Yet during the past several years, three successive Chiefs of Naval Operations—Admirals Vern Clark, Mike Mullen, and Gary Roughead—had been adamant that they wanted no additional Burke -class ships beyond the 62 now in service and under construction.
The DDG-1000 program was originally to provide 32 destroyers—at almost 15,000-tons full load (the size of cruisers)—optimized for operations in the littorals. The Navy later reduced the DDG-1000 "buy" to seven ships, to be funded in Fiscal Years 2007-2013. The only explanation given for the cutback was higher-than-expected costs, although no cost data was provided.
The DDG-1000 has been an evolutionary concept dating back to the Surface Combatant 21 concept of the 1990s, which included the so-called DD-21 and DD(X) designs, more recently known as the Zumwalt class. The Navy's 30-year shipbuilding plan, published earlier this year, begins the discussion of construction plans with the statement: "The near-term plan focuses on transformation of the Navy Force structure to address the warfighting requirements of the 21st Century." 1 The document then lists several advanced ship programs, led by the DDG-1000.
The seven-ship program was championed by the Navy's leaders in the spring 2008 testimony before congressional committees. The 30-year plan lists these seven DDG-1000s as well as the start of the next surface combatant—the larger and more expensive ballistic missile defense cruiser, the CG(X).
But the Navy's leadership told Congress on 31 July 2008 that they would seek only the first two DDG-1000s, which are being funded under a split scheme, i.e., in FY 2007 and 2008. The Department of Defense, however, told the Navy that there would be no change to the 2009 budget request, which asks for a third ship.
The reasons given by the Navy for cutting back the Zumwalt program were principally:
the DDG-1000, with its dual-band radar and sonar suite design are optimized for the littoral environment. However, in the current program of record, the DDG-1000 cannot perform area air defense; specifically, it cannot successfully employ the Standard Missile-2 (SM-2), SM-3, or SM-6 and is incapable of conducting ballistic missile defense. Although superior in littoral ASW, the DDG-1000 lower power sonar design is less effective in the blue water than DDG-51 capability. 2
Such comments appear specious. As Ronald O'Rourke, naval affairs specialist for the Congressional Research Service noted, the Navy contending that the DDG-1000 could not launch the SM-2 missile "came as a surprise to observers who have believed for years that the DDG-1000 could employ the SM-2 and perform area-defense AAW [antiair warfare]." 3 Indeed, Navy briefing slides have consistently shown the DDG-1000 carrying the SM-2 missile (in addition to Tomahawk land-attack missiles) and providing area air defense (as indicated by its "G" designation). Further, the DDG-1000 launch cells can accommodate missiles up to 24 inches in diameter, 22-feet long, and weighing about 4,000 pounds; the DDG-51 cells can only handle missiles 21 inches by 21 feet, weighing about 3,000 pounds. And, the DDG-1000 cells can launch missiles with higher booster-burn temperatures.
Also, the DDG-51 was not designed to handle the SM-3 or SM-6 missiles, those having been developed after the ships were being constructed. Thus, they are being upgraded for those weapons. The DDG-1000, with far superior computing capabilities, more advanced radars, and larger missile launch cells, are far more suitable for upgrade to use the later missiles.
In their favor, the later DDG-51 ships have 96 missile launch cells compared to 80 on the DDG-1000.
With respect to the DDG-1000's sonar capabilities, the ship was designed to operate in coastal/littoral waters. In this context, the Navy is planning to construct 55 littoral combat ships (LCS) that have minimal air/missile defense capabilities. In most envisioned scenarios "G" ships will be required to operate with them. With superior low-observable (stealth) features, superior littoral ASW/mine-detecting sonar, and enhanced fire-support capabilities (i.e., two long-range 155-mm guns), the DDG-1000 would unquestionably be the ship of choice to operate in littoral areas.
