The US Navy’s New Zumwalt-Class Stealth Destroyer – High-Tech, Powerful… But Hugely Expensive

USS Zumwalt. <a href=>Photo Credit</a>
USS Zumwalt. Photo Credit

The US Navy’s newest destroyer, USS Zumwalt, is the most modern – and the most expensive – warship in US naval history. The vessel is incredibly high-tech. It is slightly more than 600 feet long but due to its original angular hull it appears to be one-twelfth its size, no larger than a fishing boat. The hull also obscures sensors, deflects rounds from enemy guns, and confounds enemy radar.

The ship cost $4.4 billion to build, but the high-tech, cutting edge ammunition which the ship’s weapons system is to fire has been said to cost $800,000 per round! This ammunition is the Long Range Land Attack Projectile, or LRLAP. Fully stocked, a Zumwalt-class warship would ship would carry 600 rounds. The ship can fire ten rounds per minute.

Zumwalt-type ships are designed to carry cutting-edge, high-energy armament. They were designed to carry two 155 mm guns that fired the $800,000 per round LRLAP. The gun system was constructed to quickly fire these GPS-guided, rocket-propelled missiles within a 70-mile range with deadly accuracy. Lockheed Martin said their accuracy and almost vertical angle of drop permits the Warfighter to destroy targets in a coastal city’s urban canyons with minimum collateral damage.

LRLAP rounds were initially priced much lower, but the rising cost makes them comparable to the Tomahawk cruise missile, which costs in the region of $1 million per round. The difference is that a Tomahawk has a range of over 1000 miles. It can also be equipped with a nuclear warhead, reports the Washington Post.

The rising cost of the ammunition – coupled with the already eye-watering cost of the vessel – has put a damper on the Navy’s original plan. This was to construct 32 of the Zumwalt-class ships but as costs climbed that number was reduced from 24 ships to seven, and finally three. So far, the Zumwalt is the only completed warship.

It is not known if the sophisticated weapon system will be used in the end, or if other suggested systems, like the Navy’s high-tech rail gun, will be substituted for installation on the ship.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE