The USS Zumwalt Won't Be Battle-Ready Until 2021

Kyle Mizokami
Photo credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Jiang

From Popular Mechanics

The USS Zumwalt, the world’s first stealth warship, won’t be ready for any sort of action until the second half of 2021. The six hundred foot long destroyer is six years late and has racked up a total price tag of $7.8 billion dollars. The ship’s two heavy guns, designed to provide long range gunfire support, are still sidelined by a lack of affordable ammunition.

The USS Zumwalt was laid down in 2011 at Bath Iron Works in Maine and commissioned into the U.S. Navy in 2016. The 16,000-ton, 600-foot-long destroyer is designed to have the radar signature of a small fishing boat and is armed with 80 vertical launch missile silos and two 30-millimeter automatic cannons.

Zumwalt’s main punch was in the form of two 155-millimeter Advanced Gun Systems. The AGS were originally set to fire the Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP), a $50,000 GPS-guided shell that could ensure first round hit accuracy to ranges of up to 80 miles. As costs rose the Navy cut the number of Zumwalts from 32 to just 3. Meanwhile, technical issues with the LRLAP caused the cost to skyrocket to $566,000 each, forcing the cancelation of the round.

The Navy has made some changes to the Zumwalt program. It is looking for a replacement round for the two Advanced Gun Systems, and has changed the ship’s basic mission from land attack to surface warfare (anti-ship). For now, the two AGS will be delivered in what the Navy calls an “in an inactive state.”


Now according to Bloomberg, not only do the ships lack ammunition for their guns the ships themselves won’t achieve Initial Operating Capability (IOC) until September 2021—nearly two years from now and three years late. IOC is when a weapon system can carry out at least one of its primary missions. The ship was supposed to hit Full Combat Capability, or the ability to carry out all of its missions, in September 2019. Bloomberg makes no mention of when Zumwalt will achieve FCC.

The Zumwalts are expensive ships. The basic cost of all three ships is now $13.2 billion, or $4.4 billion per ship. That works out to $7.3 million per linear foot of ship. Including development costs, the three destroyers cost $7.6 billion per ship. The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, on the other hand, cost $13 billion.

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