Friday, April 17, 2009

Next-Generation Navy Destroyer Set for Construction in Maine

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 17, 2009 - A recent agreement among the Defense Department, the Navy and shipbuilders will enable more efficient construction of the next-generation destroyer at one shipyard instead of two, a senior Defense Department official announced here today.

The "swap" agreement calls for three DDG-1000 destroyers to be built at the Bath Iron Works in Maine, John J. Young Jr., undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told reporters at the Pentagon.

Work on the DDG-1000 destroyers previously was to be split between General Dynamics' Bath Works and Northrop Grumman's Ingalls Shipyard in Mississippi, Young said. As part of the new agreement, the Ingalls shipyard, which also builds some other Navy vessels, will gain a contract to build two more DDG-51 guided-missile destroyers.

The swap agreement, Young said, is the result of months of negotiations and is a reflection of "unprecedented efforts by the Navy and industry partners to operate in a business-like manner." The agreement, he added, involved compromises by all parties "to enable efficient construction of naval vessels."

The DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class vessel is a high-tech, guided-missile destroyer envisioned to eventually replace the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke class of warships that were developed 30 years ago. Navy Adm. Arleigh Burke was a famous destroyer commander in the South Pacific during World War II.

Named for Navy Adm. Elmo Zumwalt Jr., who served as chief of naval operations in the early 1970s and died in January 2000, the DDG-1000 ships feature computer-aided design, modular construction, high-tech armaments and radar, as well as a unique, streamlined hull design.

The DDG-1000's complicated, high-tech content, Young said, makes its design and construction an admittedly expensive endeavor. Cost of a first prototype, or lead, DDG-1000 ship is estimated to be around $3.2 billion, he said, with prices of follow-on vessels likely to decrease due to industrial economies of scale.

The design and development of the DDG-1000 "has gone well," Young said, noting that the program has "gone to budget [and] gone on schedule."

Initial plans were to build 32 of the DDG-1000-series vessels at the Bath and Ingalls shipyards. Today, the Defense Department's proposed fiscal 2010 budget calls for building just three vessels.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today told members of the Naval War College in Newport R.I., that the United States will require a naval presence in the future.

"But we cannot allow more ships to go the way of the DDG-1000," Gates told the Naval War College audience. The DDG-1000's rising cost per ship, he noted, was among the reasons for buying reduced numbers.

Gates has recommended building more Arleigh Burke-class vessels and upgrading those now in the fleet. Sixty-four Arleigh Burkes have been built, not counting the two new ones slated for construction at the Ingalls shipyard.

Gates also deemed the arrangement for constructing DDG-1000s at the two shipyards as inefficient and too costly to taxpayers, Young said.

"I think it was important to him that we build these ships efficiently," Young said of his understanding of Gates' reasoning.

If the DDG-1000s couldn't be efficiently produced, Gates "was potentially prepared, even in the face of clear political danger, to go back and possibly cancel two ships, and that would have cut jobs in both shipyards," Young said.

Related Articles:
Gates Says America Must Protect Conventional Capabilities
Gates Lays Out Budget Recommendations
New Navy Ship's Cost Overstated in News Reports, Official Says

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