Monday, June 1, 2020

Zumwalt Status Update

The Zumwalt has finally finished its combat system installation and activation and testing is currently taking place at Pearl Harbor.  At last, nine years after physical construction began, Zumwalt is nearly physically complete and functional.  To celebrate, let’s briefly recap the ship’s history and check its current status.  Here’s a timeline of the ship’s major events.


Event
Year
Comment
Laid Down
2011
Beginning of physical construction
Launched
2013

Delivery
2016
Delivered incomplete; Phase II of construction pending
Fake Commissioning
2016

Transit to Homeport San Diego
2016
Lost power due to water leak in lube oil; had to be towed
San Diego Fitting Out
2016
Phase II construction and initial combat system install
PR Cruise
2019
Public relations cruise and transfer to Pearl Harbor for combat systems installation
Combat Systems Installation and Activation
2019
Combat systems installation and testing at Pearl Harbor
Real Commissioning
2020
Commission granted by ComNavOps



So, nine years to complete the ship.  Hmmm …  How are we going to replace lost ships in a war?  We should be seriously examining our ship designs and asking why it takes nine years to build a ship.  But, I digress …

Let’s quickly review the ship’s status.


Weapons.  The major problem with the Zumwalt is that it has very little in the way of weapons which means it has only limited use in combat.  The ship’s main weapon, Advanced Gun System (AGS) - the weapon the entire ship was designed around – is non-functional due to cancellation of the only ammunition the gun could fire, the LRLAP round.  That leaves the ship with a total weapons fit of the following:

  • 80x Mk57 VLS cells
  • 2x 30mm machine guns

Note the complete absence of any point defense weapons like CIWS or RAM/SeaRAM.  This is not a ship that stands a good chance of survival in combat. 

Worse, we’ve discussed that the Zumwalt’s VLS cells have only limited capability because it doesn’t have the full Aegis combat system software.  Currently, Zumwalt does not have Tomahawk or Standard missile launch capability although the Navy requested funds from Congress to integrate the Tomahawk capability.(2)  What does that leave?  I guess the ship is a giant ESSM barge.

On the ‘plus’ side, the Zumwalt just conducted its first live fire of its 30 mm machine guns, only four years after being commissioned! (3)

You’ll also note that the Zumwalt has no offensive weapon capability since the guns are non-functional and Tomahawk missiles are not supported.  So, that leaves Zumwalt as a purely defensive ship whose self-defense system is also non-functional (see the next section).

Ship Self-Defense System.  Due to the lack of illuminators and the decision to delete half of the Dual Band Radar, the Zumwalt has no functional missile guidance system.  The Navy is currently trying to modify missiles with the Joint Universal Weapons Link to accept radar guidance from the SPY-3 but that, in turn, appears to be negatively impacting radar performance (see, “Zumwalt Self-Defense Problems”).  The upshot is that Zumwalt’s self-defense system is non-functional.

Crew Size.  Zumwalt, like the LCS, was designed for minimal manning with a crew of around 140 on a cruiser size ship with a displacement of 16,000 tons.  By comparison, the Burke has a crew of 320 and a displacement of 9200 tons.  As the LCS has demonstrated, minimal manning has been an abject failure in every respect.  When the lack of point defense is combined with the lack of crew for damage control the situation is even worse.

Ballistic Missile Defense.  Information on the Zumwalt’s BMD capability, or lack thereof, is sketchy and confusing.  The Navy has, at various times, stated that the Zumwalt is capable of firing the Standard missile family and is not capable of operating Standard missiles.  What this appears to mean is that although the VLS cells can launch physically launch a Standard missile, they cannot be guided because the ship lacks the Aegis combat system which provides the missile guidance.  Regardless of the physical ability of the ship to eject a Standard missile from the VLS cells, it appears that the ship has no BMD capability due to a lack of BMD software in its combat system.

Experimental Squadron.  For the moment, the Navy plans to use the Zumwalt as a test bed for an unmanned squadron of ships that will include the first four LCS, DARPA’s Sea Hunter, and the Zumwalts.(1)  Wow!  What a collection of misfits!

Stealth.  Supposedly the ship’s most important attribute, stealth, was going to allow the ship to sit close inshore and rain death on our enemies while remaining undetected.  Setting aside the fantasy level of thinking contained therein, even the stealth has been degraded.  While the first two ships were constructed with a resin-wood composite deckhouse that supposedly had special stealth characteristics, the third and final ship was built with a standard steel deckhouse.  What’s more, the final fitting of the ship reveals that non-stealthy platforms, masts, sensors, and antennae have sprouted on the ship like mushrooms and have, presumably, negatively impacted whatever stealth the ship may have had.


Note all the non-stealthy projections, masts, platforms, antennae, etc.


Summary

Well, there you have it.  That’s what a $25B+ program gets you – a ship with no offensive weapons, no functional self-defense, no point defense, degraded stealth, and a crew too small to fight the ship and execute damage control.



_____________________________________

(1)USNI News website, “Navy Stands Up Surface Development Squadron for DDG-1000, Unmanned Experimentation”, Megan Eckstein, 22-May-2019,
https://news.usni.org/2019/05/22/navy-stands-up-surface-development-squadron-for-ddg-1000-unmanned-experimentation

National Interest website, “Drones Are Giving The Troubled Zumwalt Destroyer A Place In The Navy's Strategy”, David Axe, 2-May-2020,
https://nationalinterest.org/blog/drones-are-giving-troubled-zumwalt-destroyer-place-navys-strategy-149866

(3)MilitaryLeak blog, 21-May-2020,
https://militaryleak.com/2020/05/21/us-navys-uss-zumwalt-completes-first-live-fire-test/

47 comments:

  1. The only rational explanation is that Navy brass are all on the ChiCom payroll.

    Because no one screws up this badly by accident.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The Zumwalts main function is to make the LCS crews feel better, "See kids there is a ship may more screwed up than ours"
    The Ford crew on the other hand, can console itself with the thought that a carrier with 4 working elevators beats a cruiser with no ammo.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Planes in the hangar are better than cobwebs in the magazine.

      Delete
  3. There is an article in this month's USNI Proceedings proposing to put one of the Zumwalts permanently in San Diego as a test bed for future systems, and deploy the other two to Japan and the Med as flagship replacements for the LCCs. Makes more. sense than any other idea I have heard, other than possibly SINKEX.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Problem is why did the 3rd even get built. The CF was obvious after the first and the gun cancellation. The 3rd could have been suspended and just retain 2 for 'test beds'. You can say unit cost but since thay cannot do anything the point is still total wasted cost.

      Delete
    2. "why did the 3rd even get built."

      It's actually not a case of why the third got built but why the first did. At that point, the Navy didn't want any. I've never seen an explicit explanation but my best understanding is that the cancellation fees would have been so exorbitant that the Navy opted to go ahead with the minimal purchase of three ships. Of course, at the time, they still believed they could get some use out of them. Sadly, not even that crumb of consolation panned out. There was also the inevitable legal battles and costs that would have followed cancellation.

      So, the short answer is building the minimal quantity of three was cheaper than cancelling. Of course, this is according to the Navy so take that explanation with a giant grain of salt.

      Delete
    3. Surely the idea that a Zumwalt can function as an amphibious command ship is ridiculous.
      They aren't in any way designed for such a function.

      Delete
    4. The AGS for the second and third ships should have been warehoused as "spare parts" or "test articles", and the ships should have been delivered with ballast plates and welded down covers.

      Delete
    5. The EXACT reason why they built the third one is simple. They named it. How are you going to cancel a ship named after a President?

      On a separate note, I am considering not reading this blog any longer. I seriously get depressed every time I read. It seems the Navy and my beloved Marine Corps are incapable of rational thought and I feel absolutely useless in the fact that I am unable to assist in changing its thought patterns.

      Delete
    6. "I feel absolutely useless in the fact that I am unable to assist in changing its thought patterns."

      You are having an impact whether you recognize it or not. First, I get LOTS of emails and communications from active duty personnel of every rank. This blog IS read by the Navy. People are being influenced. The thing is the influence and resulting actions occur in small bits that are, by themselves, difficult to recognize. However, look at the bigger picture over time. Over the last several years (the life of this blog) the Navy has acknowledged a bunch of mistakes that we've called out on this blog (minimal manning, for example). They've acknowledged that the LCS was a mistake - although we're still stuck with them - and now they've moved on to a frigate which is not what I would have done but it's an improvement on the LCS. The Marines are beginning to discuss and develop mobile anti-air and EW capabilities. I could go on and on but you get the idea. There have been some positive developments. Are they due 100% to this blog? I doubt it but I also have no doubt that some of the Navy's leaders are influenced by this blog and act accordingly to the degree they can, when they can. So, your comments DO have an impact.

      Walking away from problems or bad news is exactly the wrong approach. As a society, we walked away from politics and look what that gave us. We should get more engaged, not less, and demand that our elected officials serve us, not the other way around. We need to exercise our powers as citizens, not walk away because politics have gotten so bad.

      Remember, the tenure of a Marine Commandant is quite limited. In a year or two, someone else will take over and, hopefully, put the Marine Corps back on track. Every Commandant comes in with grandiose ideas but they rarely implement anything of significance because their time in office is too short. For example, Marine Corps tanks can be eliminated with the stroke of a pen and they can be brought back the same way by the next Commandant.

      I love the Navy and Marines. Recognize that I write this blog not to criticize but to analyze. The fact that any rational analysis may, and often does, lead to criticism is just a result of the fact that there are a LOT of bad decisions being made in the military. I'm doing my part to change things by bringing the issues to light. You can't change things until you know what's broken and how badly.

      Rickover and Boyd - to offer two examples - succeeded in the face of continual opposition and frustration because they kept hammering out their message. They didn't give up. You do the same. Keep commenting and keep hammering your message and have faith that it IS being read. Look for the small victories and the small positive changes.

      If you get discouraged, ask me and I'll tell you about positive changes (recall the Marine jeep mounted EW on the amphib ship that downed an Iranian drone, just recently? mobile EW is a definite positive development!).

      Delete
  4. A minor point Zumwalt does not use the Ship Self-Defense System CMS as fitted to the CVNs and Amphibs, nor as you mentioned Aegis but an all new CMS specifically developed by Raytheon for Zumwalt, the TSCE(Total Ship Computing Environment), how much it cost of the $11+ billions spent on Zumwalt in R&D don't know as never came across a break down.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Zumwalt does not use the Ship Self-Defense System CMS as fitted to the CVNs and Amphibs,"

      Correct, however, the Navy and DOT&E use the phrase 'ship self-defense system' in their reports so I do, too. See, for example, the DOT&E 2019 Annual Report.

      Delete
    2. My misunderstanding,thanks for your correction.

      Delete
  5. They can't bother to get some illuminators on the ship - but by god, damn the stealth, we must have sat-comms for sufficient micro-managing.

    ReplyDelete
  6. USN spent $25 billion and you can't fire Standards and Tomahawks?!? Should that with ESSM be standard fit for every surface ship? Not saying it should be carrying them at all times but seems to me strange that a major warship seems that emasculated.

    Very similar to Ford, USN just dumped every imaginable tech gizmo on board with no doubt of usefulness or necessity. Why didnt they just build a LO hull with a standard Burke AEGIS fit?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The VLS cells are, I assume, capable of launching Standards and Tomahawks - the ship just can't control them. Inexplicably, the Navy has several different combat control software systems spread among the fleet (Aegis, Ship Self-Defense System, 2 different LCS systems, and the Zumwalt ship self-defense system) instead of having a single fleet system as any reasonable person would do.

      Unfortunately, the Zumwalt's version appears not to have the capability to control Standards and Tomahawks effectively. Bizarre, to say the least.

      Delete
    2. "The VLS cells are, I assume, capable of launching Standards and Tomahawks - the ship just can't control them."

      That might as well be the headline from a satire/parody announcement.

      Delete
  7. Your summary makes me wish I was a defense contractor LOL!!! Seriously though, the insanity has to stop but feel that only tragedy/war losses will change things (too late)..?
    @CNO notice your rapid fire, mire frequent posts and enjoy it, albeit its always more bad news...!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "always more bad news...!!!"

      Believe it or not, I actively look for good news but it's really hard to find much.

      Delete
    2. Oh I believe it!!! Its like being excited about the FFG(X)... until the Navy fiddled with it a bit. Now I see it as another wasted opportunity before the first keel is layed. Starting to feel like the Navy leadership's motto is "so many failures, so little time...!"

      Delete
  8. Actually your description of the Zummies make it sound like its now an expensive arsenal ship. Not enough missiles, too much crew, and pretend stealth, but other than that a missle boat.

    ReplyDelete
  9. This looks like the perfect candidate for a "radical minimal manning program." Moor it somewhere and have people visit it occasionally to record its deterioration.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Speaking seriously, there are lots of good options for getting some use out of them. For example, we could install two double or triple 8" gun turrets plus a bunch of MLRS launchers and make it a prototype naval gun support platform. There's lots of other ideas, too. The Navy just needs to admit they are a mistake and move on to other uses for them.

      The stated goal of now making them anti-surface ships is pointless. First, they have no anti-surface capability! Second, we have plenty of anti-surface capability already. That being the case, let's make prototypes out of them for various applications and get some use out of them.

