Zumwalt detractors—and there are many—say the Navy will wind up with an overpriced science experiment that will never be a safe and effective warship. They note that this ship has existed only on paper and in computers starting in the mid-1990s.
Navy and contractor officials, though, say those opposing the Zumwalt are stuck in the past of building and operating Navy ships and fail to appreciate the benefits of more automation, composite construction and a new propulsion system.
They note that while there is no DDG-1000 in the water yet, the ship's systems have gone through more simulation and actual tests than any other vessel.
Since being truncated by more than half to a three-ship fleet at the end of the previous decade, the Zumwalt class has remained within budget and on schedule. The deckhouse delivery represents one of the biggest program milestones to date.
“A lot of the senior Navy leadership has gone up and walked the deckplates and seen the spaces and started to understand the automation that is put into the ship,” says Bill Marcley, DDG-1000 program manager and vice president of Total Ship Mission Systems for Raytheon Integrated Systems, one of the Zumwalt's prime contractors.
“These ships are remarkable accomplishments of modern shipbuilding,” says a recent blog praising the progress of the Zumwalt program posted by Rear Adm. Thomas Rowden, director of the Surface Warfare Div. He notes that the first Zumwalt is more than 70% complete, and christening and commissioning are set for fiscal 2013 and 2015. Initial operational capability is slated for fiscal 2016.
DDG-1001, the second Zumwalt ship, which will be named Michael Monsoor, is more than 30% complete with a “sail away” set for fiscal 2017. Fabrication of DDG-1002, the Lyndon B. Johnson, began on April 4.
The all-electric integrated power system, Rowden says, “provides resilient combat power and extra margin for future capability growth within the ship, a critical attribute to help the Navy modernize elements of the ship's combat capability and adapt to changing fiscal, technological or threat conditions.”
The Zumwalt class is also the first combatant with a low-voltage power system that has a highly survivable integrated fight-through power system, which relies on new-to-the-Navy solid-state power conversion modules to achieve specific power demands.
That is what the Navy expects to happen when deckhouse, ship and systems are joined in one hull and power goes on.