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US Navy’s $7.8 billion destroyer delayed again after 10+ years in production

USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) conducted at-sea tests and trials Dec. 7, 2015. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of General Dynamics Bath Iron Works/Released)
October 09, 2019

A $23 billion U.S. Navy program to deliver three new destroyers has hit another in an six-year series of delays as the first ship reportedly won’t be ready to hit the fleet until the start of 2020.

Navy spokeswoman Colleen O’Rourke confirmed the latest delay on the nearly $7.8 billion USS Zumwalt, Bloomberg reported Wednesday. The USS Zumwalt, as the first of three planned destroyers, began production over 10 years ago and has already missed its originally delivery date by more than five years.

The latest news comes as the USS Zumwalt recently overshot a project milestone to have its full combat capabilities in place by last month.

“While combat system testing has made significant progress, Zumwalt continues to work through first-in-class
integration and shipboard test challenges,” O’Rourke said in her statement to Bloomberg.

The Navy initially planned to have 32 other, stealthy multimission vessels like the USS Zumwalt, each to fulfill the primary mission of lending artillery support across up to 62 miles for U.S. troops deployed on shore. The Navy expected to also buy up to 20,000 “Long-Range Land Attack Projectiles” for the new fleet of destroyers, all able to fire from twin 155mm “Advanced Gun Systems” developed by BAE Systems.

When the program began, the Navy said the destroyer would be the “largest and most technologically advanced surface combatant in the world.”

Eventually the program was reduced to just three vessels and only 2,400 projectiles – each priced at up to $566,000 according to the Naval Systems Command. The change in delivery and price estimates led the Navy to decide in 2017 to alter the destroyer’s mission from shoreline fire support to using longer-range missiles in a ship-to-ship combat.

The revised cost projection for the three destroyers is roughly $13.2 billion with an additional $10 billion in research and development costs, to total $23.2 billion for all three vessels, or about $7.8 billion per vessel.

After General Dynamics completed its phase of development on the USS Zumwalt in May of 2016, Raytheon and BAE Systems reportedly began the work of integrating the combat systems and the “total computing system environment” required to operate the vessel.

“From what we understand, these latest delays continue to stem from the same, numerous difficult issues the Navy has faced on DDG 1000 for some time that are a result of concurrently attempting to prove out and build a very
complex ship,” Shelby Oakley, an acquisition director at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) told Bloomberg.

As of April of this year, the GAO determined that efforts were still underway to resolve 320 “serious deficiencies” identified on the USS Zumwalt when it was first turned over in 2016.

The destroyer is currently undergoing a series of combat tests before its final delivery and has reportedly completed prior sea-trials for at-sea refueling, calm-weather maneuverability and navigations certifications.

Recently, the Navy accelerated its timeline for building up a 355-ship fleet, from the 290 ships currently in its fleet today. The Navy projections moved up its prior delivery goal by roughly 20 years, but latest delays on the USS Zumwalt appear to cast doubt on their ability to on that expectation.