The initial hull segment for the namesake of a new class of destroyer was put into place at Bath Iron Works on Thursday, 17 November 2001. Named after Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, this vessel will be the largest ship built at BIW in the past 3 decades. Despite the fine materials and exceptional craftsmanship used in it’s construction, the real question regarding this class is whether our Navy needs it.
DDG-1000 is proclaimed as a “revolutionary” design, but quite a number of folks, myself included, have reservations about that entire concept. Traditional advances in shipbuilding and ship design have always come from evolutionary concepts. Taking a proven design and making it better, using proven and reliable concepts and using those, along with well-thought out concepts about future Navy needs has been the halmark of professional Navies, espially the US Navy. It has been the foundation of strength and the backbone of our ability to be victorious time and time again.
Now comes a new generation of Navy leadership intent on, to my mind, leaving legacy systems and institutions rather than actually addressing the needs of our Navy, and our nation. These men have nearly bankrupted our Navy Shipbuilding budget through their “revolutionary” concepts, left us with a great fleet of white elephants, vice a great fleet, and likely endangered our fleet and our maritime defenses while polishing their names and resumes.
LCS, the Littoral Combat Ship, or as it’s referred to by many, the “Little Crappy Ship” has yet to show any return on it’s investment other than extended maintenance costs, an increasing delay in readiness, virtually no reliability, and nothing to show for the obscene amounts of tax money thrown at it. It is over-sized, under-armed, sucks fuel like a frat boy at a keg party, and has yet to have any of it’s alleged modules available for use.
Now comes the DDG-1000, and over-sized, under-armored, under-armed frankenship whose chief purpose for existence seems to be the guaranteeing of employment for shipbuilders at Bath Iron Works. I absolutely concur that it is well-built. BIW has the finest shipbuilders in the world, and I want to make it clear that I have NO complaints about them. However, with this design, our Navy has been sold a bill of goods. Some of the technology that this ship is supposed to use isn’t even available yet. She has no specified mission for which she is properly designed or armed.
For heaven’s sake, this simple comparison should point out the glaring problem for even the most naive of our citizens: DDG-1000 is as big as the German Pocket Battleship Graf Spee. She is more than 600 feet in length, more than 16,000 tons displacement, and yet her firepower if only a pair of 155mm guns, and 80 VLS boxes, of which the majority are assigned to Sea Sparrow (AAA) use.
More disconcerting is the use of the “Tumblehome” bow. This design is useful for small channels and restricted waters at moderate speeds. However, it has known stability issues, especially at high speeds and heavy seas, both of which this ship should expect to see. The DDG-1000 is a blue-water vessel, and not something to be used in-shore, so why the use of this bow design?
We are building a Tiffany Navy when we need a blue-collar, blue-water navy. We need prize-fighters, not cruise ships.
Our leadership should have taken the initiative to continue with the DDG-51 production, to extend the service life of the CG-47 class cruisers, and to develop a new and evolutionary follow on of the Ticonderoga class, based upon her proven hull design and powerplant.
We could still do this by halting further production of the LCS & DDG-1000 and using that money to keep the DDG-51 line open while a follow-on to CG-41 is developed. We should also give serious consideration to supplementing both of those with a license-built frigate from one of our European allies.
It’s not too late to stop this foolishness. We simply need a congress and a CNO willing to do the right thing, rather than just go along and not make waves.