First Zumwalt class destroyer launched


The first Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer DDG 1000 was floated out of dry dock at the General Dynamics Bath Iron Works shipyard on October 29.

The ship, the first of three Zumwalt-class destroyers, will provide independent forward presence and deterrence, support special operations forces and operate as part of joint and combined expeditionary forces.

The lead ship and class are named in honor of former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo R. “Bud” Zumwalt Jr., who served as chief of naval operations from 1970-1974.

The “bundle” of technologies embodied in the DDG-1000 destroyer – as well as those innovative technologies that will easily find a “home” in this ship – represent many of the most cutting edge and transformational technologies adapted for military use:
the integrated power system (IPS); integrated electric drive;
a stealthy tumblehome hull and integrated topside (InTop)[i] design;
155-mm Advanced Gun System (AGS);
the Mark 57 Peripheral Vertical Launching System (PVLS);
the S-band Volume Search Radar (VSR) and the X-band AN/SPY-3 Multi-Function Radar (MFR);
and a host of other advances related to network-centric warfare, stealth, and survivability.

In brief, the DDG-1000 destroyer represents one of the most ambitious technology leaps that the U.S. Navy has undertaken since steam-driven, iron-hulled ships replaced wood-hull sailing ships.

But as cutting-edge as the technologies currently embodied in the DDG-1000 destroyer are, it is the potential to host game-changing technologies in this ship as the Navy evaluates these and other technologies for the Navy-After-Next that makes the DDG-1000 arguably one of the most exciting naval vessels ever fielded.

For example, the Office of Naval Research recognized, “Among the possibilities inherent in all-electric ships are the new weapons that become feasible when virtually unlimited electric power is available on board.” The advanced DDG-1000 propulsion plant can enable such weapons to be used without significantly drawing down the ship’s electronic surveillance and weapons control systems, or speed, a critical factor because of the high electrical demands of these cutting-edge, weapons.

These weapons are generally classified under the general heading of Directed-Energy Weapons (DEW) and include high-energy lasers, radio frequency weapons (high-power microwaves or ultra-wideband weapons), and electromagnetic rail guns. Far from futuristic weapons that may-or-may-not-be feasible, the Office of Naval Research is already developing and working to scale up the power of free-electron lasers, chemical lasers and their associated beam directors, radio-frequency weapons, and full-scale electromagnetic rail guns capable of launching precision-guided hypersonic projectiles at supersonic speeds. Indeed, independent assessments outside government have concluded that solid-state lasers (SSL) “are capable of making unique and important contributions to U.S. military effectiveness.”

The DDG-1000 can perform ideal host platform for the technologies that will accelerate the Navy’s revolutionary leap to the Navy-after-Next. As the DDG-1000 destroyer technologies continue to be tested and mature, the DDG-1000 will serve as a credible platform to evolve these technologies for the Navy’s entire family of new surface combatants.

It is the prospect afforded by directed-energy weapons that promise to revolutionize naval warfare and will represent for the Navy and Marine Corps a dramatic paradigm shift on how the two services – as well as the Joint Force – will conduct operations on and from the sea in the 21st Century. As the only feasible host platform for directed-energy weapons for at least the next decade, the DDG-1000 destroyer is the ship that will move these technologies out of the laboratory and ground test sites and to sea where they offer the potential to revolutionize warfare at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels.

Hosting these directed-energy technologies on the DDG-1000 offers the promise of accelerating the development and refinement of these weapons in the operational environment and in so doing, not only identify “the art of the possible” for what the Navy-After-Next can look like, but if these emerging technologies deliver merely a portion of their enormous potential, the DDG-1000 destroyer will become the prototype for the entire high-end of the Future Surface Combatant family of ships.

With a defense budget under increasing stress, any new military technology must do more than just offer the potential to reshape how the military fights in the future – it must also have the ability to close current warfighting gaps today. And given the especially high cost of naval vessels, any ship the Navy deploys must have an impact today. In the case of the DDG-1000, this ship will immediately close important warfighting gaps.

A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard’s first new maritime strategy in a generation, lists six missions for U.S. maritime forces, four “traditional missions” ( Forward Presence, Deterrence, Sea Control, and Power Projection), and two new missions (Maritime Security and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response).

While the DDG-1000s destroyer will be capable of supporting all six-mission areas of the maritime strategy, it is the power projection and sea control missions that serve to define the primary focus of this ship and its “bundle” of new technologies….

In supporting a wide-array of Navy missions, the DDG-1000 will bring important capabilities to the fight, especially in the littorals. It is beyond debate that most of the areas of instability and strife are located in major cities and urban areas easily accessed by seaward approaches. The emergence of potential threats in these areas, coupled with the nation’s dependence on the world market and support for regional allies, demand increased U.S. presence in the littoral regions. This is not a “futuristic” concern, but a near- and mid-term warfighting requirement. The DDG-1000 is optimized to operate at the land-sea interface, supporting the Navy and the Marine Corps combined arms mission.

It is anticipated that the USN will procure a significant number of new littoral combat ships for operation in the littorals. There are key technologies on the DDG-1000, which will prove to be important compliments to the LCS ships and their supporting aircraft and unmanned systems. Notably the radar systems and defensive suites on the ship will provide to important assets added to the new destroyer or cruiser class to be built and deployed with the LCS in the future.

A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower states the power projection requirement clearly, “Our ability to overcome challenges to access and to project and sustain power ashore is the basis of our combat credibility.” The gaps in the Navy’s ability to dominate this littoral battlespace are significant – and growing. The ship is optimized for this mission and many of its other features – especially its radar, stealth, and survivability – are specifically designed to enhance its ability to project power and defend it effectively in the littorals. Sensors – radars in particular – are crucial to success in the littorals.

And the new destroyer class will be working with a number of new littoral assets, the F-35, unmanned systems and the LCS. It can form the lynchpin for the enduring littoral maritime presence mission.

Republished with permission from Second Line of Defence. The original article can be found here.