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The USS Zumwalt: US Navy’s Largest Destroyer a Game Changer for Naval Warfare

Introduction:

Naval warfare has seen remarkable technological advancements over the years, and one of the most significant additions to the United States Navy’s fleet is the USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) class destroyer. As the largest and most technologically advanced destroyer in the US Navy, the USS Zumwalt represents a game-changer in modern naval warfare. This blog article will delve into the key features and capabilities of this cutting-edge warship, highlighting how it is redefining naval operations and strengthening the nation’s maritime defense.

 

In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast maneuverable long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller powerful short-range attackers. It can also operate independently in hunting out enemy surface and undersea threats. The typical size of destroyers also allow them to operate relatively close to the shore than he most other ships in the fleet while also maintaining capabilities of open-sea deep water travel.

 

The USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) is the US Navy’s largest and most advanced stealthy destroyer. Named after Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, who served as Chief of Naval Operations during the Vietnam War, the Zumwalt-class destroyers are designed to provide advanced capabilities for naval operations.

 

At 610 feet long and weighing in at 15,000 tons, the Zumwalt is larger and more heavily armed than previous US Navy destroyers. Built by General Dynamics Bath Iron Works (BIW), DDG 1000 is the first surface combatant of the Zumwalt-class designed to combat various naval threats. It has taken four years to build at an estimated cost of $4.3 billion.

 

One of the key features of the Zumwalt-class destroyers is their stealth technology. The ship’s hull is angled to deflect radar signals, and its composite deckhouse is designed to reduce its radar signature. This makes the Zumwalt difficult to detect, allowing it to operate in enemy territory without being detected.

 

The Zumwalt class was designed with multimission capability. It is designed to operate in both shallow and deep waters, and its advanced technology makes it nearly invisible to radar.

 

Unlike previous destroyer classes, designed primarily for deep-water combat, the Zumwalt multi-mission surface combatants are designed for littoral operations and land attacks, in addition to the usual destroyer missions of anti-air, anti-surface, and antisubmarine warfare. The class is multi-role and designed for surface warfare, anti-aircraft, and naval fire support.

 

The Zumwalt’s advanced electronics and communications systems also give it a significant advantage over previous US Navy destroyers. The ship’s combat system is capable of integrating data from multiple sources, including satellites, UAVs, and other ships. This allows the Zumwalt to provide a more comprehensive picture of the battlefield, giving naval commanders the information they need to make informed decisions.

 

 

One of the key missions of the Zumwalt-class destroyers is naval gunfire support. The ship’s 155mm cannon is capable of firing precision-guided shells that can provide fire support for troops on the ground. The ship is also equipped with missile launchers that can fire a variety of missiles, including Tomahawk cruise missiles and anti-ship missiles. Tomahawk cruise missiles, can be used to strike targets on land or at sea.

 

Armed with SM-1, SM-2 and SM-6 missiles (fired from the ship’s Mk 57 Vertical Launch System), the Zumwalt can be used for ballistic missile defense. The US Navy’s Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) successfully conducted its first in-class live-fire missile exercise in April 2022. As part of the exercise, the crew of USS Zumwalt fired a series of missiles, including RIM 162D Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile Block 1 (ESSM) and the Standard Missile 2 (SM-2). It marked the final air defence testing of the Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyer.

 

“The USS Zumwalt is capable of being equipped with powerful railguns. They outperform any other types of modern weapons. If such a warship was deployed near the Korean peninsula this would be a headache for China,” the expert said. At the same time, Kim Dongyeop, professor of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University, told Sputnik , that ship has not yet undergone railgun and other weapons tests and “its deployment as a strategic weapon would be complicated.”

 

The Zumwalt is also equipped with advanced anti-submarine warfare capabilities. Its advanced sensors and communications systems allow it to detect and track enemy submarines, and its torpedo tubes can launch both torpedoes and anti-ship missiles.

 

The ship was commissioned in Baltimore on 15 October 2016. Her home port is San Diego, California. USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) was delivered to the fleet after completing its combat system activation and subsequent at-sea trials in April 2020. In April 2019, Zumwalt departed San Diego for a first operational deployment into the Pacific since the shipyard availability conducted in 2017 and 2018.

 

USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) has also completed a structural test fire of its gun weapon system (GWS), Mark 46 MOD 2, in May 2020. “DDG 1001 completed her Combat System Availability in March 2020 and work has transitioned to the next phase for developmental and integrated at-sea testing of weapons, sensors and communication systems,” Navy spokesman Capt. Danny Hernandez told USNI News.

 

In addition to its testing requirements, Zumwalt had already been assigned to the Surface Development Squadron 1 (SURFDEVRON) as part of the surface navy’s efforts to work out tactics, techniques and procedures for the new class of destroyers and understand how the Zumwalt class could operate alongside other types of ships – manned and unmanned – to add the most capability and lethality to the force. Zumwalt will remain under SURFDEVRON and will continue experimental activities with the command.

 

 

The U.S. Navy offered to dispatch its deadliest surface warship, the 16,000-ton next generation guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), to South Korea in order to better deter North Korea threats, as reported by the Korea Herald. China already announced its opposition to the stationing of the USS Zumwalt in South Korean waters. Chinese Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said that Beijing is “watching closely.”

 

Despite its advanced technology, the Zumwalt-class destroyers have faced some challenges. The program has been plagued by cost overruns and delays, and the Navy initially planned to build 32 of these ships but later reduced the number to just three. The Zumwalt has also faced technical issues, including problems with its electrical system and the ship’s engines.

Despite these challenges, the USS Zumwalt remains a critical component of the US Navy’s fleet. Its advanced technology and capabilities make it a formidable presence on the high seas, and it is expected to play a critical role in future naval operations.

Stealthy Design

“Everything is new,” Sean Stackley, the Navy’s top official for research, acquisition and development said in an interview with Defense News. “From the propulsion plant, the power distribution – the whole integrated power system – the extraordinarily unique features of the hull form that provide the degree of stealth and survivability, the radar system, the degree of automation that’s incorporated into the ship to enable the reduced-size crew – it’s all new. With 147 officers and sailors, the Zumwalt’s crew is the smallest of any destroyer built since the 1930s, thanks to extensive automation.

 

Despite its colossal size, Zumwalt is also stealthy, its cutting edge features are composite deckhouse with hidden radar and sensors and an angular frame that makes it much less detectable to radar than are current warships. It has the radar cross-section of a fishing boat.  Quieter than other ships, the Zumwalt is hard to detect, track and attack. A composite deckhouse hides radar and other sensors. It also has a wave-piercing hull designed to reduce the ship’s wake. However according to Russian article the stealth also  makes it more accidental, “As soon as the ship first went to sea, complaints from alarmed merchant ships poured in. Their radar saw “just a fishing boat,” and when the destroyer was in sight, they were forced to urgently scramble to change course.”

 

“The destroyer was invisible for everyone, except for the Russian and Chinese radars. They operate on a different frequency and can see Zumwalt very clearly, even despite the fact that it cost $4.4 billion,” report further says. ” Imagine a colossus with a solid wall the height of a sixteen-story building. Given the capabilities of current weapons using space and aerial reconnaissance, in addition to those of UAVs, this giant washtub cannot remain an inconspicuous target on the sea surface,” says Sputnik. The Zumwalt also features an unconventional wave-piercing hull that makes its ride “very smooth,” said Lt. Cmdr. Nate Chase. The ship has something of a pyramid shape because of the hull’s shape, and critics say the ship could become unstable in some conditions. Engineers have expressed concerns about the stability of Zumwalt ships in weathering giant waves due to downward-sloping hull instead of upward-flaring hulls of traditional ships.

Armament

Armament is centered around payload of 80-cell surface to surface missiles of various types. It carries two “Advanced Gun System” which can fire rocket-powered, computer-guided shells that can destroy targets 63 miles away with impeccable precision. Provisions are in place to to support the addition of torpedo capabilities. Apart from artillery and anti-aircraft installations, the Zumwalt is equipped with 20 multipurpose missile launchers capable of launching 80 Tomahawk cruise missiles. The Zumwalt will be able to launch Tomahawk cruise missiles, Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, standard surface-to-air missiles and anti-submarine rockets from 80 missile tubes.

 

Its capabilities are further enhanced by ability to support up to 2 x MH-60R helicopters (or 1 X Sirkosky MH-60R ) and up to three unmanned aerial vehicles (MQ-8 Fire Scout helicopter UAV). The automated operations center allow very small crew of 130 sailors to monitor and operate multiple weapons compared to about 300 sailors needed for similar warships.

 

All Electric Zumwalt and Integrated power systems (IPS)

Last year, then Navy director of surface warfare now commander of U.S. Surface Forces Command, Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden told USNI News the Zumwalts would be likely used as test beds for emerging technologies like railguns and directed energy weapons the Navy wants for its next large surface combatant due to the ship’s size an ability to generate power. The integrated power system (IPS)  powered by two massive Rolls Royce MT-30 gas turbines and two smaller Rolls-Royce RR450– allow the ships to route and generate 80 mega-watt power –almost as much as a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

 

It’s the first US ship to use electric propulsion and produces enough power to one day support the futuristic electromagnetic rail gun, which will be tested at sea in 2016. Its massive electrical capabilities are also expected to support future laser weapons. In the past, ships used most of their installed power for propulsion, with the engines and propellers directly connected through large and complex gearboxes. But the all-electric Zumwalt vessels will come equipped with so-called “integrated power systems (IPS),” designed to route electricity around the ship in an instant, eliminating mechanical gearboxes and allowing the power to be used for both propulsion and other electrical systems – including powerful new weapons.

