BATH, Maine–The Navy’s new Zumwalt-class (DDG-1000) destroyer rests docked at the Bath Iron Works shipyard here in southern Maine, with its size–the largest destroyer ever built– readily apparent along with its slick, stealthy and sharp angular design.
Also imposing are the two massive guns on the ship’s deck, a new advanced system designed to strike targets more than 60 miles away as part of the Navy’s planned land-attack mission.
The interior of the ship is a different scene. There, construction, electrical and other crews are scurrying around, working to install equipment, run wires and carry out inspections ahead of the first round of sea trials set for next spring and eventual delivery to the Navy.
Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), which is overseeing the construction of the three Zumwalt-class destroyers being built at the General Dynamics [GD]-owned shipyard, said that the ship is more than 90 percent complete.
It is taking delivery in two phases, one involving the destroyer’s hull and mechanical and electrical systems, and a second phase for the combat and mission systems equipment installation. NAVSEA said it is still evaluating the exact timeframe.
“This plan is currently under review to determine the most cost-effective means of executing the remaining work scope,” NAVSEA spokesman Matthew Leonard said. “The schedule review will continue into early FY15 and the delivery strategy will be updated accordingly.”
The Navy has four prime contractors working on the multi-billion dollar program. General Dynamics Bath Iron Works is building the hull, while Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII] is producing the composite deckhouses for the first two ships. Raytheon [RTN] is the integrator for the vessel’s systems and BAE Systems is supplying the powerful Advanced Gun System.
The second ship in the class, the future USS Michael Monsoor (DDG-1001), is 79 percent complete with the Navy expected to begin taking delivery in 2016, and the third ship, the future USS Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002), is nine percent complete and slated to arrive in 2018.
The Navy elected to shift to a steel deckhouse for the third ship after encountering cost increases with the composite version and was unable to agree with Huntington Ingalls on a cost for the third ship. The Navy then selected Bath Iron Works to build the steel deckhouse for the Johnson.
The critical design review for the steel deckhouse was completed in April and the production readiness review for it was planned for last month, Leonard said.
The DDG-1000 was borne out of the Navy’s DD-21 program, which was canceled 13 years ago and became the DD(X) program largely to preserve many of the technologies planned for the DD-21 that are now being incorporated onto the Zumwalts, including more automation to reduce manpower and, perhaps its most notable feature, electric drive. Electric drive effectively centralizes all of the ship’s power, allowing operators to redistribute it to meet needs around the ship as needed, including to and from the engines.
The Navy originally planned to buy 10 DDG-1000s, but slashed that number in 2010 to three because of cost considerations.
The Navy is increasingly seeing automation as a way to reduce manpower and thereby operational costs, and has taken a similar approach to the smaller Littoral Combat Ships. The original planning for the DDG-1000s was for a baseline crew of about 130, about half the number required for the Navy current fleet of Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) guided missile destroyers.
Capt. James Kirk, who has been tapped to become the Zumwalt’s first commanding officer, said in an interview at Bath Iron Works in August that he is continuously evaluating the manning situation based on usability analysis and other modeling, and so far he believes the 130-baseline crew will need to grow by about 17 more sailors.
As the Navy learns more about the ship, it will continue to adjust its manning plan, he said.
“There are thoughts and plans in place to move us toward a little bit higher number,” Kirk said.
Kirk’s focus, while not on the construction side, is to learn as much as he can about the ship and how it will operate as he leads the effort to transition it into the fleet. He said it is “naïve” to think everything will go as initially envisioned, just like any new class of ships.
“There are a million things to do under the first mission of readying ourselves and ultimately the ship for combat operations, and we’re just trying to take that elephant one bite at a time,” he said.