By Geoff Fein

A overlooked point in the debate whether to end the DDG-1000 program is that the ship is the most capable vessel and most successful shipbuilding program the Navy has ever had, according to a top industry official on the contractor team.

Raytheon‘s [RTN] Dan Smith, president of the company’s Integrated Defense Systems division, told Defense Daily that the fast-moving debate over the future of the destroyer force is an "Arleigh Burke" moment for the country.

"About 30 years ago when we were deciding whether to build more Arleigh Burkes or not, all the same things were happening on the Hill. People said it cost too much," Smith said a week before plans surfaced to end the program at two vessels. "Now we have an opportunity to maintain U.S. superiority, which I believe is absolutely necessary for the U.S. from an economic point of view and a social point of view…for the U.S. Navy to be superior."

In February, the Navy awarded General Dynamics‘ [GD] Bath Iron Works and Northrop Grumman [NOC] Ship Systems Pascagoula, Miss., operations, contracts to begin work on DDG-1000 and DDG-1001 (Defense Daily, Feb. 15).

Smith pointed out that while advocates of the ship cite smaller crew size and advanced weapons systems, and opponents note the potential for cost overruns and schedule delays, one metric doesn’t receive much visibility.

"The metric that doesn’t get a lot of attention is the maturity of the 10 EDMs (engineering development models). When you go through an engineering development model, which is the equivalent of a critical item test program, in advanced of going to build ships, you have done yourself a lot of risk reduction," he said. "And there is not a single one of these EDMs that is not at [a] production ready state or near production ready state at this point in time. Some of them have actually been at sea and tested for a couple of years. So the risk is much less than we have ever seen before."

Those risk reduction efforts call into question the high cost estimates for DDG-1000 touted by some analysts, Smith added.

"That’s why some of the numbers that come out of CBO (Congressional Budget Office) and what not, in terms of the $5 billion it is going to cost, to anybody who knows much about this business at all, those numbers really smack for lack of credibility," he said.

Another point in support of DDG-1000 is the ship’s multi-mission capability, Smith noted.

"Even though the big buy line way back when was land attack, land attack, land attack, the ship was designed from the beginning with [surface warfare] capability, AAW (anti-air warfare) capability…obviously land attack capability, and the intention to have full up BMD (ballistic missile defense) capability," he explained.

"There has been some scuttlebutt going around that its AAW capability is limited, which is pretty much not supported by anything I can think of," Smith said. "The radar suite is the best radar suite the Navy has ever had. The missile systems…we’ve got SM-2 (Standard Missile-2), ESSMs (evolved Sea Sparrow Missile) and so forth. To convert to a BMD ship is a matter of popping one of the guns off, which it was designed to do."

Because the guns are modularly installed, they can be removed and replaced with missiles to give DDG-1000 BMD capability, Smith added. "I think it cost you 750,000 lines of code, something like that, which you can pop out of the Aegis BMD program fairly easy and pour it in."

Lockheed Martin [LMT] makes the Aegis combat system.

DDG-1000 is being developed using Raytheon’s computer operating system, known as the Total Ship Computing Environment Infrastructure (TSCEI). The system runs on the company’s Total Ship Computing Environment (TSCE).

There have been some questions about the impact on development of TSCE and TSCEI should the DDG-1000 program halt at two ships.

At the time, Smith was optimistic the plans for DDG-1000 would hold.

"It is documented fairly well [that] the plan of record for the Navy is a family of ships concept with Zumwalt at the center of [that] family of ships," he said.

Additionally, there are 10 EDMs in Zumwalt‘s architecture, for example, the Dual Band Radar (SPY-3). Those EDMs were built, tested and planned, Smith explained, for forward fit and backfit on other ships.

For example, Raytheon is already under contract to put the SPY-3 array radar, and the DBR in total, on the USS Gerald Ford (CVN-78), the Navy’s next-generation aircraft carrier.

"The question becomes, if somehow out of all of this morass they said turn the key and produce more exact DDG-51s, how much of the technology would they put into it? That’s anybody’s guess," he said. "But the plan of record, and it is difficult to change a plan of record, is for a family of ships…seven Zumwalts, and the transition to CG(X).

"I am absolutely of the mind that at the end of the day, and all of this debate, which is healthy, we’ll make the right decisions as a nation and we will continue on with this program, because we are almost there," Smith said.