Monday, July 11, 2016

Zumwalt Update

I’ve documented the Navy’s increasing use of deferred construction to avoid cost caps and obscure costs.  The concept is that ships are accepted incomplete and the remaining construction is completed during post-delivery availabilities using other funds that are not tracked as construction costs.

The latest example is the Zumwalt, DDG-1000, which, according to the DOT&E 2015 annual report, will be accepted in an incomplete state by the Navy and transferred to the West Coast in 2016.  DOT&E states,

“After the ship arrives on the West Coast, it will begin an 18-month post-delivery availability to complete installation, integration, and shipyard testing of mission systems. The Navy plans to conduct a second Acceptance Trial when that availability has been completed …”

A second Acceptance Trial?  Isn’t a ship supposed to be accepted by the Navy only after construction is complete?  18 Months of additional construction after delivery?  This is obscene.

Now, let me be fair.  I don’t know whether this was part of the original plan of construction and is fully funded by Congress as part of the original costs and schedule or whether this is part of the accounting gimmicks the Navy has become so fond of.  If it’s the former and the costs are all above board then I’m left to wonder, why not simply complete the ship prior to delivery like every other ship?  If it’s the latter then this is despicable.

Moving on, the Navy continues to reject combat related testing - Full Ship Shock Trial (FSST), in this case.  As DOT&E documents,

“The Navy removed funding for the planned Full Ship Shock Trial (FSST) on DDG 1000 in September 2014, unilaterally deciding to conduct the event on DDG 1002. In October 2015, the Navy revised their decision and agreed to conduct FSST (specific ship to be determined) prior to the first deployment of any DDG 1000 Zumwalt class destroyer.”

Did you get that?  The Navy unilaterally decided not to conduct shock trials until the last ship of the class!  That not only removes any possibility of finding and correcting problems in other ships of the class but it removes the possibility of anyone questioning the Zumwalt program and threatening funding.  That, of course, is the real reason the Navy is resisting shock trials on all its ships.  The Navy would rather risk ships and sailors in combat than risk funding due to bad PR from testing. 

The Navy reversed their decision only after it became clear that DOT&E has SecDef’s ear and the Navy decided they didn’t want yet another public spanking.

Is FSST important?  As DOT&E summarizes it,

“Conducting FSST on DDG 1000 is critical to finding and correcting failures in mission-critical capabilities prior to the classes first deployment and prior to placing this class of ships in harm’s way. FSSTs routinely uncover mission-critical vulnerabilities that were not identified by component testing, analysis, and/or modeling and simulation alone.”

Further, the amount of new technology, to say nothing of the unique hull form, demand shock testing because they have not been tested in previous ships.

“All three ships of the DDG 1000 Zumwalt class have in common a significant amount of new designs, including the unique wave-piercing tumblehome hull form, as well as the new Integrated Power System, Total Ship Computing Environment (software, equipment and infrastructure), Integrated Undersea Warfare System, Peripheral Vertical Launching System, the Advanced Gun System, and the associated automated magazines. These systems and equipment have not been subjected to shock on previous ship classes. Moreover, the previously untried automation and small crew for a ship this size, limit the sailors’ ability to conduct repairs to enable recovery from shock-induced damage.” [emphasis added]

It couldn’t be any simpler or clearer than that and yet the Navy continues to fight testing.

The Navy’s policies and decisions are becoming increasingly bizarre and the Zumwalt class is just the latest recipient of the effects of those decisions.


  1. You are right to criticize these practices, but the real story is that DDG-1000 should have been cancelled.

    With a grand total of three, these should be used as test hulls, or technology demonstrators.

    Congress could stop this nonsense tomorrow, but won't...


  2. I actually think DDG 1000 should have been followed to its full class size, and that cancelling at 3 only makes the ships massively more expensive.

    One or the other.

    Very disappointing that PR seems more important now than operational surety.

    I still have high hopes for Zumwalt extreamly diminished from its original design though it is.


    1. Ben, the Zumwalt is an extremely limited ship in terms of the scope of its mission and usefulness. A full class would be a colossal waste of resources. The very hull shape is risky, likely unwise, and certainly unproven. Committing to an entire class before the design is proven would simply be repeating the LCS mistake.

