For some time now, I’ve been astounded by the lack of monitoring of the Zumwalt (DDG-1000) program by the general media. At the equivalent stage of development the LCS had been thoroughly dissected and every hiccup in the program was analyzed in detail. Not so for the Zumwalt which has progressed with little notice on a relative basis, despite being every bit as revolutionary as the LCS and many times more expensive on a per unit basis. Of course, part of the reason for the lack of attention may be that the Navy hasn’t committed to buying 55 Zumwalts before the first one was built, as they did with the LCS! Alright, so let’s focus a little attention on the Zumwalt and see what’s of interest. In no particular order, here’s some items that deserve examination.
Wood Composite Superstructure – The upper three fourths or so of the superstructure is a wood composite material. While I applaud the Navy for not using aluminum, I’m not sure wood composites are the answer. It remains to be seen how it will hold up to the day to day stresses imposed by the natural and continuous motion of a ship at sea. Will repairs be easy and can repairs be made at sea? How will the wood composite behave in a fire?
AGS – The gun system is a giant black hole for internal ship’s volume and power. The gun is limited to shore fire support and cannot function in an anti-ship role. That’s a very limited use for a gun that expensive and with that kind of impact on the ship’s design. In essence, the ship was designed around the gun, similar to how the A-10 Warthog was designed around its gun.
|Zumwalt - Under the Radar?|
Survivability – Because of the tumblehome hull form, the waterline cross-sectional area decreases as the ship sinks. This means that as the ship takes on water from flooding damage, the ship will have decreasing buoyancy. This is the reverse of a conventional ship where the cross-sectional area increases. Crew size also enters into survivability. As we’ve pointed out repeatedly, the main factor in successful damage control is crew size and the Zumwalt has a very small crew (smallest in the Navy relative to its size). Finally, as mentioned above, the wood composite superstructure remains an unknown in a damage/fire scenario. Overall, I’m suspicious of the survivability of the Zumwalt.
Peripheral VLS – The Mk 57 peripheral VLS cells (PVLS) are significantly bigger than the Mk 41 cells. However, there are no weapons either extant or in development that require the larger cells, as far as I know. If, at some point down the road, larger cells are needed, the installation of the PVLS will be proven to be a wise measure. On the other hand, if they aren’t needed in the lifetime of the ship they will prove to be a waste of space and money. Only time will tell.
– This ship has only one mission and that is shore bombardment. It has no significant area anti-air capability, can’t engage surface ships with its guns, and is too large and expensive to be risked in an ASW role. This is a very big and very expensive ship to have only one function. The cost efficiency of this platform is poor. Mission
Those are the issues I’ll be keeping an eye on. At the moment, because of the lack of information I don’t really have an opinion on the Zumwalt. It may turn out to be an amazing platform heralding a revolution in naval technology or it may turn out to be a dead end side street on the naval evolutionary road. As I said, the truly amazing aspect of the Zumwalt thus far is the near total lack of attention it’s receiving. Bet the LCS wishes its name started with a Z!