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Electrical Problems Shorten Second Zumwalt-class Destroyer’s Builders Trials

Crewmembers assigned to USS Constitution prepare to perform a color guard detail at the christening ceremony for guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Monsoor (DDG-1001) in the General Dynamics Bath Iron Works shipyard in 2016. US Navy Photo

Problems with the complex electrical system on the second-in-class Zumwalt destroyer ended builders trails early and forced the ship to return to the General Dynamics Bath Iron Works shipyard in Maine, according to a statement from Naval Sea Systems Command.
According to NAVSEA, a harmonic filter aboard Michael Monsoor (DDG-1001) failed one day after the ship left the yard on Dec. 4. The ship returned to the yard on Dec. 5.

Harmonic filters are used in complex electrical systems to prevent unintended power fluctuations from damaging sensitive equipment.

The loss of the filter prevented the ship from running its complicated electric drive system at full power as part of the testing that was intended to be carried out during the trials.

The Associated Press first reported the trials were abbreviated due to a mechanical issue last week.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) arrives at its new homeport in San Diego on Dec. 8, 2016. US Navy photo.

NAVSEA said the delay in sea trials would not affect Monsoor’s expected March 2018 delivery.

The heart of the Zumwalt-class is a complex electric grid that’s powered by two Rolls Royce MT-30 gas turbines and two Rolls Royce MT-5 auxiliary gas turbines. The Integrated Power System can generate more than 75 megawatts of power and drive a complex electrical grid that powers the ship’s systems and massive electric motors to move the ship in the water. The amount of electricity generated and routed on the Zumwalt-class is unprecedented in any other non-nuclear surface ship.

USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) was delayed in delivering to the Navy in 2016 after a series of complex tests into the electrical system took longer than expected. While underway from Maine to its new homeport at Naval Station San Diego, Calif., Zumwalt suffered several delays due to unpredicted problems in its IPS system that were corrected earlier this year.

The Navy is working to change the mission of the planned $23-billion three-ship class from a land-attack platform that would support troops ashore to a surface-strike platform to conduct stealthy anti-surface warfare.

  • James Lun

    I believe DDG 1001 did not return to BIW until Dec 7

  • Augustine’s Lion

    Cursed program. Just end it already.

    • FactChecker90803

      The production did end at 3 units, are suggesting that the ships be decommissioned and broken up??.

  • johnbull

    Too late to end it. One is in service, one is about to deliver, and the last scheduled one is under construction. Rightly or wrongly, Congress curtailed this at three ships several years ago. I’d like to this vessel can be a launching point for a new cruiser in a few years.

    • Nick

      “One is in service” is a slight exaggeration.
      Zumwalt is in the BAE San Diego shipyard to complete fit out and installation of the Raytheon combat system and IOC planned for December 2019, Michael Monsoor September 2021.
      The three Zumwalt class costing $8 billion per ship including R&D.

      • Duane

        Uhh no on your $8B per ship number including R&D. The current program estimated cost including R&D is half that – $4.1B per unit for the three ship class.

        The R&D will also have considerable value for future ships to be developed, such as a follow-on CG or DDG to succeed either or both of the Ticos and the AB Flight IIIs.

        • kapena16

          But the systems under “R&D” actually have to work! Yes? Reliably. Consistently. Under real world environmental conditions both tomorrow and 3, 4, 5 or more years from now after being commissioned and out of the hands of shipyard techs doing ride slings to keep things working for the crew. Are we there yet? No. It’s gonna be awhile. If ever.

          • Duane

            The systems work. The Zumwalt works just fine, this is the second ship in the class. We’re discussing a single component failure during builders trials. Do you know what “builders trials” are? Those are the trials conduced by the builder prior to turning the ship over to the Navy. Builders trials ALWAYS reveal equipment failures – warships are simply too complex to have 100% perfect performance at builders trials. Even highly mature operating warships go to sea typically with dozens of open maintenance items to be addressed in the next shipyard overhaul or drydock availability.

