Navy’s New $7.8 Billion Destroyer Is Now Running Six Years Late

The first of three new destroyers for the U.S. Navy won’t be delivered with full combat capability until the first quarter of next year, another slip in a $23 billion program that’s now running six years late.

Navys New 7.8 Billion Destroyer Is Now Running Six Years Late 925 001 USS Zumwalt under construction at General Dynamics Bath Iron Works (Picture source: U.S. Navy)

The previously undisclosed delay for the first ship, the $7.8 billion USS Zumwalt, was confirmed by Colleen O’Rourke, a Navy spokeswoman, via email. It was supposed to hit the milestone of having full combat capability last month, which already was more than five years later than originally scheduled and 10 years after construction began.

The Navy has opted for a phased delivery strategy for the destroyers: initial delivery after completion of the hull and mechanical and engineering installation at General Dynamics Corp.’s Bath Iron Works in Maine and testing on the East Coast, followed by combat system activation in California under the supervision of Raytheon Co. and BAE Systems Plc.

The Zumwalt-class destroyer is a class of United States Navy guided-missile destroyers designed as multi-mission stealth ships with a focus on land attack. It is a multi-role class that was designed for secondary roles of surface warfare and anti-aircraft warfare and originally designed with a primary role of naval gunfire support. It was intended to take the place of battleships in meeting a congressional mandate for naval fire support. The ship is designed around its two Advanced Gun Systems, their turrets and magazines, and unique Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) ammunition. LRLAP procurement was cancelled, rendering the guns unusable, so the Navy re-purposed the ships for surface warfare. A National Review article by Mike Fredenburg calls the Zumwalts "an unmitigated disaster". The class design emerged from the DD-21 "land-attack destroyer" program as "DD(X)".

The class has an integrated power system that can send electricity from its turbo-generators to the electric drive motors or weapons, the Total Ship Computing Environment Infrastructure (TSCEI), automated fire-fighting systems, and automated piping rupture isolation. The class is designed to require a smaller crew and to be less expensive to operate than comparable warships.

The lead ship is named Zumwalt for Admiral Elmo Zumwalt and carries the hull number DDG-1000. Originally, 32 ships were planned, with $9.6 billion research and development costs spread across the class. As costs overran estimates, the quantity was reduced to 24, then to 7, and finally to 3, significantly increasing the cost per ship to $4.24 billion (excluding R&D costs) and well exceeding the per-unit cost of a nuclear-powered Virginia-class submarine ($2.688 billion). The dramatic per-unit cost increases eventually triggered a Nunn–McCurdy Amendment breach and cancellation of further production. In April 2016, the total program cost was $22.5 billion, with an average cost of $7.8 billion per ship.