My last post at Defense Tech. For more opinion on the battleship issue (something MO readers seem to take to heart), check out this string of op-eds in the Washington Times (in order): Battleships fit for duty, Building a new Navy, Distortions about ships, and Battling for battleships.
Not to be outdone by the boys in green, the US Navy has its own future combat system, complete with cost overruns, ballooning weight, and dubious performance in early tests. It’s called the DD(X), noted previously here at Defense Tech.
The House of Representatives recently cut large chunks out of the DD(X) budget, and a GAO report noted that the design is currently over the allotted weight for this stage of development. Meanwhile, critics wonder why we should build multi-billion dollar destroyers when we could reactivate battleships for less money.
Since the House slashed the money for the program, the Navy has responded according to DefenseNews:
U.S. Navy leaders are shooting back, touting the ship’s improved war-fighting abilities in coastal regions and technological benefits and claiming the $3.3 billion warship gives taxpayers more bang for their buck.
“DD(X) has a significant advantage over the DDG destroyer in the littorals,” said Vice Adm. Joseph Sestak, the Navy’s head of warfare requirements and programs.
New radar, underwater sensors and computers will make the new destroyer a superior near-shore hunter of ships and subs than the Arleigh Burke-class warships that have been coming out of the shipyards since 1989, Sestak said.
For example, Navy analysis indicates that the DD(X) will be “significantly better against Boghammers, swarming small boats armed with missiles” that are operated by Iran, he said.
Sestak said the analysis indicated that losses due to enemy attacks can be reduced by up to 31 percent if a DD(X), rather than several DDGs, is present.
“I would not take the DDG into the littorals as I would a DD(X),” he said.
The DD(X) certainly appears to have some fantastic potential, including a stealthy design and advanced automation that would keep crew size very small. But, like all new ideas, there are some problems:
+ Designers have substituted an Advanced Induction Motor (AIM) for the planned Permanent Magnet Motor (PMM) in the ship’s power system after the PMM failed in tests earlier this year. Although the AIM incorporates proven technology, it is heavier, larger, noisier and less power-dense than the PMM, requiring several changes in the ship’s design.
+ The volume search portion of the dual-band radar still is encountering technical problems, although the multifunction radar has successfully completed its tests to date.
+ Fire and shock testing for the composite-construction superstructure have been delayed due to questions about the materials to be used.
+ The peripheral missile launch system needed to be redesigned after an “immense explosion” caused damage during tests a year ago.
While these issue are probably all surmountable, the question becomes “should the effort be made if it’s going to cost so much?”. The ships are going to cost between $2 billion and $5 billion per copy, though the House’s recent budget capped that at $1.7 billion.
For that many clams, most folks would like to see more than a couple of 155mm guns supporting the troops on shore, a primary mission of the DD(X). In fact, the two remaining battleships are supposed to stay in reserve until their fire-support capability can be matched by a new system. Despite this requirement, the Navy is moving to permanently deactivate the battlewagons.
While battleships couldn’t contribute much to the current battles in Iraq or Afghanistan, two other potential hot spots (namely China and North Korea) present many opportunities for heavy bombardment by either the current low-tech 16″ shells or the proposed guided and/or extended-range versions. At an estimated $1.5 billion per ship to reactivate and upgrade, they look like a steal compared to the DD(X).
Whether or not reactivating battleships makes sense for the Navy, the DD(X) program is in serious trouble, and with it the future of new big ships in the fleet.
THERE’S MORE: Navy Newsstand:
The DD(X) National Team and the Navy conducted the third consecutive successful guided-flight test of the 155mm Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) June 16.
Preliminary results indicate the munition successfully conducted preplanned maneuvers along a 60 nautical mile flight path during the 280-second flight.
“This important test highlights another successful milestone to develop and field long-range, GPS-precise gun munitions for our fleet,” said Rear Adm. Charles Hamilton, the program executive officer for ships. “The success of LRLAP is vital to our efforts to deliver DD(X) to the fleet as planned. Each one of these shots brings us closer to that goal.”
“The DD(X) development team, both in the Navy and industry, continues to make major strides to demonstrate critical new capabilities such as LRLAP for DD(X),” according to Capt. Charles Goddard, the DD(X) program manager. “Our rigorous development and test program is focused using prototype systems to fully evaluate and mature these technologies for DD(X) and other future ships.”
NOTE: This will be my final post at Defense Tech. Noah will return tomorrow and, after a couple of days to clean up the mess we left and restock the fridge, Defense Tech will be back to normal. It’s been a blast posting here, and I hope to see some of you at Murdoc Online from time to time. I thank Noah for the great opportunity.