      You're also making a common mistake of equating the per-ship cost to some kind of real cost. Let's make up some ridiculous numbers to illustrate. Suppose a ship class has a projected cost of $1 per ship for a class of 30 ships. We'll wind up spending $30 in total. Now, if the class is terminated to three ships and the resulting unit cost jumps to 3X then each ship will cost $3 for a total expenditure of $9. Terminating the class at three will have saved us $21. The fact that it made the unit cost a staggering 300% greater means nothing. The only relevant cost is the total expenditure. By cancelling the bulk of the class we've saved enormous amounts of money and the subsequent increase in unit cost for three ships is irrelevant. Does that make sense?

      I have hopes for Zumwalt as a technology demonstrator. I have no hope for it as an actual warship that's of any great use. It's mission set is limited AND UNLIKELY!! It's the unlikely part that is the worst. The mission set is naval gunfire support of troops during an amphibious assault and given our inability to conduct such an assault, the mission is highly unlikely so what purpose does the ship serve? Factor in the extremely limited specific uses even within the naval gunfire mission (can't do area bombardment, can't hit a moving target, limited effectiveness against armored vehicles) and you get a ship whose reason for existing is really questionable. As a one-off demonstrator, that's fine. As a class, it has no purpose.

    2. I think technology demonstrator is a fine use for the ship. At this point its questionable whether we need 3, but that's the biggest benefits of this class.

      Things that I like about it are its distributed VLS cells, its new hybrid electric drive (Behold the Future! Its the 30's!), and its stealthy shape. Heck, as a test I think even the tumblehome shape is worthy to try.

      Will these work out? I don't know. But these are potentially useful things in future navy combat vessels.

      This *should* have been done to the LCS classes too. (build 2 or so a piece and test the hell out of them).

      But as a real warship....

      Its almost too expensive to even put in harms way.

    3. The original design of Zumwalt was more for a “cruiser”. (See CNO recent post for preferable definition of a cruiser.)

      And some of that has come across. The distributed launch platform is an excellent idea, and originally we were looking at a good amount of cells. This obviously has been trimmed.

      Duel band AESA, good idea. Oh dear also trimmed.

      Stealth has proven to be excellent. And this includes some very good IR stealth.

      The tumble home hull may be problem, but this remains to be seen. With its adaptive ballasting and modern stabilisers we don’t know for sure we have an issue.

      However the Zumwalt was designed for the future and has space and power to spare. Already there are issues with upgrading Arleigh Burke, and looking 20 years into the future these issues will become governing.

      Perhaps Zumwalt wasn’t the ideal successor; I just think it had more potential than what the USN went with. (Hull worries notwithstanding)

      The original DDG-1000 design would have made an admirable Tyco successor.

      On the cost issue, when you design a program and sign a contract for a large class then slash it, I don’t think your going to persuade me you didn’t just pay the entire R&D budget for very little. But if you feel the project was as bigger failure as you seem to, then I see your point.

      I still tend to feel these ships are going to have a bright future , mostly in term of upgrades and technology we havent even seen yet.

      Could be wrong tho.

      Still they are very impressive to look at ?

    4. "Stealth has proven to be excellent."

      I have seen nothing on this. Do you have a reference?

      I have severe doubts about the stealth. It appears to have been designed to be stealthy from low level aspects (water surface or low ground). The 20 deg slant (or whatever it is) on the entire hull and superstructure presents a mammoth, flat, slab-sided view to an aircraft on the horizon or beyond which would be viewing the ship at - guess what? - around a 20 degree angle. I have a suspicion that it will have a radar return the size of the Titanic when viewed from elevated angles. We'll have to wait and see.

      I have similar doubts about the VLS. Tell me why you think the VLS is a good idea. Don't just parrot what you've been told by the Navy, analyze it for yourself and see what you think.

      The ship can't engage other ships with its gun!

    5. Stealth admittedly has rating on surface vessel so far. However with faceted hull and composite "conning" tower. Along with the ability to sink. I would expect a reduced return of significant proportion.

      Distributed VLS is something now on Type 26. Its a very good idea for so many reasons. The most obvious simply being the ability to take hits and remain offencive.

