As you recall, the Zumwalt Advanced Gun System (AGS) was rendered inoperative when the Navy cancelled the Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP), the only munition that the gun was able to launch. Since then, the Navy examined the possibility of adapting an existing munition to fit the AGS but concluded that none would provide the performance that could justify the cost and, instead, opted to do nothing and monitor industrial developments in the hope that a suitable munition might spontaneously emerge – a prospect that ComNavOps viewed as wishful thinking, at best.
Now, though, a combined industrial and State Department government initiative has provided a mission and an unconventional munition for the Zumwalt’s AGS. The LRLAP canisters are being adapted to accommodate a non-lethal, humanitarian aid payload in support of the State Department’s Global Outreach - Total Care Humanitarian Aid program which provides a complete range of humanitarian aid to natural disaster areas. The initial payload will be an adaptation of the military’s standard field rations, the MRE. In an exclusive interview with Navy Matters Blog, Navy spokesman Adm. Harriman Nelson explained the new AGS non-lethal round.
“The Navy has always supported deterrence and a major part of that effort is humanitarian aid. The problem in the past has been the logistics of supplying that aid. During a natural disaster, bridges, roads, ports, and airfields are often unusable and that greatly hinders delivery of supplies. By packaging MRE’s into the LRLAP canisters, we’ve solved the distribution issue. The AGS-LRLAP-MRE canister system provides a means of launching and delivering individual MRE’s 70-100 miles with pinpoint GPS accuracy. We can literally drop an MRE onto a family’s dinner table and we can do this at a sustained rate of 10 meals per minute for an indefinite period.”
Adm. Nelson went on to explain that MRE’s were just the first of many payloads that the LRLAP canisters could deliver. Plans are already underway to provide payloads of medical supplies, fresh water, tools and building materials, and emergency communication cell phones among other possibilities.
While such a non-lethal use of a $8B warship may seem unusual to many observers, Adm. Nelson explained the Navy’s position.
“Yes, traditionally, warships have been focused on combat but the modern Navy recognizes that promoting peace and goodwill is the preferred approach to ensuring world peace. In fact, although we haven’t particularly advertised it, for the last couple of decades the Navy has been deemphasizing combat capabilities in our warships in favor of enhanced non-lethal capabilities. We want to be viewed as a non-threatening ‘peace fleet’ rather than a ‘war fleet’ and the Zumwalt’s AGS with LRLAP-MRE is a major step toward that goal.”
Both the Navy and State Department spokespersons noted that if this effort proved successful, the concept could be adapted to the Navy’s ubiquitous 5” gun thereby enabling massive disaster relief supply efforts with fleets of Burke class destroyers providing massed salvos of MRE’s to disaster areas (1).
Adm. Nelson concluded by stating,
“When the State Department approached us last April with this concept, we recognized the value in a non-lethal AGS immediately and knew we would be fools not to support this effort.”
Initial test firings are scheduled to begin this month and, if successful, the Zumwalt is tentatively scheduled to make its first humanitarian aid deployment by the end of the summer.
(1)State Department, Global Outreach – Total Care Humanitarian Aid (G.O.T.C.H.A.) website, retrieved