A year after the Navy said it had no plans yet to replace the rounds for the DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class destroyer main guns, an official repeated it was still looking at replacement options at the annual Surface Navy Association symposium.

DDG-1000 program manager Capt. Kevin Smith said on Jan. 16 the Navy is still looking at options like the hypervelocity projectile to use on the ship’s BAE Systems-made 155mm Advanced Gun System (AGS).

The USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) at the start of its journey from Bath, Maine to its homeport of San Diego, Calif. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

“Right now there’s a lot of testing going on with the Mark 45 5-inch tube hypervelocity projectile – that is one thing that has been considered with respect to capability for the ship to fire,” Smith said.

The hyper velocity projectile, also built by BAE, is being tested with the Navy’s standard 5-inch gun.

Smith did not name other specific rounds the service is looking at but said the Navy is “looking at a longer-range bullet that’s affordable, and so that’s one thing that’s being considered.”

“There are a lot of things that we’re looking at like deeper magazines with other types of weapons that have longer range,” he continued.

Last year at this symposium Capt. James Kirk, working in the Pentagon’s resource sponsor shop, said the Navy was looking at future technologies like the hyper velocity projectile to put into the AGS (Defense Daily, Jan. 11, 2018).

The DDG-1000 ships were originally planned to use the 155mm Long Range Land Attack Projectile in the AGS to support shore-based Marines at a range of up to 80 nautical miles. However, the Navy canceled the munition in 2016 and started looking for other options because it was too expensive per round when the ship class was reduced from 28 to three (Defense Daily, Nov. 9, 2016).

Vice Adm. William Merz, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for warfare systems, told a Senate panel twice last year that part of the problem was the projectile was not reaching the range requirements, so the Navy separated the gun from the overall DDG-1000 ship effort.

Not only was the LRLAP too expensive, but “they were not meeting the range. So even at the high cost we still weren’t really getting what we had asked for,” Merz told the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on seapower (Defense Daily, April 20, 2018).

In November, Merz elaborated to the subcommittee that “it’s a science and technology challenge. It’s not an engineering problem. We just cannot get the thing to fly as far as we want.” (Defense Daily, Nov. 28, 2018).

Just as Merz told the subcommittee, Smith emphasized despite the AGS ammunition issue, the inherent capabilities in the Zumwalt-class like the low signature radar; space, weight, and power to spare; and 80 large Vertical Launching Systems cells will help facilitate its use as a strike platform.

“The surface Navy is really excited” about the program, Smith said.

The future Zumwalt-class destroyer USS Michael Monsoor (DDG-1001). (Photo: U.S. Navy)

“So right now there’s nothing being pursued per se except for testing, and still watching industry,” he added.

In late 2017 the Navy said it was shifting the Zumwalt mission to offensive surface strike, including both the land and sea (Defense Daily, Dec. 4, 2017).

The Navy plans to commission the second Zumwalt-class destroyer, the future USS Michael Mansoor (DDG-1001), on Jan. 26 at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, Calif. It will be homeported at Naval Base San Diego.

The DDG-1000 ships are built by General Dynamics [GD] Bath Iron Works.

Officials also confirmed they had to replace an MT30 turbine engine because of damage due to some “foreign contaminant” following sea trials in 2018. While the ship performed flawlessly during trials, during post-trial inspection some damages were discovered. The cause of the contamination is inconclusive, although officials said it may have occurred during the production process.

For now the engine is being fixed by maker Rolls Royce to be saved for future use as a spare. The damaged turbine was replaced by another one “off the shelf.”  Officials confirmed engine repair will not cost anything near the cost of a new one, $20 million.

Relatedly, Smith said the Navy expects to reach IOC on the first destroyer, DDG-1000, by December 2020.