 

The IPS could free up as much as 80 percent of the ship’s power dedicated to propulsion within a fraction of a second. “We’re no longer restricting the engines to provide propulsion power only,” says Adam Kabulski, director for naval accounts at GE Power Conversion, which developed the IPS. “This design allows you to send electric power wherever you need it. You can access many megawatts in a short amount of time and convert it into energy. It’s instantaneous.” The system is also highly redundant. Instead of the typical three-phase motors, the Zumwalt’s “advanced induction motors” have 15 phases. “The design is innovative, being smaller and quieter than traditional motors, and also highly survivable,” Kabulski says.

 

The Russian are pointing to the danger of any leak to become mortally dangerous, both for the ship and crew. The IPS, which delivers power at 4,160 volts, is also equipped with harmonic filters, power electronics and other technology to maintain power quality and manage electrical disturbances from spreading through the system.

 

GE Powers US Navy’s 1st Full-Electric Power and Propulsion Ship

The electric propulsion solution delivers efficiency, survivability, cost-of-ownership reductions, and system redundancy for enhanced vessel safety. In addition, machinery layout is more flexible and configurable. As the top integrated electric power and propulsion provider to navies around the world, GE leveraged proven technologies for its innovative full-electric propulsion system and will continue to build on those innovations going forward.

 

The US Navy has taken delivery of the USS Zumwalt, its first full-electric power and propulsion ship. GE’s Power Conversion business (NYSE:GE) was the designer and provider for the high-voltage system (HV), propulsion drive trains consisting of multiphase converters and Advanced Induction Motors (AIM) for the DDG 1000 class of futuristic destroyers.

 

For navies around the globe, power and energy are mission enablers, according to Kevin Byrne, who leads the North American marine segment for GE’s Power Conversion business. “Because electric power is needed for various operations and mission systems in parallel, this full-electric power and propulsion ship has the flexibility to direct energy where it is needed on the platform,” he said. The electric propulsion solution delivers efficiency, cost-of-ownership reductions, and system redundancy for enhanced vessel safety. In addition, machinery layout is more flexible and configurable for containment and isolation. Employing GE’s innovative and Integrated Power System (IPS), the DDG 1000 has the capacity to distribute electricity across the entire ship, allowing for enhanced power flexibility for various operational requirements.

 

Both of GE’s drive trains have two electric motors in tandem. VDM25000 power converters with three independent channels accompany the 15-phase AIM. Each motor drive train can operate on 5, 10, or 15 phases. This provides high redundancy and is more economical when running at lower power. GE’s AIM drive train was selected to meet the requirements of the ZUMWALT Class Destroyer.

 

Compact enough for combatant ships and powerful enough for an aircraft carrier, AIM technology has demonstrated its performance over more than two decades on land and at sea for mechanical strength, robustness, very low maintenance, and naval performance requirements. For the full-electric propulsion system, GE leveraged its proven technologies, building from the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) land-based test site and its own Marine Power Test Facility in the UK, alongside the UK Royal Navy Type 45 program, Byrne explained. “The US Navy gets benefits from our other platforms that we then could apply to the DDG 1000 and future platforms.”

 

With 72 MW of propulsion power, GE’s Integrated Full Electric Propulsion (IFEP) system comprises all shipboard electrical power generation and propulsion including the propulsion motor, VDM25000 variable speed drives, switchboards, and HV equipment. Offering improved efficiency, the electric drive eliminates the need for the drive shaft and reduction gears and brings benefits in acoustic signature reduction, an increase in available power for operational requirements and improvements in the quality of life for crew. The all-electric propulsion of Zumwalt also generates additional reserved power, allowing the integration of future high-energy defense systems and sensors.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4-AG40hGXk

Third Ship may carry Railgun

Engineering studies to include an electromagnetic railgun on a Zumwalt-class destroyer (DDG-1000) have started at Naval Sea Systems Command. They will determine if the Zumwalt-class will have the space, power and cooling to field a railgun – likely replacing one of the two 155mm BAE Advanced Gun Systems (AGS) ahead of the ship’s deck house, Vice Adm. William Hilarides told USNI News. The weapon can release up to 5 million amps, or 1,200 volts within 10 milliseconds, according to Military.com. That’s enough to speed up a 45-pound projectile from zero to 5,000 mph in one one-hundredth of a second, the site said. “Energetic weapons, such as EM railguns, are the future of naval combat,” said Rear Adm. Matt Klunder, the chief of naval research.

