The Navy's $22 Billion Stealth Destroyer Program Is Delayed Again

Zumwalt-class destroyer DDG-1000

The Zumwalt-class destroyer DDG-1000.

Source: General Dynamics
  • General Dynamics' Zumwalt-class ship was originally due in '13
  • Delay caused by `shipyard production and test challenges'

General Dynamics Corp.’s stealthy, electric-powered destroyer for the U.S. Navy will be delivered almost three years late, according to the Pentagon’s latest schedule.

The Navy now estimates delivery of the DDG-1000, the first of three Zumwalt-class vessels in a $22.4 billion program, by midyear, according to the Defense Department’s annual “Selected Acquisition Report” on the program. In 2010, the delivery was projected for September 2013 and last year for November 2015.

With its inverted bow and profile meant to reduce the ship’s cross-section to radar, the DDG-1000 is intended for multiple missions, including land attacks. The vessels, named after the late Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, are made by General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works unit in Bath, Maine. Raytheon Co., based in Waltham, Massachusetts, provides the vessel’s combat electronics.

The cumulative delays “are due to overall effects of shipyard production and test challenges,” according to the report sent to Congress last month and obtained by Bloomberg News.

Lucy Ryan, a spokeswoman for Falls Church, Virginia-based General Dynamics, said in an e-mail that the company had no comment on the delays.

Combat Capability

In addition to the late delivery, the DDG-1000 isn’t expected to be declared to have an initial combat capability until December 2019, more than four years later than the Navy projected in 2010 and more than a year later than estimated last year, based on a comparison of the latest annual Pentagon report with past editions.

The Navy is updating its acquisition benchmarks for the program, including cost and schedule milestones, according to the report. “The DDG-1000 will begin acceptance trials later this month, and the ship is on track for commissioning on Oct. 15, 2016,” Captain Thurraya Kent, a Navy spokeswoman, said in an e-mail that didn’t address the delays.

After the ship is commissioned, it will transit to San Diego to have its combat mission systems activated, she said.

One of the biggest contributors to the delays is the complexity of activating the ship’s integrated power system, according to the Pentagon report. The ship will use electricity generated by gas turbines to power all of its systems, including weapons, according to a Navy fact sheet.

The vessel is larger than any Navy destroyer or cruiser since the nuclear-powered USS Long Beach bought in 1957, according to the Congressional Research Service. It is also “much more” stealthy than earlier Navy surface combat ships, CRS analyst Ron O’Rourke, told Bloomberg.

The $22.4 billion estimated cost includes development of what originally was intended to be a 10-ship program.

Procurement Cost

The procurement cost of the three ships is an estimated $13.2 billion, including $3.8 billion for the DDG-1000, $2.8 billion for the second vessel and $2.4 billion for the third, Kent said. The balance of the $13.2 billion includes one-time expenditures that apply to all three vessels, outfitting and post-delivery costs, she said.

The program’s procurement cost increased by about $450 million last year due to the “effect of shipyard production and test challenges,” the report said.

The new destroyer’s Advanced Gun System from London-based BAE Systems Plc has two 155mm guns capable of firing precision projectiles 63 nautical miles (73 miles) inland. The vessel will carry a crew of 142, down from about 300 on the Navy’s Aegis destroyers and cruisers, producing savings in personnel costs.

“Skilled labor shortages at Bath Iron Works contributed to the cost increases, but they were only one factor among several resulting in the rise” for “the most advanced warship ever built,” Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the Lexington Institute. Thompson follows the Zumwalt class for his consulting client General Dynamics, which also contributes to the Arlington, Virginia-based institute, he said in an e-mail.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE