like Rolls Royce MT30s, gearing up to start building new rail guns for the UK RN, etc. etc. If this goes right, and it has a great chance, the perception of the Zumwalt Class could well have a remarkable turn round and improvement. We will certainly not be looking at a ‘Dim Bulb’ but a massive Lighthouse.

          • Secundius

            The Zumwalt’s were designed Around the Generally Atonic (General Atomics) 64-MJ “Blitzer” Rail Gun to be USED. NOT the BAE 32-MJ Rail Gun. As it Sit, the Earliest Deployment of the “Blitzer/Quaker Gun” is 2020 or 2024. Depending on which Time Table Schedule THEY’RE (General Atomics) or the NAVY is going by. NOW, if BAE comes up with a 64-MJ Rail Gun, that Might Actually Change Things…

          • UKExpat

            That’s what I believe has happened BAE produced a Rail Gun as requested and contracted by the USN to fit the Zumwalt’s turrets with a 110 mile range. Whilst I am not 100% sure whether it is a 32 or a 64 MJ one, the range and high muzzle velocities (Mach 7,5) seem to indicate that it is the bigger one and BAE’s own publicity states that they are into 64 MJ rail guns. Also why would the USN now be strongly pushing to cancel/delay installing a previously ordered AGS gun so that they can actually install this new railgun straight into USS Lyndon B Johnson with either no or drastically reduced further testing. Again I am not 100% sure but I think I saw 2021 as the final installation date..As I said nothing is absolutely certain but the number of indications pointing to BAE Gun just seem to keep increasing.

          • Secundius

            BAE 32-MJ has 110nmi range, the 64-MJ range exceeds 200nmi…

          • UKExpat

            Thanks for the information, the mystery deepens! Do you by any chance know the ranges and muzzle velocities of BOTH BAE’s and General Atomics 32 and 64-MJ guns so as to see if it is possible to reference like for like and get some idea which company is currently ahead in what may now have become a development race between the two of them. Incidentally, as a side issue, I think I am now beginning to understand how BAE managed to apparently come out of nowhere to be a viable contender in this race at such a late stage but I just need to check out a few more things..

          • Secundius

            The US Army, is testing a 32-MJ Rail Gun System as a 155mm Replacement or Augmentation. But at present its a Four-Part System, consisting of Rail Gun, Power Storage System, Power Generation System, and a Fire Control System. Three Semi-Flatbeds and a Humvee. Eventual System, is probably going to Look Something Like the XM2000/2001 Crusader (Gun System and Fusion Reactor/Magazine System). In the Long-Run, I suspect BAE is going to be the ONLY Contender, General Atomics is NOT Looking too Good for Obvious Reasons…

          • UKExpat

            I agree, I think part of their problem seems to be that they may be concentrating to much on the Army at the expense of the Navy, as we know the guns may be very similar but the actual overall systems are miles apart. My own theory is that GA may well have shot themselves in the foot by the way they responded to the UK’s MOD’s requests, a few years ago, for a quotation for an EMALS installation in one of the carriers BAE are building for the RN. I can still remember my surprise at the extent of the resentment and anger that the government’s negotiators expressed at that time. They spoke of ridiculous prices, about US$ 3,000 Million, with extremely long completion dates that smacked of blackmail, though I doubt that BAE was innocent in this episode. The upshot was that Electro Motive Technology, which ever since Prof. Laithwaite and his Maglev work has always been encouraged in the UK, particularly when it’s military potential came to the fore may well have resulted in BAE deciding to or being pushed into developing the guns and maybe even EMALS. Mind you I am the first to admit that the above may just be BS produced by an over active imagination!

  • veej7485

    $400,000 – 700,000 PER ROUND! Do people think anymore

    • Secundius

      Congress said it in October of 1985. “That’s it’s NOT Real Money, until you Break One Billion Dollars”…

  • Lee Rudnicki

    Interesting article Thanks