ARLINGTON, Va. — A year after the Navy decided to abandon the Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) for the Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer, there is no plan in place for a replacement round for the Advanced Gun System (AGS) the ships are built around, service officials said on Wednesday.
Instead, officials at Naval Sea Systems Command and the Chief of Naval Operations staff will monitor new technologies that could be incorporated into the BAE Systems-built 155mm AGS.
“There is not a plan now for a material specific solution for the replacement round. We continue to monitor industry’s development and technical maturation,” former USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) commander Capt. James Kirk, who now works at the Navy’s surface warfare directorate, said at the annual Surface Navy Association symposium.
“An example of that is the hypervelocity projectile. We’re monitoring that technical maturation to see if we get the ranges and the capabilities that’s the right bang for the buck.”
The Navy canceled a planned buy of the 2,000 rocket-assisted Lockheed Martin LRLAP rounds that were custom-designed for the AGS system that was set to be the heart of the Zumwalt class. However, the cost of each round rose to about $1 million and proved too costly for the service. In 2016 the Navy was moving toward modifying the Raytheon Excalibur guided 155mm artillery round to fill the space of the LRLAP, but the service has since scrapped those plans.
On a visit to the ship in 2016, program officials told USNI News the unique low-twist nature of the AGS barrel would make the modification of the system accommodate a new round a difficult proposition.
With no new round on the horizon and the fielding of a hypervelocity projectile possibly a decade away, the focus of the ship will now be on long-range surface and land strike missions, Kirk said on Wednesday.
Last month, director of surface warfare Rear Adm. Ron Boxall told USNI News the Navy had decided to reinvent the destroyer from a platform that would support troops ashore with AGS to a long-range anti-surface warfare platform.
“We’re always watching industry to see what will come up as the best opportunity, but the big thing now is the requirement that the Navy has – as you can understand, the threats always changing,” DDG-1000 program manager Capt. Kevin Smith said at the SNA event.
“This is a multi-mission ship, and so there’s a lot of things this ship can do.”
In addition to the AGS, each ship in the class fields 80 Mk 54 vertical launch system cells that are capable of fielding the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile, Standard Missile-2 and the anti-air Evolved SeaSparrow Missile (ESSM), Kirk and Smith said. The pair would not confirm if the ship would eventually field the SM-6 but said there would be additional clarity on the changes in the class as part of the Fiscal Year 2019 budget submission expected in February.
Currently, Zumwalt is in the midst of a combat systems activation period after transiting from shipbuilder Bath Iron Works to Naval Station San Diego, Calif.
“What I can tell you is, while it’s not going as rapidly as we wanted, we thought it was going to go, being the first-in-a-class ship, first-in-a-class combat system, there’s a lot of things we’re working on,” outgoing commander of U.S. Surface Forces Vice Adm. Tom Rowden said on Tuesday at SNA.
“I am very very pleased with the performance of the crew, the performance of the commanding officer, and the great work that’s being done on the ship every single day. We’ve got to get DDG-1000 ready, and we’re taking our time to do that, and we’re focused on making sure that when we get her out and start executing the combat system activation portion we’ll do that very well.”
It’s unclear if the changes proposed to the class will delay the planned first deployment of Zumwalt, currently slated for 2021.
The second ship, Michael Monsoor (DDG-1001), is near completion and set to be delivered this year to the Navy before traveling to San Diego. The third ship, Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002), is set to deliver to 2020. Combined, the Navy has spent about $23 billion on research, development and acquisition of the three-ship class.