The Navy still does not have any planned replacement rounds for the three-ship DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class destroyer main guns, officials said at the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium this week.
Capt. James Kirk, working in the Pentagon’s resource sponsor shop, confirmed the Navy is still looking at future technologies to put into the gun ammunition. Kirk spoke after Capt. Kevin Smith, Major program manager for the DDG-1000 Program Office, provided updates on all three ships.
Previously Kirk served as the pre-commisioning commanding officer of the first hull, USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000).
The Navy canceled the gun’s planned 155mm Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) in 2016 because reducing the class to three ships made developing a new precision-firing projectile uneconomical (Defense Daily, Nov. 8, 2017).
The ships have a new Advanced Gun System (AGS) to fire long range projectiles.
Last month Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall, director of Surface Warfare, said the Navy is working on requirements to focus the Zumwalt-class on offensive surface strike missions. It was originally planned to support littoral waters missions and support shore-based Marines (Defense Daily, Dec. 4).
Kirk said that on projectile gun technology “that’s something that we’re always watching industry to see what would come up as the best opportunity.”
For now, the Navy is focusing on changing the ship requirements and the best technology to meet the final requirements, he said.
Kirk specifically mentioned the hypervelocity projectile as an example of new projectiles the Navy is watching for later evaluation of projectile options. However, any final decision will be based on the right cost to capability ratio.
“There is not a plan right now for a specific material solution for the replacement round,” Kirk said.
He added that the Zumwalt’s new long range surface strike mission will cover both land and sea-based targets.
Boxall, after speaking on a panel focused on investing in the future, told reporters that the Navy is still establishing the new requirements for the Zumwalt-class and “if we’re going to put a capability on there we want to make sure it’s something the warfighter can use that gives the taxpayer the benefit for the amount of money that it will cost and we can ensure that it doesn’t displace something else in our portfolio because it’s expensive.”
Until the Navy sees the right balance of factors, it will continue to evaluate the AGS guns and any munition that would go in them “based on what we see in the potential options versus what it would cost,” he added.
Boxall reiterated Kirk’s point, saying it might range from using five-inch guns or “we’re excited about the potential for hypervelocity projectile, whether it fits into that gun or not we don’t know.”
“But we’re looking for those options and that’s one of the things that we’re talking to people here about.”
Separately, during the briefing, Smith noted DDG-1000 is currently in its post-delivery availability while the Navy is installing combat systems equipment, as planned. It has a planned initial operational capability in fiscal year (FY) 2020.
Smith said the Navy expects the first missile firings from any DDG-1000 to occur in 2019 from the Zumwalt.
Smith said the future USS Michael Monsoor (DDG-10001) is about 98 percent complete as of the start of last month and it began builder’s trials in December. Follow-up builders trials are scheduled for the middle of this month, followed by acceptance trials. After those steps, DDG-1001 is scheduled to have its Hull, Mechanical, and Electric (HM&E) delivery this upcoming March.
The future USS Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002) is 72 percent complete as of the start of last month and is planned to have a float-off and christening next November. Trials are then planned for next December and delivery is scheduled for March 2020.
Smith noted DDG-1002 differs from the other two ships with its steel rather than composite deckhouse, but that otherwise it will have the same operational capability.
“We’re riding the 85 percent learning curve” on the Johnson after learning lessons in the first two hulls, he said.