The Navy’s New Ship Costs $4.4 Billion And It’s Useless

Bath Iron Works of Maine sent out a destroyer for testing on Monday. The ship is the largest, costliest destroyer ever built for the U.S. Navy.

The USS Zumwalt is the first of its kind produced for the Navy, and the cost of each is about $4.4 billion. The Navy originally ordered 32 of the ships, but as costs skyrocketed, commanders cut the order down to three. In 2008, Navy leaders advocated for abandoning the program altogether.

The Zumwalt’s design was originally proposed in the 1990s. It was developed under the DD(X) destroyer program and features a futuristic-looking sloped “tumblehome” hull. It requires a smaller crew, is harder to detect on radar, and the deck can accommodate more aircraft than others in its class.

The new ship also features two massive guns with astounding power and accuracy. It is optimized for combat against a wide range of littoral (sea shore) and inland targets; it is also capable of highly-advanced anti-surface warfare.

A rigorous round of trials awaits the Zumwalt. The ship will be manned by staff from Bath Iron Works and Navy crew members during testing. The ship will be tested in “the most miserable places in the ocean” according to Rear Adm. Peter Fanta, director of surface warfare.

Navy officials have called into question the seaworthiness of the ship. They claim that the hull shape leaves it vulnerable to rolling over in certain conditions; the tests it will undergo are designed pinpoint such flaws. Adm. Gary Roughead worried about broader uses of the ship in 2008:

“It has a lot of technology, but it cannot perform broader, integrated air and missile defense.”

The Navy is currently developing an entirely new destroyer, planned to enter service in the early 2030s that will replace existing Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

Many expert military analysts are concerned about the cost of the ship when compared to it’s limited capabilities. Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute, asked,

“How is it possible the Navy could spend a decade developing a multibillion-dollar destroyer, then suddenly discover the design is not suitable for its future needs?”

The USS Zumwalt is scheduled to be commissioned in October, after the Navy’s trials and inspections are complete.

Featured image via Flickr, available under a Creative Commons license.