NAVSEA answers some internet myths, rumors, and questions on the three high-tech stealthy guided missile destroyers: USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), USS Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001) and the future USS Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG 1002).
In truth, many view the three Zumwalts as expensive U.S. Navy design failures since their two currently inactive 155mm Advanced Gun Systems (AGS) cannot fire shells to support the U.S. Marines storming a beachhead due to the high cost of each custom-made shell. With a lower VLS cell missile count compared to DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers costing roughly half the price and having more weapons, sensors, and armament, pundits were quick to criticize the DDG 1000s’ layout and design. However, new options may be on the horizon if Hypersonic missiles are added to their arsenal.
Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), the largest of the U.S. Navy’s five system commands, provided information via email in a June-July 2020 email exchange about the Zumwalt, stating that many of the online Zumwalt sources are not official U.S. Navy data and thus are now outdated or inaccurate.
DDG 1000 Zumwalt-class Overview
The USS Zumwalt is described as a high-tech destroyer with a small stealthy radar cross-section, low acoustic signature for anti-submarine work, and an integrated computer network with advanced automation to combat fires, flooding, and combat damage.
Originally envisioned to provide long-range precision shore battery fire support for invading U.S. Marines via its 155mm Advanced Gun Systems (AGSs), the USS Zumwalts failed in this mission because each custom 155mm GPS-guided Rocket Assisted Shell (RAP) cost around $800,000 each for a range of about 60-80 miles. To make matters worse, the Zumwalt’s 155mm AGS guns are not NATO Military Standard 155mm shell size compatible, meaning that they cannot fire the same shell sizes as the NATO and U.S. Army’s 155mm howitzer cannons, an oversight in the design.
The Tumblehome hull is a slanting-inward hull design that hasn’t seen service in warships in more than 100 years. Captain Andrew Carlson told Defense News on January 23, 2020, that, “`She generally slides more than cuts into the water,’” Carlson said referring to the time USS Zumwalt was in Alaska in March, 2019. “`It’s actually more fun. There’s a little bit of ‘Tokyo Drift’ going on where you can really get a faster turn on with harder rudder, but still very stable. It’s not like you are tumbling around,’” he said. “`When we were up in those big waves, the bow was piercing through; you’re getting some of that water coming up. You still pitch, it’s just not nearly the same.’”
According to SEAPOWER’s 2019 Almanac, “The ship’s sensors and combat system include the Integrated Undersea Warfare System and the SPY-3 X-band Multifunction Radar. DDG 1000 will be capable of conducting area air surveillance, including over land, throughout the cluttered sea-land interface. The SPY-3 also will detect and support engagement of the most advanced anti-ship cruise missile threats.”
The Zumwalts are so high-tech that they rely on superstructure cameras positioned around the perimeter to act as bridge wing lookouts since the angled composite superstructure has no balconies. The composite superstructure is dotted with sensors, radar panels, and Electro-Optical/Infra-red systems flush typically to the angles and surfaces of the facets. The camera video feed is shown on several large TV screens mounted in arc-fashion from the ceiling to the bridge.
Unlike other U.S. Navy ships, the Zumwalts’ Combat Information Center (CIC) appears more similar to SpaceX’s Mission Control with rows of tables, chairs, and monitors instead of the heavy and bulky steel radar and battle management consoles. The DDG 1000s’ CIC is the very reason why the Bridge of the Zumwalt-class lack the usual chairs and crew positions as found on the other U.S. Navy warships. Therefore, the crews of the Zumwalts fight and control the ship from deep inside a command room and not on the Bridge deck as per usual warship tradition.
NAVSEA stated that the destroyers’ Integrated Power System (IPS) consists of separate generators and should not be seen, written, or described as combined. The IPS system generators are:
- (2) Main Turbine Generators (MTG)
- (2) Auxiliary Turbine Generators (ATG)
- (2) 34.6 MW Advanced Induction Motors
The U.S. Navy originally planned to field 32 DDG 1000s, and then seven, but eventually in 2008 Congress settled on just threeships and decided to restart the Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) Flight IIA destroyer construction. All three Zumwalt destroyers are homeported in San Diego.
