02:01 GMT +325 May 2018
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    The future USS Zumwalt Navy destroyer

    US Navy Builds Third Stealth Zumwalt Destroyer Despite Embarrassing Breakdowns

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    As the US Navy stealth destroyer DDG-1000 nears completion, the vessel still has months of trials before it can be determined if it will be able to overcome problems with its weapons development, testing and concurrency.

    Breaking Defense quoted a Hill staffer saying "There’s definitely a lot of concurrency," the staffer said. "It’ll be two more years before combat systems delivery occurs, and then the ship can begin IOT&E (Initial Operational Test & Evaluation) and starting the training cycle to deploy." 

    The first Zumwalt-class ship, the USS Zumwalt, has been plagued with engineering problems, experiencing at least two engine breakdowns during a trip from Maine to San Diego, with the most recent incident occurring in November 2016 when the $4-billion craft was towed out of the Panama Canal.

    The new Zumwalt’s sophisticated but untested weapons systems are a considerable variable. This includes the AN/SPY-3 radar, an "integrated fight-through power" (IFTP) system that distributes the massive amounts of electrical power to high-priority components, and two 155 mm Advanced Gun System (AGS) cannons, capable of firing rocket-propelled shells.

    Retired Navy Commander Bryan Clark, of the Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments, remarked, "The combat system testing is a significant concern, since so much of it is new…The Mk57 VLS launcher, AGS, SPY-3, and volume search radar are all unique to DDG-1000. While each system has been tested individually to some degree, the integration testing of all these new systems is likely to identify unforeseen problems, and subsequent delays in the ship’s first deployment." 

    He explained that even though systems are operational there still must be an on-shore support infrastructure, requiring special training for crew members, "because of all the DDG-1000’s unique systems, including a different electrical system, generators, propulsion system, combat systems, and hull equipment."

    The cost of ammunition is an ongoing problem as well, as the individual 225-pound seven-foot projectiles cost around $800,000 per shell, prompting the Navy to consider the Excalibur round, which costs about ten percent less than the Long-Range Land-Attack Projectile (LRLAP), but only has about 25 percent of its range.

    Some feel that this compromise defeats the purpose of the Zumwalt, particularly when forces like Hezbollah, China, and Russia tout an anti-ship cruise-missile capability.

    Congress has reformed at least one aspect of the DDG’s shipbuilding by placing language in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act stating that the service can only deliver the ship when it has "all systems contained" and is ready for rollout.


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