Monday, January 11, 2016

Added Cost for Final Zumwalt

The website reports that the Navy has issued a contract to Raytheon for $255M (options to $349M) for “mission system equipment” engineering for the third and final Zumwalt ship, DDG-1002 (1).  Aside from being another quarter of a billion dollars added to the cost, I’m wondering what this is for?  This is the third and final ship of the run.  The engineering has already been worked out.  Further, the program was based on a fixed price contract.  There can’t be any price increases unless the Navy issues a change order.  Is this what’s happening here?  Is this a change order in support of a rail gun that was rumored to be under consideration for installation on the third and final Zumwalt?  That would certainly be a major change that might justify this kind of cost addition. 

These are limited mission ships which are already hugely expensive at several billion dollars per vessel, including construction and R&D.  Adding another quarter billion dollars or more is eye opening at this stage.  Let me know if anyone has any insight on this.  In the meantime, I’ll see if I can find out anything more about this.


  1. Yep, Its the rail gun.

    Unconfirmed, but confirmed really, they are just fixing a budget line I suggest.

    I think this is the BAE gun. It seemed to be doing rather well. Although if you note the GPMG barrel changing ideas in the above piece there are clearly still some issues with endurance.

    Sounds like they are talking in terms of just a few hundred rounds per "barrel" in rail gun terms.

    I'm also disturbed by the range reference of many dozen's of miles, I was under the impression we were talking about a range that would be better expressed as 100+ miles.


    1. a few tens rounds per "barrel" is more likely...

  2. If the range is 'many dozens' and not 'hunred +' that's a pretty damned expensive piece of kit.

    That said... if this ship is really going to be a floating test bed that leads to navy vessels with real rail guns, thats at least a little better... but 1/4 billion... dayum.

  3. Seeing the pyramidal rail gun in the picture of that article, and reading about the Zumwalt's 78MW power output... I couldn't help but thinking about the old game command and conquer.

    The Navy's new anti swarm weapon? Tesla Coils! ;-)

    1. ...At this point, considering what they've been trying recently, I'd almost think that was sane.

      Tesla did actually propose something akin to a 'Tesla Coil' concept for Ship Anti-Air and Anti-Torpedo Boat Protection, so somebody with the techno-babble know-how thought something like that would be a good idea.

      Wild Electricity + Open Water + Sitting in a tin can IN that water = ...
      Good Times!

      - Ray D.

  4. Seriously, I wonder what the cost of a WWII battleship would be today and how it would compare to the Zumwalt series.

    I'm thinking a battleship might offer much more bang for buck compared to this thing.

    1. Building a WWII-style battleship today would be very, very expensive. At least two important and specialised processes - making the armour, and building huge guns - shut down decades ago and new factories would have to be built.

    2. Alt:

      The current cost estimations to build a Iowa-class (New Jersey sub-class) Guided Missile Battleship - new construction mind - is roughly 5.8 Billion dollars.
      And that is including the ~$1.3 billion dollar investment in rebuilding the industrial base to support them AND the ~$1 billion additional cost of making the design Nuclear Powered.

      Speaking of a new design (Modern Montana [super battleship]? Although we'd need a new name), it would probably still run in the ballpark of 7 to 8 billion dollars.

      John :

      Incidentally, the two industrial bases you mentioned were already considered obsolete in their own fields when they were shut down.
      Modern capabilities and production methods would allow for these requirements to be met with relative ease.

      While certainly not cheap by any means when compared to their WW2 production costs (an Iowa for $100 million...), you'll find that the Battleships are largely cheaper to construct than the other capital ships of today due to their more robust (and resulting simple) design... and, 1800 men to 5200, cheaper to man too.

      Not to mention that, if you wanted to allow for development, make some minor modifications to the gun design and have Pratt and Whitney restart their Scram Jet 16 program.
      Within a few short years (or less), you'd have 600nmi hyper-sonic guided projectiles rolling off the line. Or, at least, the same amount of time it will take them to get this Rail Gun combat operational.

      However, the real cost of a Battleship is in the manning and political incorrectness (women on a BB is a bad idea due to blast over-pressure from the gunfire).

      - Ray D.

    3. Considering the costs of the program, I'd say from a price to performance standpoint, the battleship might be a decent value.

      It is likely to be far more survivable, and the 406mm (or whatever calibre guns) are likely far more potent than any medium caliber rail gun.

      On the note of the manning costs, I get the sinking feeling that the Zumwalt will not prove to be a cheap vessel to operate. This is partly because I expect there will be more than normal problems due to the unique design, but also because of the recent Navy's history.

      The other question is the reliability of the rail gun and its actual use against enemy targets. If the barrel wear is so high that it ends up being like a Paris Gun on a ship, then it becomes an entirely impractical weapon.

    4. > 406mm are likely far more potent?

      Sure. Here are the Iowa's 16" facts:
      - 300-350 MJ muzzle kinetic energy of the shell, ~900 MJ energy of the powder charge explosion
      - 300-400 MJ explosion energy of the shell bursting charge
      - barrel life: 300-350 shots

      Now compare this to the BAE railgun:
      - max 32 MJ muzzle kinetic energy, down to ~15-20 MJ at the target; ~90 MJ capacitor discharge energy per shot
      - 0 MJ explosion energy (no shell bursting charge)
      - barrel life: nobody knows for sure

  5. Have any of you been following the progress of railgun projects? Incremental progress over nearly 20 great breakthroughs, the best they have are lucky to make a couple shots a week in lab settings...

