FIRE! The Zumwalt-Class Stealth Destroyer Is Getting a Big Redesign

Sebastien Roblin

Key Point: Upgrades will cost another $90 million.

In January 2019, the Navy will commission its second hi-tech Zumwalt-class stealth destroyer, the USS Michael Monsoor. The third and last, USS Lyndon B. Johnson was launched this December 2018 and will be commissioned in 2022.

Traditionally, warships are tailored to perform specific missions. But the cutting-edge Zumwalt has been a ship in search of a mission, especially since procurement of hyper-expensive ammunition for its primary weapon system was canceled. Years and billions of dollars later, the Navy may finally have found one.

In the post-Cold War 1990s, the U.S Navy lacked peer competitors on the high seas, so it conceived its next-generation surface combatants for engaging coastal targets. As the Navy phased out its last battleship, it decided its next destroyer should mount long-range guns that could to provide more cost-efficient naval gunfire support than launching million-dollar Tomahawk cruise missiles.

In the 2000s, development proceeded for a DDG-1000 destroyer integrating every next-generation technology then conceivable. The Navy promised Congress a larger destroyer requiring only 95 crew instead of 300 thanks to automation, with adequate space and power-generation capacity to deploy railguns and laser weapons. The new warships would be stealthier to avoid enemy attacks and pack rapid-firing 6-inch guns with a range of 115 miles for the sustained bombardment of land targets. Thirty-two DDG-1000s were to succeed the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.

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