The Zumwalt destroyer program will continue to mature even after the lead ship’s final delivery this fall, as the combat system undergoes testing on a surrogate ship and eventually aboard USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) in 2019 and 2020, according to the Navy.
The Navy has loaded the Raytheon-designed combat system onto the ex-Paul F. Foster (DD-964), now used as the Self-Defense Test Ship. On April 26, after the test ship conducted a few tracking exercises, Paul F. Foster fired the first Evolved SeaSparrow Missile from the Zumwalt combat system, proving the DDG’s combat system can see incoming threats and use ESSM to protect the ship against threats such as cruise missiles, helicopters and surface threats. The combat system had previously only been tested from a ground facility at Wallops Island, Va., DDG-1000 Program Manager Capt. Kevin Smith said earlier this month at the Navy League’s annual Sea Air Space conference.
“It’s been a long road as far as getting through the combat integration at Wallops Island,” he said.
“We learned a lot: we did six tracking exercises there, and now we’re on the Self Defense Test Ship and we’re going through all our unmanned firing testing. And then the plan is, we have an SM-2 (Standard Missile) risk-reduction firing (on Paul F. Foster); when we get that done, we’re going to move over to the lead ship and fire our first SM-2 off the lead ship probably in the ’20 timeframe.”
The Zumwalt-class destroyers, unlike their Arleigh Burke-class counterparts, have a two-part delivery. Builder General Dynamics Bath Iron Works makes a hull/mechanical/electrical (HM&E) delivery from its Maine yard, and then the ship sails around to San Diego for its combat system installation and activation at the BAE Systems yard there. Lead ship Zumwalt finished its combat system installation and has been conducting its combat system test – as well as post-delivery test and trials being conducted concurrently – during recent at-sea periods in California, Alaska and Hawaii.
Smith said he expects Zumwalt’s final delivery – after it completes those two test tracks – in September, though work will still remain to bring the SM-2 live-fire capability to the ship next year.
Ahead of final delivery of DDG-1000, Smith said early work at Wallops Island and on Paul F. Foster reduced risk in some warfare areas. But “under water, for the sonar system, we didn’t have a lot of land-based test sites to go … test a lot of the systems. So we’re doing it on the ship for the first time,” he said, which presents a little more risk than in areas where kinks could be worked out on land before using systems at sea on the ship.
Smith said that, as lessons are learned through all these test events on land, on the test ship and on the lead ship of the class, modifications in the gear and how to best operate it are being fed to the Zumwalt Training Facility in San Diego, the schoolhouse for the class. Sailors there will learn the most up-to-date best practices for operating the nascent ship class.
The schoolhouse will also be informed by work coming out of the new Surface Development Squadron-1, which will not only oversee the man/train/equip mission for the three-ship Zumwalt class but will also conduct experimentation with the Zumwalt destroyers and with unmanned surface vessels as they deliver to the fleet.
The second ship in the class, USS Michael Monsoor (DDG-1001), was commissioned in January and is in its combat system installation period. Smith said he expected the second installation to take much less time than the first and said Monsoor should be out of the BAE yard and beginning its testing by the end of the year.
The third ship, the future Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002), was christened at Bath Iron Works last month and is about 85-percent complete, ahead of a planned 2020 HM&E delivery.