At $800K a pop, new Navy de­stroyer’s ammo in ques­tion

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

The new guns on the Navy’s big­gest and most ad­vanced de­stroyer are go­ing to be fir­ing blanks if the Navy can’t find cost-ef­fec­tive pro­jec­tiles.

The GPS-guided, rocket-pow­ered pro­jec­tiles de­vel­oped for the new 155mm Ad­vanced Gun Sys­tem cur­rently cost about $800,000 apiece, nearly as much as a cruise mis­sile, mak­ing them too ex­pen­sive for the Navy to buy in large quan­ti­ties for the stealthy USS Zumwalt, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials.

The pro­jec­tiles were sup­posed to be less ex­pen­sive than mis­siles, pro­vid­ing a cost­ef­fec­tive way to pum­mel tar­gets from 70 miles away and clearing the way for am­phibi­ous land­ings.

But the cur­rent price com­pares with $1 mil­lion for a cruise mis­sile, which has a range of 1,000 miles. And the price grow, of­fi­cials said. For now, there are no plans to buy pro­jec­tiles be­yond the ini­tial pur­chase of 90, ac­cord­ing to the Navy’s draft 2018 bud­get. The Zumwalt is sup­posed to be stocked with 600.

It’s stun­ning news for a pro­gram plagued by grow­ing costs. “Con­gress is go­ing to want to know how the Navy could get so far down the road with­out re­al­iz­ing that the price tag on these pro­jec­tiles is so high,” said Loren Thompson, de­fense an­a­lyst at the Lex­ing­ton In­sti­tute in Arlington, Vir­ginia. The Navy is eval­u­at­ing al­ter­na­tives for am­mu­ni­tion for the Zumwalt and two other ships in the class that are un­der con­struc­tion at Bath Iron Works in Maine. Those op­tions in­clude both con­ven­tional and hy­per-ve­loc­ity pro­jec­tiles, said Navy Capt. Thur­raya Kent.

Bethesda, Mary­land-based Lock­heed Martin, which de­vel­oped the 155mm pro­jec­tiles, blamed the low pro­duc­tion rate of ships - only three are be­ing built, com­pared with the 32 orig­i­nally en­vi­sioned - for driv­ing up costs of the guided mu­ni­tions. The de­fense con­trac­tor is work­ing with the Navy with op­tions, a spokes­woman said. The Navy has been strug­gling to re­duce costs be­cause of bud­get lim­its, but those con­straints could be eased when Repub­li­can Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump takes of­fice. He has vowed to boost de­fense spend­ing and to in­crease the size of the US fleet.

The 610-foot Zumwalt, the first ship in the class, was com­mis­sioned into ser­vice last month and is cur­rently en route to its home port in San Diego.

The de­stroyer fea­tures elec­tric propul­sion, an an­gu­lar shape to min­i­mize radar sig­na­ture, an un­con­ven­tional wave-pierc­ing hull, and a deck­house that hides radar and other sen­sors. The 155mm Ad­vanced Gun Sys­tem was de­signed by BAE Ar­ma­ment Sys­tems.

The ships weigh in at nearly 15,000 tons, about 50 per­cent heav­ier than cur­rent de­stroy­ers. But the crew size is half of the 300 per­son­nel of other de­stroy­ers, thanks to au­to­ma­tion. —AP

PHIPPSBURG: The USS Zumwalt trav­els down the Ken­nebec River in Phippsburg, Maine. The GPS-guided, rocket-pow­ered am­mu­ni­tion de­vel­oped for the new 155mm Ad­vanced Gun Sys­tem cur­rently costs nearly as much as a cruise mis­sile, mak­ing them too ex­pen­sive for the Navy to buy in large quan­ti­ties for the stealthy de­stroyer, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials. —AP

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