 

The Navy said it planned to test fire a series of GPS-guided hyper-velocity projectiles from the gun mounted on a high-speed vessel at a floating barge as far as 50 miles away. “We’re going to fire it against a floating target,” U.S. Navy Capt. Mike Ziv, program manager for Directed Energy and Electric Weapon Systems, told Military.com. “We’re trying to gauge the ability to engage a target over the horizon. We’re going to have a gradual ramp up and gather data.” The tests are slated for the summer of 2016. But from an initial order of 32 ships, the number of Zumwalt vessels the Navy planned to build has been reduced over the years to seven and then to three, reflecting increasing costs and a change in what the Navy predicts it will need in a future force. Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001), the second destroyer, will be delivered in November 2016. The delivery of Lyndon B Johnson (DDG 1002), in December 2018, remains on schedule.

 

ZUMWALT DDGs to be equipped with hypersonic weapon

Lockheed Martin has received a new contract to provide the first sea-based hypersonic strike capability for the US Navy’s surface combatant vessels. The estimated value of this initial award is approximately $1.1bn, however, this value may increase to $2bn if all the contract options are exercised. Under this award, the company will be responsible for the integration of conventional prompt strike (CPS) weapon system onto the US Navy’s Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyers.

As the prime contractor, Lockheed Martin will also be responsible for providing associated platform integration support as well as the missile components, such as all up rounds (AURs), launcher systems and weapon control. Apart from Lockheed Martin, the contract also involves participation of other industry partners, including General Dynamics Mission Systems and Northrop Grumman. Lockheed Martin said that the three companies are on track to deliver the CPS capability to the US Navy sailors by mid-2020s.

Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) has secured a $154.8 million contract for the installation of hypersonic missiles on the guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000), as announced by the Pentagon. This project, set to be completed by September 2025, involves replacing the destroyer’s original twin 155mm Advanced Gun Systems with four 87-inch missile tubes. Each of these tubes will house three Common Hypersonic Glide Bodies (C-HGB), a type of hypersonic missile developed jointly by the U.S. Army and the Navy. The C-HGB missiles are a component of the Pentagon’s conventional strategic weapon systems and offer the capability to strike targets worldwide with minimal warning.

The award of this contract is part of the broader initiative to integrate hypersonic weapons onto Navy ships. USS Michael Monsoor (DDG-1001), another Zumwalt-class destroyer, is also slated for similar upgrades. The Navy aims to have the hypersonic weapons on USS Zumwalt ready for testing by December 2025. However, the Government Accountability Office has cautioned that deployment timelines could be impacted due to potential delays in the development of these advanced weapons. The ability to implement the hypersonic weapon systems during the maintenance period on DDG 1000 is contingent on the readiness of the weapons, and potential adjustments or delays may be necessary to accommodate this integration.

 

Zumwalt has also come under criticism from various quarters. “The newest U.S. Navy destroyer Zumwalt was not only one of the most expensive in history, but also the most inefficient. New faults were found in its design, reported USNI News. The lubrication system is not working, responsible for the maintenance of the propeller shaft of the ship. It has taken in water, when the destroyer went to sea at the naval base in Norfolk during the current stage of testing. Repairs are expected to take no less than two weeks.”

 

Military analyst Mikhail Lukanin told Radio Sputnik that the ship really was interesting in terms of its innovative solutions, but not in terms of its combat capabilities.  “The Americans have presented the Zumwalt as the best warship in history; this of course is an exaggerated characterization. The ship really is interesting in terms of innovation, when looking at its power plant, the types of weapons installed, and its control system. All this really is a breakthrough. But taken altogether, this does not turn the destroyer into a super-menacing weapon. This is a floating supercomputer with missiles…It doesn’t alter the balance of forces.” Lukanin said. “Basically, this is the cost of an aircraft carrier, which is much more important from a military point of view. For $4 billion the US could also build three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, which by the way, are even better armed. If the Zumwalt has 80 missile launchers, the Arleigh Burke has 96.”

 

Conclusion:

The USS Zumwalt represents a remarkable advancement in naval technology, redefining the capabilities of destroyers in modern warfare. With its stealthy design, advanced weaponry, and cutting-edge systems, this state-of-the-art warship is a game-changer for the United States Navy. As naval warfare continues to evolve, the USS Zumwalt will undoubtedly remain at the forefront of ensuring maritime superiority, safeguarding national interests, and protecting global peace and stability.

 

 

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