The Navy isn’t planning on buying the rocket assisted guided round designed for a key system in the Zumwalt-class of guided missile destroyer, a defense official confirmed to USNI News.
As part of the Navy’s draft for its fiscal year 2018 budget, the service is planning to not purchase any more of the Long Range Land Attack-Projectiles for the Zumwalt-class past about 90 the Navy secured to use for testing on the three hulls.
LRLAP, designed to be fired from the destroyer’s 155mm Advanced Gun Systems, was crafted to strike fixed land targets using GPS guidance at a range of more than 60 miles. LRLAP was set to aid deployed U.S. ground forces, giving a class of about 30 planned Zumwalts a naval surface fire support capability absent from the service since the Iowa-class battleships in the 1990s. However, when the class was trimmed to three hulls, the costs of the rounds the Navy would need went up.
The price for an individual round is estimated to be $800,000 to $1 million — a full buy of the about 2,000 planned rounds for the three ships would be about $1.8 to 2 billion on the high end of the estimate, USNI News understands. In comparison a Tomahawk Land Attack Missile with a range of about 1,000 nautical miles costs about $1 million.
Though LRLAP and AGS tested well, the price – about the cost of an Arleigh Burke guided missile destroyer – was deemed too costly and the Navy scrapped the planned buy, a defense official told USNI News.
News of the LRLAP’s fate was first reported by Defense News on Sunday.
In a Monday statement to USNI News, spokeswoman Capt. Thurraya Kent said, “to address evolving threats and mission requirements, the Navy is evaluating industry projectile solutions (including conventional and hyper-velocity projectiles) that can also meet the DDG-1000 deployment schedule and could potentially be used as an alternative to LRLAP for DDG-1000.”
LRLAP developer Lockheed Martin told USNI News the company was ready to assist the service in a Monday statement.
“As the DDG-1000’s mission continues to evolve, and taking into consideration funding profiles available to support the weaponization of the ship considering the severe reduction in the planned production quantities, the U.S. Navy decided to evaluate alternate solutions to LRLAP,” read the statement provided to USNI News.
“Lockheed Martin is working aggressively to provide the Navy with options in relation to the DDG-1000’s long-range land attack mission.”
However, the ease of adapting the BAE Systems-built AGS to a new round is unclear. The barrel of the AGS is specially designed to accommodate the LRLAP, then DDG-1000 program manager Rear Adm. Jim Downey told USNI News in May during a visit to USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000).
“It’s a unique barrel for this ammunition. It’s a six-inch round designed with the turnings to allow the LRLAP to fly out of that barrel. There’s been some studies over the year that [indicate] that you could but you’d have to undertake a modification of the system,” he said.
“It’s not impossible but you can’t directly fire [hyper velocity projectiles] out of that barrel without modifications.”
Additionally, the ship has a cooling system built around the LRLAP rate of fire – 10 rounds-per-minute per gun, sustained — and there would also be changes to accommodate a new round in the ship’s Raytheon-built combat system.
“There are studies to look at other rounds but none of that is in the program right now,” Downey said in May.
According to the story in Defense News, the Office of the Secretary of Defense was briefed last week on the service’s decision.