      Delete
    2. If you wanted to convert it to an ersatz BB gun platform, you'd probably need to also armor it accordingly, which is extraordinarily expensive and difficult for a ship not designed to carry significant armor.

      Delete
  10. On top of everything else, it's incredibly ugly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ugliness is a basic requirement for stealth, it seems.

      Delete
    2. For ships perhaps, but certainly not for aircraft!

      Delete
  11. Being an ESSM barge could be a good thing, if the Zumwalt were designed to work alone, since it wouldn't have to defend any other targets besides itself.

    Unlike the LCS, it currently doesn't have any documented weight limits (and since it has no shells, that automatically frees up a few tons too) , so there's no reason it can't have deck mounted Harpoon and NSM's bolted fore and aft.x8 missiles fore, x16-24 aft.

    In addition, if it does happen to be with NSM armed LCS, then should they stay within 10 nm of the Zumwalt, the Zumwalt can provide some air defence for them as well.

    I read it has little missile guidance. In a way, since numerous articles state ship to ship action will actually be very close, not hundreds of miles apart, that may not matter.

    I wish the USN wasn't fixated on 30mm/57mm/127mm guns. The Italian 40 and 76mm guns are deck mounted and could be bolted onto the Zumwalt, allowing it to provide some patrol duties (pathetic as it might be)

    Andrew

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "76mm guns are deck mounted and could be bolted onto the Zumwalt,"

      If you're referring to the Oto Melara 76mm, yes, it mounts to the deck (as does every gun!) but it has a substantial below deck magazine and machinery component as well as requiring ship's utilities. Depending on the version, one or two crewmen may be required to service the below deck component.

      Delete
    2. Hi CNO,

      What I've found says that it does not have ammo below deck. This lighter version which is for above hangers is called :

      Leonardo 76/62 SOVRAPONTE

      Here's a diagram showing all the ammo being internal, unless I've interpreted it all incorrectly.

      https://www.facebook.com/navalanalyses/photos/pcb.2331344253743730/2331343023743853/?type=3&theater

      Andrew

      Delete
    3. "Leonardo 76/62 SOVRAPONTE"

      This appears to be a new weapon that I'm not familiar with. Thanks for the heads up. I'll have to look into it.

      Here's a link to a photo of the 'standard' Oto 76/62 being installed and it shows the below decks magazine and machinery.

      https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-4qpH49MqiI8/XBT05IMAk5I/AAAAAAAAb70/AY9g9dhHHcs0-KsjA7QkQ5Tu5eEQ75wygCLcBGAs/s1600/000000%2BOto-Melara-76SR-gun-004.jpg

      The mini-version you've identified is interesting. The obvious drawback is the limited ammo capacity although the it appears from the drawing to have a capacity of around 80 rds which isn't bad. I wonder what it uses for fire control?

      Delete
    4. Hi CNO,

      Thanks for the pic. I've seen diagrams of the "proper" 76mm gun , but your pic is much better to see.

      This Italian page talks about the Sovraponte more:

      https://svppbellum.blogspot.com/2018/11/leonardo-76-62-sovraponte.html

      It needs translation from Italian.

      Here's a quote:

      "maintains the same performance as the 76/62 standard, but with a weight of 30% lower which guarantees a wider spectrum of installation possibilities such as, for example, above a ship's hangar (see PPP case). "

      Andrew

      Delete
  12. USS Wisconsin:

    Ordered June 12, 1940

    Laid down January 25, 1941

    Launched December 7, 1943

    Commissioned April 16, 1944

    That was a BATTLESHIP!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for reminding us - a dose of history is good tonic to our current malaise.

      We can and must do better.

      GAB

      Delete
    2. We must start firing people for procurement failures. The dreaded and oft-cited 'loss of confidence' should apply not just to ship's captains but also to those in charge of these procurement fiascos.

      Delete
    3. The navy needs to get serious. They are unserious people right now.

      Delete
    4. Really depends what you qualify as a success-failure for a USN Admiral:

      Ready to go to war? Complete failure.

      Shovel money to shipyards? Cushy safe job and retire with nice us govt pension? Join a defense contractor board? Complete success!

      Delete
  13. " That’s what a $25B+ program gets you..."

    Well, the U.S. Army spent about that much on the FCS and GCV programs with zero vehicles to show so at least the USN beat the USA, but that is not saying much.