          • kapena16


          • Nick

            Uhh no on your $8B per ship number including R&D. The current program estimated cost including R&D is half that – $4.1B per unit for the three ship class.”

            Duane think you are joking, if not please quote your source

            The GAO March 2017 Defense Aquisitions, Assessment of Selected Weapons Programs, GAO-17-333SP
            DDG 1000 Zumwalt Class Destroyer (DDG 1000) latest 10/2016

            R&D $10,931M
            Procurement $12,714M
            Total $23,646M
            Program Unit Cost $7,882M

          • FactChecker90803

            Arm Chair Admirals don’t understand what builder trials are, Arm Chair Admirals, like Arm Chair Air Force Generals, expect perfection from all these New Generation Systems. How about giving it time to test and perfect the new tech.

            Has everyone forgotten how long it took to bring the Aegis System to maturity, the growing pains of the Ticondroga CCGs. I am old enough to recall how Arm Chair Generals and congressmen back in the late 70s early 80s where calling for the cancellation of the F-15, F-16 and F-18 becouse of all the deaths of test pilots during development.

            Let’s not forget the M-1 tank, I recall total airhead nitwits, calling for cancellation of the Abrams and continued production of the M-60 ( after all it performanced well with the Israelis), thank God no one paid attention to these naysayers back then, but sadly does in power did hear them when it came to the Seawolf SSN, F-22, and Cruesader SPH.

          • Duane

            Yes, internet commenters demand instant gratification, because they don’t know what they’re talking about at all. The difference is today we have the internet where every commenter fancies himself qualified to opine on any and all subjects based upon their vast self regard and natural biases – facts, who needs facts? In decades past before internet commenters arrived, these programs developed with little notice and virtually no discussion. The general public and even interested outsides had no way of knowing how many failures it typically takes to generate a success.

            One of the classics that illustrates this is what many believe to be the all time greatest fighter of World War Two – the P-51D Mustang. It was a terrific fighter, loved by pilots, feared by enemies. But what most “armchair generals/admirals” don’t realize is that there were three models prior to the D – the MX-designated developmental birds built for the RAF, then the A, B, and C models – and they mostly sucked compared to the competition. The North American designers completely redesigned the fuselage to go to the bubble canopy, giving the bird its terrific pilot visibility. They had to change out the engine to give the fighter the high altitude performance necessary for escorting heavy bombers to Germany and take on the German Focke Wulfs and Messerschmidts.

            Ships are much the same way. You never get it fully right the first time.

          • FactChecker90803

            Or the P-38, early test versions crashed because of problems with carburetor icing at high altitude and tail flutter during high speed flight and compressibility stall in high g dives.

          • El Kabong

            Oh the irony!

            Speaking of Little Crappy Ships…

  • Rexford L

    Unprecedented? Guess the author of this needs to look at some of the ships the Navy had in the 20’s and 30’s.. USS Lexington, USS Saratoga, they had almost twice the electrical generation capacity of the Zumwalt class DDG’s. (Zumwalt produces 78 Mw, Lexington produced 145.3 Mw of electricity)

    • Tony4

      Sorry, but the Navy does not believe in history or the lessons it may provide…

    • Duane

      “Unprecedented” is not true as to scale of electrical power output, but true in every other meaningful way.

      The Lex and Saratoga did use electrical propulsion and produced more electrical power but any similarity ends there. Both were much larger ships than the DDG1000s (47,000 ton vs. 14,800 tons), and also need high speeds(33 knots) to launch aircraft, so require much larger propulsion plants.(180,000 shp vs. 105,000 shp) than the Zumwalt class. And none of the electrical power plants in the old CVs were integrated, and of course did not need large amounts of excess power as the Zums have for EM weapons. Of the 78MW electrical power, up to 58MW is available for non-propulsion uses while at normal cruising speeds.

      • Refguy

        So you can go fast OR use your weapons?! And loss of electrical power means you lose propulsion and weapons.