      The vls on zumwalt will also blow OUT if hit. Reducing damage.

      I suspect multiple simultanious launch will be more viable too.

      With mk53 i predict multiple quad packed ESSM for short range snap shots in the green water.

      If we eventually move to rail gun. It remains to be seen if zumwalt can take surface vessels at 100nm range. Continuous hypersonic kinetic bombardment would be neigh on impossible to defend agains.

    6. Oh on stealth. Do you know what "the blue path" means. Go look it up.

      Stealth doesnt work the way most people think it does.

      A big flat side is great. You just need to plot the right course.


  3. This game is one reason why maintenance is "underfunded". They divert that money to procurement.

    Bite the bullet and scrap all the Zumwalts. The maintenance and training costs for a class of just three will be very high, especially the idea of ammo stockpiles worldwide for a total of six 155 guns.

    There is a reason they don't want to do the shock test. Maybe testers will discover that things don't work, and didn't BEFORE the test.

    1. I think it's quite likely that we'll see two of the three Zumwalts wind up tied to pier and rarely or never deploying. The remaining one will be used for experimentation in US waters. Just my prediction, for what it's worth!

    2. I wish they'd found a cheaper way to test the hull. A tumblehome LCS operated by remote would be interesting to see in a real storm. They say its all good, but... we don't know. And at 3 Billion a copy we'll likely never find out with these examples.

    3. A tumblehome hull is not all good! There are known stability dangers in certain seas and the Navy has written operating limitations for the Zumwalts.

      Further, the horizontal cross sectional surface area decreases as the ship sinks rather than increasing as with conventional ships. This reduces the ship's buoyancy as it sinks rather than increasing it.

      This is, very much, a questionable hull form for open ocean work. As a littoral vessel, which is what it was originally intended to be, those hull shortcomings might be acceptable but it is highly questionable that they're safe and worth the trade offs in the open ocean.

    4. Heres a photo of a hull section in dock of Zumwalt.
      would be interesting to know how much of the side steel is of the high strength type

    5. "This reduces the ship's buoyancy as it sinks rather than increasing it."

      Now that you mention it, Ztev's cross section does look like an arrow pointed down. No reserve buoyancy at all.

      Still, back to my original point, I don't mind them testing things, even things that might not make much sense at first blush, just so long as its testing.

      Putting this hull on an expensive 14K ton (!!!! just short of BB26!!!!) 'Destroyer' is a bad idea.

      Putting it on a testing platform like Sea Shadow is fine.

  4. "Congress could stop this nonsense tomorrow, but won't..."

    In many ways Congress is complicit with the acquisitions issues, not part of the solution.

    Look at the LCS they just put back in the budget.

  5. Tumblehome designs were abandoned in the first half of the 20th century due to their poor ability to take damage and sail in rough seas. They tended to capsize apparently.

    It's a high risk design with very limited potential for upside and quite a bit of potential for downside.

    The real question is, are these militarily useful or is the technology useful for any real experiments that might yield something. My gut says probably not.

    1. The original concept for the Zumwalt was for a ship to stand in shallow waters and conduct gun support. As such, the tumblehome hull offered stealth and, possibly, easier partial submergence. Now, given the cost of the ship and the limited value of the gun, I'm not sure anyone would risk it in shallow waters. That leaves open ocean for which it may not be suited.

    2. The thing is, if a ship is "too expensive to risk in combat because it can be lost", it may be too expensive to be of any use.

      Ships must be sent to the front lines in war and in turn that means there will be losses. The Yamato class during WW2 is an example - it didn't see as much action for fear of losing them. In the end, the Yamato and the Mushashi did not contribute in a way that justified the massive resources it must have taken for a nation like Imperial Japan to build them.

      There was never the big Jutland-like battle either that the 2 ships had been built for - maybe the Battle of Leyte Gulf is the closest. Worsening this was the fuel shortage Japan had during WW2.

      The Zumwalt suffers from this flaw of being ultra expensive and although the US is unlikely to have a fuel shortage, it is far less durable than any WWII battleship. That said, perhaps the logistics line of the US Navy could be a very huge weak point for any opponent.

      I wonder if the Ford class might end up that way. Consider the construction costs + the costs for all of the aircraft.


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