With the first of the Zumwalt-class destroyers poised for a key step in its construction later this year, one of the prime contractors is confident the DDG-1000’s appeal to the Navy will only grow stronger.

“Once it gets out there, we really think they will become a believer,” said Bill Marcley, Raytheon’s program manager for DDG-1000. Raytheon [RTN] is one of four major contractors for the vessels, along with General Dynamics [GD] Bath Iron Works, Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII], and BAE Systems.

The DDG-1000 is scheduled for delivery to the fleet in 2014, with the DDG-1001 to follow in 2015 and the third ship in the class scheduled for arrival in 2018.

The Navy is only building three ships in the class, and there was uncertainty as to whether the service would follow through on the final two until Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) awarded a $1.8 billion contract to Bath Iron Works in September. Rather than procuring larger numbers of the ship, the Navy instead opted to take a less risky approach and restart production of the legacy Arleigh Burke-class DDG-51s, which make up the service’s fleet of Aegis equipped destroyers.

The DDG-1000 is meeting its delivery timeframe, Marcley said. The Zumwalt class is being built with modular sections, and construction to begin pulling them together is set to begin later this summer, he said.

“The (DDG)-1001 is right behind it,” Marcley said on the sidelines of the Surface Navy Association symposium in Arlington, Va.

The Zumwalt destoyers are designed to be highly automated to reduce crew size, and are largely intended for land attack.

Raytheon is the prime contractor for mission systems, while Bath Iron Works constructs the hull. HII is building the deckhouse and hanger, and BAE is responsible for the Advanced Gun System.