(Antfer) #1
U.S. NAVY/GENERAL DYNAMICS BATH IRON WORKS VIA GETTY IMAGES

T


HE USS ZUMWALT
and her two sister
ships are undergo-
ing a dramatic
change of mission
just three years after
the first ship was
commissioned. The
destroyers, originally meant to
provide naval gunfire support
for the Marines and to bombard
targets far inland, are now being
reoriented as ship killers.
The Zumwalt class of destroy-
ers, which also includes the USS
Michael Monsoor and the USS
Lyndon B. Johnson, was intended
to dramatically boost the f leet’s
gun firepower. After the retire-
ment of the four Iowa-class
battleships in the early 1990s, the
Navy studied a number of solutions
before deciding on the Zumwalts.
Each ship would be equipped with
two 155-millimeter Advanced Gun
Systems, each firing a precision-
guided Long Range Land Attack
Projectile (LRLAP) to ranges of
up to 83 nautical miles.

The


Navy’s


$7.


Billion


Ship


Killers


Machines


// BY KYLE MIZOKAMI //

Initially planned
as a 32-destroyer
land-striking
force, the Zum-
walt class is now
three destroyers
and will soon be
meant for surface
warfare.

ammo, they can’t fulfill their
original mission.
Now, less than three years after
lead ship Zumwalt joined the fleet,
the Navy is shifting the ships’
mission from land attack to sur-
face warfare: sinking other ships.
In addition to the two guns, each
destroyer has 80 Mark 57 vertical
launch armored missile silos capa-
ble of carrying a mix of offensive
and defensive weaponry.
The Zumwalts will carry the
Maritime Tomahawk missile,
which allows the ships to strike
other ships at sea, potentially hun-
dreds of miles away, using friendly
assets like high-altitude drones
and P-8A Poseidon aircraft to pro-
vide target data.
Nav y officials also envision
putting a laser weapon in the

The Navy planned to buy 32
destroyers, but 32 soon became
seven, and seven ultimately
became three. The cost of the
LRLAP, first pegged at $50,
per projectile, ballooned to
$800,000 each, making them
unaffordable to even the mighty
U.S. Navy. Without enough ships
and guns, the Zumwalts were
in danger of becoming the white
elephants of the f leet.
The program has been an
expensive mess, totaling $
billion to date, with just three
ships (average cost: $7.8 billion)
to show—more than three times
the price of the Arleigh Burke–
class guided missile destroyers
that make up much of the Navy’s
surface f leet. Plus, the ships are
five years late. Without LRLAP

5


14 September 2019