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USS Zumwalt

The Navy’s Expensive Lemons


USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) was delivered to the fleet after completing its combat system activation and subsequent at-sea trials, but it has a long way to go until it’s combat ready, and there are a lot of people who question whether it ever will be.

The Navy commissioned Zumwalt in October 2016, but a law passed by Congress shortly afterwards prohibited the Navy from accepting delivery of a ship that wasn’t fully outfitted with its combat capability. It’s taken four years to get it to this point and the Navy keeps pushing the IOC back. It’s now December 2021. Any bets that it will be shoved into 2022 and beyond?

The next-in-class destroyer, USS Michael Monsoor (DDG-1001), joined the Zumwalt in San Diego for its combat systems activation. The third ship, the future Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002), remains under construction in Maine.

The cost estimates for this new class of ships soared and in 2016, the estimated cost was $7.5 billion per ship…and this cynic believes that those numbers were optimistic. Originally, 32 ships were planned, with $9.6 billion research and development costs spread across the class. As costs overran estimates, the quantity was reduced to 24, then to 7, and finally to 3… and the question whether ANY of those three will be fully integrated into the fleet, ever, hangs in the air. The three ships are now referred to as “technology demonstrators” rather than the ships of the future.

The Navy concluded from fifteen classified intelligence reports that the DDG-1000s would be vulnerable to forms of missile attacks. Many Congressional subcommittee members questioned that the Navy completed such a sweeping re-evaluation of the world threat picture in just a few weeks, after spending some 13 years and $10 billion on the development of the surface ship program known as DD-21, then DD(X), and finally DDG-1000.

The Advanced Gun System on the Zumwalt Class is a 155 mm naval gun,  two of which are installed in each ship. This system consists of the 155 mm/62 Mark 51 and its Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP). The ship is built around these guns…and the rounds were said to cost $1 million each. So that was canceled. And the Navy needs to find an alternative weapon. How embarrassing. It makes me ask whether my beloved Navy can walk and chew gum at the same time these days.


One thing you can say about the billions poured down the drain in pursuit of an operational DDG-1000 is that a lot of beltway bandits have made a lot of money and have employed a lot of people (welfare for the middle class) while attempting to build something that MAY one day be operational.

And as embarrassing as all this is, the Littoral Combat Ships are just much of a waste of time and money. We could have built frigates or other small combatants but for some misguided reason, chose the LCS.

Maybe the Navy should have built submarines, which have a history of working, instead.


  1. Federal Featherbedding Projects – remember the story back in the 20th Century, when the army wanted to close some bases that were established to protect settlers from Indian attacks, and Congress said ‘No way!’ ?

    • Same mindset. More recently with the Navy there was the Fat Leonard scandal. I’m not saying that the Zumwalt Class DDG “cushioning” is as blatant as Fat Leonard and his cronies. They’re protected by DC Beltway connections with Congress.

      • Funny how the revolutionary developments turn into golden calves so quickly. They really should let the new development simmer for a while to see what the final baked product actually looks like. So, can I mangle any more metaphors?
        Development is necessary, otherwise we’d still be limited to clubs and rocks; but saying something is BIGGIE-WOW when the only proof that it is exists in it being called BIGGIE-WOW seems like arguing the conclusion.

    • It might have been a better idea to develop that cool 155 mm naval rifle with those million dollar rounds before they spent $30 billion dollars on ships for them to ride on.

      • Or, they could have one department design the naval rifle, while another department designs the mounts those rifles will fit into. Oh, wait…..

          • I was referring to a much earlier screw-up. After the making of both, they discovered the sizes didn’t match so it was back to the drawing board 🙂

          • Second try here – hope there is no double vision when I’m done.
            I was referring to a much earlier screw-up – when the Navy tried to fit the new guns into the new ship, the sizes didn’t match up.

  2. “technology demonstrators.”

    Surely we need to get fighting fit for China? As in having a massively powerful fleet ready to crush ChiCom naval adventurism. Perhaps some big bombers would help, and lots of subs and destroyers…

    But what do I know, just an lsp.

  3. My knowledge of naval matters is so limited that any opinions of mine are suspect. I would point out the senior service has fielded many 155mm bang sticks that are combat proven, and effective.

    • These are special 155mm guns with ammo that runs $1 million per shot. I’m not sure precisely why they don’t work but I think that a lot has to do with the cost of the ammunition, and making the LRLAP work as advertised. Naturally the cost per shot would go up…to fix those deficiencies.

      The rounds are designed to hit shore targets up to 84 nautical miles distant. It’s something more than even a 155mm Copperhead round could do. It has a range of 9.6 NM.

      As I mentioned above, the Navy is going to experiment with a rail gun in DDG 1002. If those work, maybe the other two ships can be dragged back in and refit? Maybe they’d see service in a decade?

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