    GAB

    ReplyDelete
  14. Waiting for the Drachinifel commentary about this ship on YouTube.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Since they cannot defend themselves, paint them white and put the red crosses on them. make them hospital ships. convert the magazines for the guns into hospital rooms.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I think this would be the best basis for the purely AAW or ASW ship in your fleet planning. The ship obviously needs to be much smaller but keeping its stealth "qualities" and remove the unneeded systems for the rail gun, keeping it cheap enough for mass production. If it wanted to work as an ASW, the weapons should only consists of sonar and torpedoes (i don't know if its optimized for ASW but its stealth qualities should help its at least avoid being center of enemy missiles). If it wanted to work as AAW, the armament will consists of 4 VLS cells (we all know that only 4 of them will be used in an engagement) and 2 CIWS systems in the front to provide interchanging defensive firepower. Another idea that i am cooking in my mind is a scout ship for carrier strike group. The ship could form the outer defensive perimeter of the strike group, relying on its stealth to collect information and provide early warning for the strike group. its armament is nothing but the best detection radar we could have (like mini AWACS) because we wanted to minimize detection (in the passage over the Pacific). In high-risk areas, i suggest we could form mini scout groups consists of 1 scout ship, 1 Aleigh-Burke class destroyer and 1 ASW ship and 1 AAW ship as i mentioned above. This should serves as a big enough target with its capabilities for any enemy to ignore if they wanted to for the carrier strike group. Hopefully, with the radar on the scout, the carriers could provide the right airborne forces to find the attackers, keeping the carrier alive for another day. Obviously there might be other areas i haven't consider but i would love to hear your input on this.

    P/S:Your articles are the best thing i have found during this quarantine, keep it up. It's hard to find critical information about the military as a young kid, so i really appreciate this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Welcome to the blog!

      Your idea for a scout ship / scout group is fascinating. The drawback to radar, of course, is that while provides detection capability for you it also broadcasts your location to the enemy from much farther away than your radar can detect. In combat, active radar will be rarely used. That said, a scout ship could be fitted with some pretty impressive and capable passive sensors (IR, EO, signals intercept, etc.) and would still make a potentially very good scout ship.

      The Navy has some vague intent along this line by using small/med size unmanned vessels with active radar in the escort group. Unfortunately, the way they seem to want to implement it will broadcast the group's location without providing any useful early warning.

      The Zumwalt, not being built for the scouting role, is bigger than you'd like. Something along the line of the Swedish Visby would be closer to the ideal scout ship. Still, we're stuck with the Zumwalts and this could be a way to get some use out of them.

      I'm going to have give your scout idea some more thought! Thanks! I urge you to take advantage of the archives and peruse the older posts. There's a wealth of information in them. You've given us an excellent comment. I look forward to more!

      Delete
  17. Just for info the updated 29 May CRS report on Navy Lasers, Railguns and GLGP (HPV).

    In effect states the railgun is in kaput, Navy budgeting just $9.5 million in FY21 to tie loose ends up and then zeros all future funding.

    PS CRS not any new info on the HVP and quotes the very old joke lasers are years in the future and always will be. Appendix listing potential advantages and limitations of lasers, there are more limitations then advantages :)

    ReplyDelete
  18. I understand the need to cut off comments and even block ones only designed to offend, but you cleared house. Was there no way to save what conversation there was? I approach editorial removal of comments by anyone with a ton of concern since Workboat removed an entirely innocuous post. Even more in the past few days as I am finally seeing what others are talking about with what Google and Facebook make easy or hard to find. I've actually had to use Bing.

    ReplyDelete
  19. The GAO June 2020 Defense Aquisition Annual Assessment published, Zumwalt -reveals increase by another billion to $26+billion as at 09/2019.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I was underthe impression the Zumwalts were ewll equipped for ASW, with two major sonars and two Lamps III and two RPV.

    As for those of you who suggest equipping them with WWII weaponry, it be far cheaper to get the air scouts to drop they stonewalling and put the LRLAP into product at it's best economical rate.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. VAdm. Barry McCullough stated in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee that the DDG1000 was more effective in littoral ASW but less effective than DDG51 in open ocean due to having a lower power sonar.

      Zumwalt has a single mount sonar system with dual band arrays.

      The ship lacks any anti-sub weapons other than helos and, possibly, ASROC.

      I've been unable to ascertain whether Zumwalt is equipped with machinery rafting, Prairie/Masker, and similar acoustic suppression technologies.

      The larger question is who in their right mind would risk a $9B ship playing tag with submarines?

      Delete

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