The USA’s DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class Program: Dead Aim, Or Dead End?
Mk.110 guns switched out in favor of General Dynamics’ Mk.46s.
Jan 14/15: Weapons. The US Navy has removed BAE’s Mk.110 57mm naval gun from their DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class ships, but it wasn’t clear why (q.v. Aug 5/14). Current revelations now say that the 30mm Mk.46 RWS did better against key target types like small boats than the Mk.110 or notional 76mm guns. That’s more than slightly surprising to some observers, who note that a 30mm cannon’s lethal range is about 1 mile rather than 4-6 miles – but the Navy is saying that they were equally surprised. Program Manager Capt. Jim Downey:
“They were significantly over-modeled on the lethality…. The results of the actual live test-fire data was that the round was not as effective as modeled…. it gets into the range of the threat – the approach of the threat, what the make-up of the threat is and how it would maneuver, how it would fire against our ship. There is a whole series of parameters that are very specific on what the threat is and how you take it out through a layer of defenses…. not what we expected to see.”
Downey categorically denies that the Mk.110’s 10+ ton weight difference was an issue, but doesn’t mention cost. Interestingly, his program’s test findings haven’t been shared with other NAVSEA entities like PEO LCS, let alone the Coast Guard who uses the gun on some cutters. The Navy is working on creating those mechanisms, but they don’t exist yet. Defense News, “Experts Question US Navy’s Decision To Swap Out DDG 1000’s Secondary Gun”.
In January 2015, General Dynamics was indeed given the contract for Modification 2 M K.46 guns, for $26.2 million in weapons production to be fitted to both the Zumwalt and LCS. This will add to the 38 MK.46s already delivered and be completed by late 2016, according to the schedule.
Aug 5/14: Weapons. The US Navy discusses the switch away from Mk.110 57mm secondary guns and their tri-mode ammunition, to much smaller Mk.46 30mm guns.
“The results of the analysis for alternative systems to the Mk 110 CIGS [through 2010] were not conclusive enough to recommend a shift in plan.,” but a 2012 review “concluded that the MK46 was more effective than the MK110 CIGS…. In addition to the increased capability, the change from MK110 to Mk 46 resulted in reduction in weight and significant cost avoidance, while still meeting requirements…”
The Mk.110 has a maximum range of about 9 nautical miles, with fuzing modes and rates of fire that can deal with boats, helicopters, or even incoming missiles. Its 30mm replacement has a maximum range of around 2 miles, a lower rate of fire, and lacks the 57mm shell’s fuzing options. It seems to be a puzzling choice, unless it’s simply a weight shift or a sacrifice to shave a small amount off of ship costs. Sources: USNI, “Navy Swaps Out Anti-Swarm Boat Guns on DDG-1000s”.
Sources: USN, PB15 Press Briefing [PDF] | CRS, “Navy DDG-51 and DDG-1000 Destroyer Programs: Background and Issues for Congress” update (April 8 and June 25).
DID’s FOCUS Article for the DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class “destroyer” program covers the new ships’ capabilities and technologies, key controversies, associated contracts and costs, and related background resources.
The ship’s prime missions are to provide naval gunfire support, and next-generation air defense, in near-shore areas where other large ships hesitate to tread. There has even been talk of using it as an anchor for action groups of stealthy Littoral Combat Ships and submarines, owing to its design for very low radar, infrared, and acoustic signatures. The estimated 14,500t (battlecruiser size) Zumwalt Class will be fully multi-role, however, with undersea warfare, anti-ship, and long-range attack roles. That makes the DDG-1000 suitable for another role – as a “hidden ace card,” using its overall stealth to create uncertainty for enemy forces.
At over $3 billion per ship for construction alone, however, the program faced significant obstacles if it wanted to avoid fulfilling former Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter’s fears for the fleet. From the outset, DID has noted that the Zumwalt Class might face the same fate as the ultra-sophisticated, ultra-expensive SSN-21 Seawolf Class submarines. That appears to have come true, with news of the program’s truncation to just 3 ships. Meanwhile, production continues.
Zumwalt Class: Program and Participants
Program History: The Long and Winding Road
DDG-1000 Key Technologies and Features
DDG-1000 Issues and Controversies
Zumwalt Class: Contracts and Key Events
FY 2014 – 2015
FY 1998 – 2004
Additional Readings & Sources
News & Views
The Derivative (?) CG-X Program
Fill in the secure form below to activate your subscription right away (or pick another plan)