The Navy is working to change the requirements of the often troubled Zumwalt DDG-1000 destroyers to focus the ship on offensive surface strike missions, a service official said.

The Navy is convening a team similar to one used to help create the guided-missile future frigate FFG(X) to also alter the direction of the Zumwalt-class destroyers, Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall, director of Surface Warfare, said here at the 2017 Combat Systems Symposium organized by the American Society of Naval Engineers (ASNE).

The U.S. Navy's new DDG-1000 destroyer visits Baltimore for its commissioning ceremony. (Photo by Marc Selinger/Defense Daily)
The U.S. Navy’s new DDG-1000 destroyer visits Baltimore for its commissioning ceremony. (Photo by Marc Selinger/Defense Daily)

The Navy was originally going to buy 32 Zumwalt-class destroyers but cut it down to three because of cost overruns. It is built by General Dynamics [GD] Bath Iron Works.

When working out new frigate requirements, the Navy looked to see what capabilities they could take from its predecessor, the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) to help make it ready to be on contract by fiscal year (FY) 2020. He said that process involved meetings involving officials in the Navy’s requirements, acquisition, and fleet teams.

Personnel “learned why they were stupid” from the perspective of the other components, he said. Each component thought the other made serious mistakes, but also learned what those teams thought of them.

Boxall said the fleet personnel would say what the warfighters need to accomplish a certain mission, the acquisition teams would draw up what they asked for and more, “then the price goes through the roof.”

He said to resolve the high price versus requirements problems there has to be a voice of “hey, I want that but it’s really expensive. And you say, well, here’s where we can get ‘tastes great and less filling’” to balance priorities and price.

Boxall said he was very pleased with the decisions the Navy made going into the FFG(X) requirements and now they decided to try it again with the Zumwalt-class. While highlighting the new destroyer has some of the most advanced capabilities of any ship the U.S. has ever produced, he also acknowledged the Navy team is looking at some of the cost and problems it is known for.

“I mean it’s no surprise, we have some very expensive bills outstanding with the LRLAP (Long Range Land Attack Projectile) for example. We terminated the LRLAP, last program,” Boxall said.

The LRLAP was a 155mm projectile being developed for the DDG-1000 to support shore-based Marines. It was planned be fired from the destroyer’s Advanced Gun System and was designed for precision firing using GPS.

The Navy started to look into a replacement last year because the drastic reduction in DDG-1000 orders caused the cost per-projectile to soar (Defense Daily, Nov. 8).

The service is looking at where to go with the destroyer’s gun, how to take advantage of what the ship is good at, and will come up with a new set of requirements.

“Obviously a lot of those are classified. But the good news is that we’re going to look at focusing that ship more on offensive surface strike.”

Boxall noted the DDG-1000 was previously designed to do some of that mission, but the world has changed a lot since the original requirement written in 1995. “And so we’re modifying the missions and where we are with it…you’ll hear more about this as we go forward.”

He said the takeaway on the Zumwalt-class is the Navy sees an opportunity with it and its ability to carry certain types of weapons. Its radar signature control, “we think, is a very good platform to be used for as a surface strike platform.”

The Navy released the final conceptual design request for proposals (RFP) of the new Guided-Missile Frigate (FFG(X)) program in early November (Defense Daily, Nov. 8).

The Navy aims for the frigate to be able to “robustly defend itself” during conduct in independent operations while also contributing to the fleet tactical grid. The LCS has often been criticized for its inability to adequately defend itself.