“Weapons news” on the Zumwalt-class
According to NAVSEA, the answer to “any new news” is that the DDG 1000s’ issues are currently being addressed and repaired whereas new solutions, such as new 155mm shells, are being explored and analyzed by the U.S. Navy. NAVSEA did point out that the Internet contains a lot of inaccurate and outdated information (photos, data, webpages, and graphics) about the Zumwalt-class that are not from official U.S. Navy sources; therefore, this article dispels several of the popular public comments and suggestions regarding the future of these three high-tech destroyers.
Besides sailing in the rough seas of Alaska on March 2019, the USS Zumwalt test-fired its 30mm MK46 MOD 230mm Close-in Guns Systems (CIGS) for the first time on May 16, 2020 for training and structural testing purposes as reported in Naval News. The MK46 MOD 2 is based on the MK44 Bushmaster II 30mm chaingun and has Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR), a low light television camera, and a laser rangefinder.
The DDG-1000s are officially armed with:
- Eighty MK57 Advanced Peripheral Vertical Launch (PVLS) cells for Tactical Tomahawk, Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM), Standard Missile, and Vertical Launch Anti-Submarine Rockets (VLA ASROC). Maritime Tomahawk and LRASM can also be included, although shipboard VLS-launched LRASM has not been fielded as of mid-2020.
In its 2019 Almanac, SEAPOWER describes the MK57 Peripheral Vertical Launching System (PVLS) as, “an open-architecture, modular, below-deck missile-launching system designed for the Zumwalt-class DDG 1000 guided-missile destroyer. The 20 four-cell launchers are designed to line the periphery of the hull to avoid a hit that would take out a ship’s entire launching system. The MK57 is designed to accommodate current and future missiles without major launching modifications, including the ESSM, Tomahawk, Vertical Launch ASROC, and Standard family of missiles.”
- Two inactive Advanced Gun System (AGS) 155 mm guns, each capable of firing 10 rounds per minute and each gun having a 300-round magazine. Currently, no rounds exist for these guns, not even training rounds, although the U.S. Navy is exploring all options for these guns.
- Two (MK 46) 30mm Close-in Guns Systems (CIGS) over the helicopter hangar.
- Anti-Terrorism (weapons described later).
“SM-6s can perform anti-air warfare, ballistic missile defense and anti-surface warfare missions. ESSMs are used for intermediate range protection against cruise missiles, helicopters and other ships. Tomahawk missiles can strike targets precisely 1,000 miles away, even in heavily defended airspace.”
NAVSEA describing the missile armament aboard the Zumwalt-class
Changing the three Zumwalt destroyers from Land Attack to Offensive Surface Strike missions calls for the integration of SM-6 Standard missiles which can assume a dual-role of air defense and anti-ship strikes at supersonic speeds, and the Block Va Maritime Strike Tomahawk missile. According to USNI News, the Block Va Maritime Strike Tomahawk has a new multi-mode seeker capable of discriminating and hitting a moving (ship) target and also can get updates in flight to change mid-course and to allow for seeker or Third-Party targeting. Tomahawk Block Va’s Initial Operational Capability (IOC) is 2023.
Block Vb Tomahawks will have a new conventional Joint Multiple Effects Warhead that adapts to reinforced and deeply buried targets with a lethal multiple-effects warhead while the Tomahawk is improved to address Integrated Air Defense and Weapons of Mass Destruction to expand the land targeting selection.
Both the Block Va and Vb Tomahawks will receive new modernized navigation and naval satellite upgrade kits to replace the existing satellite antennas.
To accomplish Offensive Surface Strikes, the Defense Acquisition Management Information Retrieval (DAMIR) in their December 2018 Selected Acquisition Report stated that the DDG 1000s will get: “…modifications will be made to upgrade off-board platform communications capability via installation of the Network Tactical Common Data Link (NTCDL) system, and introduce organic cryptologic collection capability via installation of the Spectral System [SPECTRAL].” DAMIR’s report went on to state, “There are no significant software-related issues with this program at this time.”
“Status news” on the Zumwalt-class
DDG 1000 Zumwalt’s Initial Operating Capability (IOC) Final Delivery was September 2019.