In place of the five additional DDG-1000s (FY 2009-2013 ships) the Navy's leadership is now planning to restart the production of Burke -class destroyers, with up to nine units being mentioned. But, as noted in this column previously, that is more easily said than done. 4 The DDG-51 basic design is almost 30 years old and the Navy would, at the minimum, provide a later AN/SPY-1 radar, improved Aegis fire control, updated computers, and other basic upgrades. Such changes and startup costs would raise the price of the new DDG-51s to at least $2.2 billion per ship—close to the estimated costs of the production DDG-1000s. (The Navy has initiated a well-conceived program to upgrade the existing DDG-51s; those features would be incorporated in new Burke -class ships.)
Restarting DDG-51 production would be an interim action pending the start of the next surface combatant, the CG(X). The first is planned for funding in FY 2011, with indications that these cruisers would be built at the average rate of two ships per year through FY 2024, with the rate increasing to three per year through 2038, the end of the 30-year plan.
That is a remarkable building rate for a major warship that has not yet been designed. 5 And, further complicating the cruiser program are demands by several members of Congress to provide them with nuclear propulsion. While that proposal demonstrates naivete on the part of several members of Congress, if the proposal were accepted the design of a CG(X)N would undoubtedly delay the start of construction by at least two or three years, while greatly increasing the cost of ship acquisition, support, manning, and eventual disposal.
The issue of future major surface combatants—cruisers and destroyers—is critical for the Navy. Discounting strategic missile submarines (SSBN), the Navy's plan for having 300 active ships in 2020 shows that some 30 percent of the Fleet will be cruisers and destroyers—significantly more ships than any other category. To maintain this force the 30-year shipbuilding plan shows 69 cruisers and destroyers being constructed through FY 2038, again more ships than in any other category.
Not to be ignored is the fact that the current level of shipbuilding budgets (just over $12 billion for FY 2009) are unlikely to remain at that level for the next few years. Indeed, the Navy's current shipbuilding plan shows an increase of more than 30 percent by FY 2013.
The surface combatant program is too important for the Navy's continuing shifts in plans, requirements, priorities, and rationales. A major reason that Congress directed the Navy to submit 30-year shipbuilding plans was to gain some stability in these programs. This cry for stability has also been heard from the shipbuilding industry, as its seeks to control costs and for certain yards to remain in business.
The failure of the Navy's leadership to understand and manage the development of the Fleet has reached a critical level. When the DDG-1000 situation is looked at in conjunction with the San Antonio (LPD-17) and the Littoral Combat Ship programs, both characterized by massive delays and cost overruns, it is obvious that the a new approach to Navy ship requirements and construction is needed. Questions must be asked about the Navy's processes in these critical areas. And, the Navy's leadership must be questioned. The Navy will have a new secretary, under secretary, and assistant secretary for shipbuilding and research when the new presidential administration takes office in January 2009.
In August 2008 the Naval Sea Systems Command received a new commander (Vice Admiral Kevin M. McCoy) and a new program executive officer for ships (Rear Admiral William E. Landay). But changes are also needed in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. And, senior officers in the Office as well. The new Secretary of the Navy as well as the new Secretary of Defense must take such actions as necessary—including possibly convening a top-level, objective, blue ribbon panel—to make certain that the Navy's leadership fully understands its responsibilities and challenges.
1. Director, Warfare Integration, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, "Report to Congress on [the] Annual Long-Range Plan for [the] Construction of Naval Vessels for FY 2009," February 2008, p. 7.
2. VADM Barry McCullough, USN, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Integration of Capabilities and Resources, testimony before the Subcommittee on Seapower and Expeditionary Forces, House Armed Services Committee, 31 July 2008.
3. Ronald O'Rourke, "Navy DDG-1000 and DDG-51 Destroyer Programs: Background, Oversight Issues, and Options for Congress," Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 8 August 2008, pp. 18-19.
4. See N. Polmar, "To Be or Not to Be. . . The New DDG," U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings (July 2008), pp. 88-89.
5. In contrast, on 6 March 2008, ADM Roughead told the House Armed Services Committee that "the DDG 1000 detail design will be more mature prior to start of construction than any previous shipbuilding program."