    Even if they get it working, rainguns are all about acceleration and high velocity with small dumb projectiles, along the lines of a sabot dart from a tank. They are a very very long way away from delivering rapid fire or high explosive in the sense conventional artillery can.


    Interesting test bed for railgun evaluation.

  7. To me, it seems be a colossal waste of money to put one, or even two, rail guns on one single ship that spends maybe a third of its time at sea. If demo trials on the JHSV are promising, maybe that's the platform to use. We could probably build 10-12 rail gun equipped JHSV's for the cost of a single Zumwalt.

    1. Very expensive test bed for the rail gun trials !

    2. At nearly $4 billion a piece, each Zumwalt is an expensive test bed.

    3. I agree, to a certain extant, almost everything USN is buying are just expensive test beds! Only the Virginias and somewhat the Burkes are really in full production rate and have combat capabilities, it seems everything else isn't (LCS)or just testing stuff (ZUMWALT)....


    Longer range projectiles

  9. All;

    You have to ask what kind of fire support are you trying to provide from this ship. There are fixed/stationary targets and dynamic moving targets. Both are important to forces ashore.

    The fixed/stationary targets are just that. There are 2 categories. Installations, bunkers, buildings, fuel farms, etc. are fixed. Mobile assets (tanks, missile launchers, etc.) or troops that have stopped (parked not paused) are stationary.

    The dynamic targets are those forces moving and you fire one to 2 rounds to get them targeted and then walk the rounds to track them and destroy them. Or most importantly you target these types of forces to break up an attack. It requires constant adjustment to be effective.

    The current DDG 1000 round has a flight time of over 5 minutes. That means it is only good against fixed/stationary targets. A 5+ minute adjustment cycle will not work on moving forces. They either stop or start when you anticipate the other.

    The Rail Gun with limited round capability before barrel replacement is similarly only useful for fixed/stationary targets. It may become useful against dynamic targets when you can fire more shots.

    So before deploying these toys make sure you are providing the Fire support needed by the forces ashore.

    Note: as of DDG 1000 SW Release 4 the technical approach was to have all Call For Fire message come in voice only. I sure hope they fixed that.

    1. Anon, very nice comment. The fire support limitations of the Zumwalt have been extensively discussed on this blog. The guns are also not currently anti-ship capable. No one, other than the Navy, thinks this is a good ship or a viable fire support vessel. Had the Navy built a single ship as a technology demonstrator, it would have been worthwhile. Building three ships was just throwing away money to no good purpose.

    2. Not meaning to repeat things, but before the Navy gets all hot and bothered about another long range gee whiz gun, it better address the problem it is trying to address.

    3. So we have the LCS at best can only annoy an enemy shop at close range and is a target for subs

      We have the Zumwalt that at best Erik never be exposed to combat because it's a test bed

      So therefore there are no real combat capable craft other than the Burkes with their proven old 5 inch gun and ancient missiles

    4. Historically battleships have been pretty effective at shore bombardment and fire support - actually they've done arguably a better job at shore bombardment then actually trying to sink any enemy ships.

      However the real problem is the Zumwalt class rail gun itself as a platform.

      1. Very expensive
      2. Reliability unproven
      3. Potential tumblehome problems with the hull
      4. Technologies that are not tested
      5. Probably cannot be used vs ships (in which case we will need to see other ships like Ticos escorting this vessel)

      I'd say a battleship is far more likely to be successful in the role. Perhaps a few modern technologies could be used to improve it even more.

  10. Good to see the Senate Armed Services Committee May 18th FY 2017 report is calling time on Navy for playing fast and loose when announcing "delivery" of ships years earlier than operational to obscure program slippage and hide spend in its many different budgets possible after ship delivery and so avoid the charge of incompetence.

    "Similarly, the committee understands all three ships in the Zumwalt-class will employ a dual delivery approach with hull, mechanical, and electrical (HM&E) systems delivery at the shipbuilder in Maine and combat systems activation in California. In the case of USS Zumwalt (DDG–1000), HM&E delivery is scheduled for 2016 and combat systems activation is scheduled for 2018. The committee notes the President’s fiscal year 2017 budget lists April 2016 as the delivery date. The committee believes Zumwalt class delivery should be deemed to occur at the completion of the dual delivery approach, following combat systems activation. The committee is concerned the variance in the Navy’s definition of ship delivery may obscure oversight of the program’s schedule, including whether or not a project has breached its threshold delivery date. The committee is also concerned Navy ships are being delivered in various degrees of completion and then, after a period of availabilities and shakedowns, possibly several years later, the ship is delivered to the fleet for operations. CVN–79 and the Zumwalt class programs illustrate this practice. Therefore, the committee also directs the Comptroller General of the United States to submit a report, not later than March 1, 2017, that includes analysis and recommendations regarding the Navy’s process for fully delivering ships from the time the Navy takes custody of the vessel until the vessels are fully complete and ready for operations. This review should examine the Navy’s cost and schedule milestones throughout this process and how these milestones are reported to decision makers and oversight agencies. The review should also propose a common definition and criteria for Navy ship deliveries, including the associated dates."


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