According to the DDG 1000 Program Manager slides presented at the 32nd Surface Navy Association (SNA) in January, 2020, the Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001) will complete combat availability in the second quarter of 2020 [exclusive of COVID-19 issues]. DDG 1001 Michael Monsoor’s IOC Final Delivery will be September 2021.
According to the Lyndon B. Johnson’s (DDG 1002) official Facebook page, the third and final Zumwalt-class destroyer was launched on December 9, 2018 with a steel superstructure and hangar. The DAMIR report stated that a steel superstructure for DDG 1002 Lyndon B. Johnson was the most affordable option for the time-critical schedule. The January 2020 Zumwalt Program Manager SNA slides state that the Hull, Machinery, and Engineering (HM&E) for DDG 1002 is scheduled for delivery in December 2020 [exclusive of COVID-19 issues]. DDG 1002 Lyndon B. Johnson’s Final Delivery will be September 2022.
Online Myths and Questions about DDG 1000s Debunked by NAVSEA
For years since their launch, the public, think tankers, naval analysts, and defense journalists have written articles, online comments, recommendations, essays, and suggestions on how to improve the deficiencies of the Zumwalts, namely what to do with the two inactive 155mm AGS guns, ranging from removing them to installing more MK57 VLS cells, replacing the AGSs with railguns, or removing the 155mm guns and installing Hypersonic missiles, or even adding C5SIR spaces beneath them as a public commentator posted online.
United States’ Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) provided some official U.S. Navy answers as to the future of the DDG 1000 destroyers as the three ships enter the new decade.
Myth #1: The DDG1000s are too expensive and inadequately-armed to sail alone.
With a changed mission from Land Attack Destroyer to Surface Warfare Destroyer tasked with sinking other ships, Colleen O’Rourke, NAVSEA spokeswomen replied that:
“The Zumwalt-class destroyers will be capable of performing a range of deterrence, power projection, sea control, and command and control missions while allowing the Navy to evolve with new systems and missions. Destroyers can operate independently or as part of Carrier Strike Groups, Surface Action Groups, and Expeditionary Strike Groups.”
A USNI News article posted in June 2020 reports that The Congressional House Armed Services Committee and the Commander of Naval Surfaces Forces are both directing the U.S. Navy to study the installation and integration of Hypersonic missiles into the Zumwalts by January 2021.
The U.S. Army’s Hypersonic missiles are too large to fit into the MK54 PVLS and the many analysts suspect the best way to integrate Hypersonic weapons into the DDG 1000s would be to remove one or both of the 155mm AGSs.
As for August 2020, little is known as to what kind or type of Hypersonic weapon Section 1661 calls for and how it would be integrated into the three high-tech tumblehome hull destroyers. A request for comment and clarification from NAVSEA is still pending.
Myth #2:The superstructure and hull hide all kinds of pop-out weaponry inside that are not included in the technical specifications.
Despite the large superstructure, the DDG 1000s do not have pop-out 20mm Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems (CIWS), missiles, rockets, Remote Weapons Stations, lasers, Stinger Short-range Air Defense (SHORAD) missiles, or torpedo tubes hidden inside.
However, official Zumwalt Facebook photos, U.S. Navy photos and U.S Navy YouTube news videos about the USS Zumwalt confirm the presence of portable 12.7mm (.50 caliber) M2HB heavy machine guns and 7.62mm M240 medium machine guns mounted on pedestals at the stern and deployable through sliding door hatches in the steel and composite superstructure for close-in defense against small boats, surface and aerial targets, drones, and combat swimmers. The perimeter machine guns can be removed when the ship is underway, for example in open ocean for stealth purposes and to avoid sea spray exposure. The exact locations and the quantities of these M2HB and M240 machine gun port hatches in the superstructure and the hull are undisclosed and unknown. Patrolling sailors on deck can be armed with M4 5.56mm carbines and 9mm automatics during river transit and port calls. These medium machine guns, handguns, and M4 carbines comprise the “Anti-Terrorism” armament stated in the official Zumwalt-class specifications.
The Zumwalts do have multifunction SQS-60 and 61 bow sonars and SQR-20 multifunction Towed Arrays in addition to SLQ-25 NIXIE torpedo decoys. When asked, NAVSEA would not comment on if the Zumwalts will carry lightweight deck torpedo tubes for anti-submarine warfare or torpedo defense in the future.
