By Geoff Fein
CHARLESTON, S.C.–Even though the Navy truncated its planned acquisition of the DDG-1000 multi-mission combat ships from seven down to two, with the potential remaining for a third ship, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) said he sees the combatants eventually being deployed.
"There is no question we will employ…deploy [DDG-1000]. I see them in deployment," CNO Adm. Gary Roughead told reporters Saturday. "I would use them in a carrier strike group or expeditionary strike group…in cooperation with other ships."
He added it is important to see what the ships will add to the Navy.
Roughead traveled to Charleston, S.C., for the commissioning of the USS Truxtun (DDG-103).
Last year, the Navy opted to trim the procurement of Zumwalt-class ships and extend the build on the Arleigh Burke (DDG-51)-class. At the time the Navy said a new threat analysis determined that DDG-1000 was not the right ship for the fleet.
DDG-1000, along with the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and a next generation cruiser, CG(X), were to represent a new class of ships, moving the Navy toward smaller crew sizes, modular capabilities, and a fleet capable of taking on everything from littoral warfare to ballistic missile defense (BMD).
But in recent years the effort has faced numerous issues. Besides the decision to truncate DDG-1000, Navy officials had lengthy discussions on the CG(X)’s analysis of alternatives, only to delay acquisition of the first ship to the 2015-2017 time frame. There has even been discussion on cutting the number of CG(X) planned from a high of 19 down to single digits. The LCS program is behind in its acquisition plan–only one ship delivered, another nearing delivery and a third just under contract. The Navy still intends to buy 55 of the ships, although no determination has been made on which hull form the service will choose.
General Dynamics [GD] is leading an effort to build an aluminum hull trimaran–the Independence (LCS-2). Lockheed Martin [LMT] is building a semi-plaining monohull. The company delivered the USS Freedom (LCS-1) to the Navy in November and was awarded a contract for the Fort Worth (LCS-3) in March.
Roughead told reporters that he doesn’t want to build ships just to build ships.
"We need to build what I believe we need," he said. "That was behind the decision to truncate DDG-1000."
Roughead recently toured Austal USA‘s Mobile, Ala., shipyard where not only LCS-2 is being built, but where the Joint High Speed Vessel will also be constructed. During his visit, the CNO took a walking tour of LCS-2.
"LCS-2 is in the high 80s of completion. I am pleased with what I’m seeing there," he said. "I liked what I saw on the walk about."
Roughead said the budget proposed by Defense Secretary Gates is an endorsement of LCS. Gates proposed moving ahead with the plan for 55 ships, including three in FY ’10.
And Roughead said he is pleased with the agreement to restart the DDG-51 class.
Earlier this month, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman [NOC], the two companies awarded contracts for DDG-1000 and the companies building the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, reached an agreement to build all the Zumwalt class ships (whether two or three) at General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works, and two new- build DDG-51s to Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding.
As for the fate of CG(X), Roughead said Navy officials have to have a good definition of what the BMD architecture will be. "From that, [we’ll] determine how much radar you need."
Because of what DDG-51 brings the Navy in terms of integrated air and missile defense, Roughead said the service has the luxury to take its time on CG(X).
"We are maintaining our edge on integrated air and missile defense," he added.
Roughead said he wanted to avoid "charging off and designing a ship without the full appreciation of the architecture."
The architecture drives the radar capacity which in turn drives the power needs. Roughead said that brings up the question of energy needs for CG(X).
In regard to the congressional requirement to make CG(X) a nuclear-powered ship, Roughead noted that was first brought up when the price of fuel was climbing.
He added that making CG(X) a nuclear-powered ship will require the Navy to look closely at the cost of construction, of maintenance and manpower.
On the flip side, Roughead acknowledged that relying on fossil fuels for a ship such as CG(X) does raise issues.
For example, he noted the operational cost of relying on fossil fuels along with the amount of fuel required to generate the "significant amount of power" needed to run the ship’s larger and more advanced radars.
"Will I be able every two days or three to make sure I have an oiler where that ship is," Roughead said. "We have to define that whole space."
As for moving CG(X) acquisition further to the right, Roughead said the Navy needs to examine what it needs from that ship.
"Maybe I am overly conservative, but if we are going to be spending a lot of money, we better know what we are buying," he said.
Roughead added that DDG-1000 will be a huge influence on CG(X).
"That’s why I was more interested in truncating than terminating, so we can get a couple of ships out and see what they do…see if the technologies we put on [DDG-1000] are going to pay off for us," he added.
For example, Roughead is very interested in the ship’s tumblehome hull design.
"It’s a radical departure…no other designer is using that," he said. "If it’s a breakthrough technology can we scale up or scale down?"
And given the advances the Navy has made in the integrated air and missile defense capabilities of DDG-51, Roughead said he had no problem delaying CG(X). "I am very comfortable taking this pause."
"The Truxton is a far cry from the Arleigh Burke," he added.