        • Duane

          No – not at all. I just quoted how much electrical power is available outside of propulsion at normal cruise speeds – 58 MW – which is the largest for any warship we have outside of the new Ford class CVN.

          How much power is required for the railgun? Dahlgren says it takes about 25 MW of electrical power for their 155mm railgun to fire a 32MJ fire at 10 shots per minute, the design objective.

          To put this in perspective, the Arleigh Burke destroyers produce only about 9 MW of excess electrical power above what is used to support propulsion.

          • Refguy

            “Normal cruise” isn’t fast; 75MW is 100K HP, about the same as the propulsion system on a Burke. One railgun uses one-third of that, two rail guns use two-thirds of it, running the radars and hotel loads take a but more. As I said, you can go fast (i.e. not economical cruise) or shoot your weapons.

  • owlafaye

    Every new ship is a test bed for various unproven systems. When the Navy starts building ships with proven technology, failures will drop dramatically. I know that they test a lot of these new designs on support ships such as ammo carriers, tankers and mechanized vehicle transports. However, it seems even the designs that fail or prove ineffective, are updated, revised and installed on combat ships once again. It would be prudent to step back to time tested gear once a ship is built and operational.

    • Sam Helm

      The drive system on the Zumwalts is merely an adaptation of the ones installed on the T-AKEs ans ESBs. It has been around for over ten years and is fairly well proven and effective.

      • kapena16

        Really? So why the problems on both hulls of this class?? I would agree with you and actually wish you were right. But if after 10 years of a proven track record, (your words) then the reality that these two ships are STILL struggling with fundamental power issues underscores the fact their design is different enough where system reliability is alll too elusive.

        • Mk-Ultra

          there was 1 problem during seal trails within a entirely new ship class.

          you’re just exaggerating

      • Tyb

        Very little similarity between the DDG 1000 and T-AKE/ESB propulsion systems. The latter are commercial systems which are simple and effective. The DDG 1000 system is adapted from the Royal Navy Type 45 system and is over designed and complex.

  • JohnByron

    Here’s my theory: years ago NavSea was taken over by Santa’s elves and they were given an ever-replenishing supply of alcohol. How else to explain the poor design and engineering of the ZUMWALTs and the LCSs.

    There are two camps in ship design. One, inhabited by engineers headquartered at NavSea, designs elaborately elegant systems that require extraordinarily high skills to operate … but will never fail because their designs are so perfect. The other, the small province of folks like Wayne Meyer and the Directors over time of Strategic Systems Programs (TRIDENT), designs systems that match operational skills required with real-world operators, degrade gracefully, and are easy to fix when they break.

  • leroy

    At least this ship will make a bold statement about U.S. leadership in technology as it sails around the world and visits multiple foreign ports. There is nothing afloat like it, so expect crowds to gather and look no matter what port she steams into. They’ll get the bugs worked out, the ammo cost issue, and when they do, it will be a solid warfighter – though few in number. But like someone already commented, expect tech from this ship to show up in future designs. The Navy is gonna learn a lot.

    The way to growth and learning is through bold experimentation. Ask what Rickover thought about that!

    • kapena16

      Perhaps you are correct. But it is an extremely high price to pay for a fraction of the number of platforms originally intended. Hull #1 has a very long way to go to prove it’s reliability and consistency. Already showing similar problems in hull #2 somewhat deflated your comment about the Navy (and shipyard) learning from prior experience. New hi tech ships not being able to perform as conceived and promised…or only doing so at extremely higher costs and later than planned…is becoming a tired yet routine story. Our sailors deserve a lot better than what politicians and pentagon desk jockeys are promising.

      • leroy

        Yet if we didn’t take the risk represented by iron clad over wood, submersibles over surface craft, aircraft carriers over BBs, nuclear power over conventional – all these high risk/high reward ventures, where would we be?

        • kapena16

          You need to understand the difference between ‘risk’ and ‘R&D’. As others here have articulated, using new technology on more conventional (auxiliary type) hulls to prove concept is ‘R&D’. Placing new technology of “multiple” systems and placing them all on one fabulous platform at tremendous expense, promising to deliver multiple hulls at an acceptable cost, delivered in a reasonable amount of time…and actually work…THAT is risk, pure and simple. US Navy leadership is getting very good at making “risky” decisions and have a great track record of this. But don’t confuse that with having a positive outcome. The Pentagon’s willingness to accept so much risk has cost taxpayers far too much money, resulted in reduced numbers of working conventional warships, and worst of all, delivered death and injury during peacetime to far too many sailors this year alone. That kind of risk to me, is unacceptable. I’m all for R&D and investing wisely in that pathway.

      • Duane

        Actually no, the price of the Zums is NOT that high. People forget that these are very large ships – the largest US destroyers ever built at just under 15,000 tons. You pay by the ship by the ton, and by capability. These ships are not just large, but stealthy (hence more survivable), and have the largest non-propulsion electrical power plants of any US warship save the Ford class CVNs. Meaning that these will be the first ships capable of deploying the first generation of EM weapons (railguns and directed energy). They also feature two large guns (155mm), bigger than on any other surface combatant we have today,

        Plus the Zums have a much lower operating cost, with less than half the crew size of the much smaller Ticos and ABs.

        • kapena16

          Tell us something we don’t already know. Thanks for all this. But one small detail you left out.

          It all has to actually work.

    • NEC338x

      DDG-1000 as a KOG program. Now THAT is funny!

      How about this – the KOG, Red Raborn and twenty seven of the DDG-1000 historical program managers walk into the O-club…..

  • publius_maximus_III

    If such a key component (the harmonic filter) is so critical to an entire ship, why could it not have been built to higher reliability and performance standards? Why no redundancy — say, a backup wired in parallel, in case the same thing happens 1000’s of miles from port?

    • Mk-Ultra

      good thing they have seal trails to see how the ship reacts to breakdowns and they create solutions then

  • kye154

    This is funny. You can read this two ways: “Electrical Problems Shorten Second Zumwalt-class “, or “Second Zumwalt class shorts out”. Either way you look at it, why isn’t the Zumwalt class built without any redundancy? Oh yes!!! Costs savings of an already overpriced ship. But, leave it to the navy to skimp and buy such toys.

    Other than its weird appearance as a cross over from the superstructure from the CSS monitor and a tumblehome hull configuration that resembles the French battleship Jauréguiberry of 1891, how much better is this destroyer anyway? Without its Rolls-Royce turbine generators being capable of delivering 78 megawatts enough to power the electromagnetic weapon and to operate and propel the ship, what good is it?, . They need the electrical system redundancy, otherwise, its just a very expensive, sitting target, when it trips a circuit breaker, or an electrical line burns up.

    And after the breakdown of the Zumwalt in the Panama canal last year, Mike Fredenburg,of the National Reviewed. who analyzed the DDG-1000 program, said this:

    “The Zumwalt is an unmitigated disaster. Clearly it is not a good fit as a front-line warship. With its guns neutered, its role as a primary anti-submarine-warfare asset in question, its anti-air-warfare capabilities inferior to those of our current workhorse, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, and its stealth not nearly as advantageous as advertised, the Zumwalt seems to be a ship without a mission”.

    Talk about giving a famous and perfectly good admiral a bad name! What was the Navy thinking?

    • D. Jones

      Do not mock the Littoral Combat Destroyer.

  • Duane

    Nope – the average for all three including R&D is $4.1B a unit.

    • El Kabong


      Take a math class.

  • JDC

    Anyone know how EMI hardened these platforms are? Would seem to me that if a harmonic filter can shut the ship down, a pulse weapon like those our adversaries are developing could take a Zumwalt out of the fight fairly quickly. I worked EW for the Navy for many years, and I’m not seeing much discussion on how much hardening is going on with these platforms.

  • OldSalt


    • OldSalt


      • OldSalt