Myth #3: The Zumwalts’ 155mm AGS can be modified to fire 155mm NATO Army shells.
“Challenges in developing a projectile that is suitable and affordable to conduct the Land Attack Mission resulted in a decision by [the U.S.] Navy to not continue with procurement of the Long-Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) for the Advanced Gun System. The two AGS installed on the Zumwalt class remain in an inactive state and the Navy continues to consider all options to include development of a round compatible with AGS. Furthermore, in the era of increased Great Power Competition, [the] Navy decided in November 2017 to shift the mission of the platform from Land Attack Destroyer to Offensive Surface Strike to leverage the inherent strengths of the platform (stealth, power generation, and long-range surface to surface missile capability).”
Colleen O’Rourke, NAVSEA spokeswoman
A 155mm AGS munition option would be the Vulcano 155mm precision guided munition. BAE Systems replied to Naval News in August 2020, stating that:
“Vulcano remains a viable low-cost extended munition for the AGS, as it’s currently in service and fielded with several of our allies. When fired from AGS, Vulcano can achieve ranges in excess of 100KM (62 miles) with precision accuracy. And as the OEM of the AGS, BAE Systems is uniquely qualified to integrate alternative munitions into the gun’s fully automated handling system, and we’ve presented plans to the Navy for their consideration,”
John Perri, business development director for advanced weapons, BAE Systems
Naval News understands that the U.S. Navy also looked at Raytheon’s Excalibur and another 155mm round by Orbital ATK.
Myth #4: The U.S. Navy could remove and replace one or two 155mm AGS turrets for railguns, additional MK57 VLSs, command and control spaces, lasers, or other weaponry.
“To date, there is not a requirement to repurpose the space currently holding the AGS,”
Colleen O’Rourke, NAVSEA spokeswoman
Myth #5:The cost of the USS Zumwalt ranges from $3.5 billion to $4.4 billion
The internet abounds with different cost figures for the Zumwalt. NAVSEA officially stated that the USS Zumwalt cost $3.87 billion.
Question #1:Does the U.S. Navy plan to increase the 80-cell AVLS count with additional launchers installed on the deck or by replacing existing armament?
“To date, there is not a requirement to increase the 80-cell AVLS count,” replied NAVSEA.
Question #2:Could the DDG 1000s be modified to carry and support other aircraft such as the Navy’s CMV-22B COD, U.S.M.C.’s CH-53, MV-22, and F-35B Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) stealth fighter on the large helicopter deck?
NAVSEA officially states that the DDG 1000s has the capacity for one MH-60R and one Vertical Takeoff Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTUAV). U.S. Navy Fleet Week photos and YouTube videos online do show one unarmed (MQ-8 Fire Scout) VTUAV embarked and sitting on the Zumwalt’s flight deck.
Question #3: Why doesn’t the U.S. Navy repaint the three Zumwalts to match the darker gray paint of the warships in the U.S. Navy fleet?
The Zumwalt program developed multiple paints to prevent corrosion, Ultraviolet, and other damage to the composite deckhouse, steel hull, exterior decks, and apertures. The Zumwalt paint scheme was selected to aesthetically match the hull paint to the lighter color composite superstructure,” explained Ms. Colleen O’Rourke for NAVSEA. Therefore, the three DDG 1000s will retain their lighter shade of gray as the superstructure consists of a sandwiched applique layer of composite and balsa wood material for radar-absorbing and deflection stealth purposes.
The Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle (CUSV, pronounced “Cuss-vee”) is 39 feet long, has a 7.7 tons displacement, and a 35-knot top speed. CUSV is armed with a Remote Weapons Station mounting a Long-Range Acoustic Device (LRAD)sonic hailing device, optical and electronic sensors, and a .50cal heavy machine gun. 39-feet equals 11.88 meters, so theoretically, the Zumwalts could employ the CUSV and the Navy envisions the CUSV to be used for rolessuch as Mine Countermeasure (MCM) Warfare, sentry patrols, fire support, and scouting. NAVSEA responds stating that there is not a requirement to embark the CUSV onboard the Zumwalt-class.