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Cutting edge of naval capability

Cutting edge of naval capability
It is the newest and most transformational warship ever built, and yet it has also had the longest gestation period. Whether you call it new or old, you have to call it different.

The pedigree for DDG 1000 is not from the Spruance or Arleigh Burke class of guided missile destroyers, but rather it comes from the SC-21 (Surface Combatant for the 21st century) concept from 1994.  Like DDG 1000, SC-21 was not about anti-air warfare.  It was all about strike.  SC-21, along with the Maritime Fire Support Demonstrator (MFSD) “arsenal ship” concept, evolved into DD-21 (Destroyer for the 21st century), also known as the 21st century Land Attack Destroyer, and featured two long-range guns and 128 missile tubes.

Unlike the existing DDG-51 guided missile destroyers, DD-21 deemphasized the anti-air and anti-submarine capabilities, although it had some of each.  It was about power projection and expeditionary support.

The large size was to accommodate the power projection features, including a big magazine to provide plenty of fire support to Marines on the beach.  Other concepts being tested were the new hull form, electric drive and minimum manning.  While the ship was bigger, the crew would be smaller.  At some point a crew size of under a 100 (96 not counting the air detachment) was arbitrarily assigned. 

It was a stretch goal, but planners saw that there would be no “bench” to fill in for casualties; too few Sailors to stand watches, conduct preventive maintenance or hold sweepers on what was a huge ship. To support such a dramatic reduction, the ship would require a high degree of automation to support operation and the flexibility to allow the crew to operate from multiple stations.

But in 2001 the DD-21 program was cancelled, although the development work transitioned to DD(X), now known as DDG-1000 or the Zumwalt class.  Throughout this gestation period the ship was envisioned with a tumblehome hull and a stealth design that more closely resembled the Civil War CSS Virginia (the ex-USS Merrimack) or one of the Great White Fleet capital ships that circled the globe in the early 1900s.  Able to fire projectiles long distance with great accuracy, the ship was supposed to give the Marines the firepower they needed for expeditionary assault, and was more a replacement for the battleships than any other class of ship.

Some of the DD(X) technology was leveraged from existing programs.  Tactical Tomahawk offered a programmable strike capability and could be launched from vertical launch system VLS cells common in the fleet. 

The Navy’s version of the Advanced Gun System was based on an Army 6-inch (155 mm) self-propelled gun system called Crusader.  The Army planned to buy 800 vehicles, so the Navy thought it was wise to leverage that development and come up with a naval version.  But when the Army cancelled Crusader in 2002, the Navy was stuck with the full bill.

The United Defense (Now BAE Systems) AGS fired the long-range land attack projectile, a rocket-assisted round with GPS guidance and hoped for ranges of up to 100 miles.

The Navy looked at several different designs based on the number of VLS cells, guns and ammunition capacity.  Eventually they settled on two guns with 600 rounds total, and 80 VLS cells, in a 14,800-ton ship.  The 80 Raytheon MK 57 peripheral vertical launch system (PVLS) cells were installed between a double hull for survivability, and are capable of launching just about every naval missile fired from surface ships.

Most of the truly transformational technology envisioned from the beginning eventually was incorporated in DDG-1000, a ship that is unlike anything else in the fleet.  The ship had a composite deckhouse and helicopter hangar to reduce weight, and the “apertures” were embedded in the superstructure; there are no rotating antennas.  Electric drive on warships isn’t new, but the integrated propulsion system is entirely new for the U.S. Navy, and provided significant flexibility to generate and use power as needed, including a significant reserve for future power-hungry energy weapons like lasers and electromagnetic railguns.

Significant automation and a new “autonomic” firefighting system allowed the ship to operate, fight fires and recover from damage with far fewer Sailors than ships in the fleet today. 

Not so obvious to the observer is the enabling technology, the Raytheon total ship computing environment (TSCE), the key behind the ship’s significant automation and reduced manning,  that connects every aspect of the ships’ operations with a central backbone that also enables modularity, so new or upgraded capability can be easily and seamlessly integrated without added systems or electronics. 

It’s a much larger ship compared to the Aegis destroyer or cruiser, wide at the waterline, a bulbous nose and no bridge wings.  The gun barrels are stowed when not in use to further reduce the ship’s radar cross section.  When underway, there’s no reason for anyone to be out on deck.
The DD(X) program called for 32 ships, then 24, then 12.  Finally, the Navy said that analysis indicated that only seven were needed.  Then Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead called for the program to be truncated with just two ships built, although Congress later reinstated the third ship.

Delivery to the Navy is scheduled for late next year. The formal christening ceremony originally scheduled for Oct. 19, 2013, had to be cancelled due to the government shutdown. It is now slated for spring of 2014. Two more ships of the class are under construction at BIW, Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001) and Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG 1002).

As big as it is, it has the stealth characteristics to make it appear as a small fishing boat on an enemy’s radar scope.  It is a stealthy giant.
“It’s a gigantic ship—14,800 tons—it’s an incredible machine,” said Vice Adm. Tom Copeman, commander of Naval Surface Forces.  “Right now the plan is for them all to be home ported here in San Diego.”

Visiting the ship on Nov. 21, 2013, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Zumwalt-class destroyer “represents the cutting edge of our naval capabilities.”
Because the ship will be assigned to the Pacific Fleet, Hagel said it “represents an important shift … in America’s interests to the Asia-Pacific.”


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