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"What purpose do the newest USN ships serve?" Topic

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Deadles Inactive Member02 Aug 2017 10:34 p.m. PST

I was reading about the latest DDG-100 Zumwalt class destroyers and it dawns to me these are not destroyers or even cruisers or even frigates.

Anti-shipping role
Reliant on 2 x 155mm guns.

No anti ship missiles. As long range artillery shells were cancelled they're now reliant on normal shells.

No torpedo tubes

Anti Submarine role
Limited to ASROC launcher single MH-60 Seahawk helo.

Sonar system/sensor suite poorer than Arleigh Burke.

Air defence role
Currently inferior to an Arleigh Burke and limited to shorter range ESSM as opposed to Standard ERAM.

No AEGIS air defence radar

Naval Gun Fire
With scrapping of long range projectile it now is limited to about 24 kilometres, well within range of anti-shipping missiles!

Long range land attack
Can currently carry Tomahawk in up to 80 VLS cells (Maximum of 80 Tomahawks).

HOWEVER, each cell dedicated to ASROC or ESSM, means less cells for Tomahawks. YET the 4 Ohio class subs converted to cruise missile role can carry 154 Tomahawks!

So what role does the Zumwalt have in the fleet?


The Littoral Combat Ship is even worse:

1. Firepower of a small patrol boat on a ship the size of a large frigate.

2. Built to commercial, not military standards with lots of aluminium.

3. Lacking in even medium range air defence capability

4. ASW capabilities limited to helicopter only.

5. Virtually no Anti-Ship capabilities.

6. Apparently sea keeping capabilities are poor too.

So you have a massive littoral patrol boat?!?


Meanwhile the Chinese are churning out heavily armed ships in record numbers.

Even their 220 ton Type 22 missile boats massively outguns a 3000 ton LCS! Let alone a 1900 ton Type 056 corvette or 4000 ton Type 054 frigate!

Rakkasan03 Aug 2017 1:57 a.m. PST

When both of these vessels were initially conceived there was a certain view of the world and how things would look 15/20 years in the future ( some ideas included no peer competitors, need to drastically reduce manning on ships, total US dominance of land/air/sea/space and no thought of cyper). It may have been flawed back then but it is certainly incorrect now.

Several factors contributed to both platforms continuing into production; the procurement system within DoD, members of certain Congressional districts pushing for continuation of the programs, and the inability of the Navy to come up with anything better and a desire to keep a huge procurement wedge for the Navy in the budget.

At least the Zumwalt class numbers were reduced and there was some benefit to the technology that was developed in the program – although maybe not 22 billion dollars worth.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP03 Aug 2017 4:26 a.m. PST

Keep in mind too the defense budget is first and foremost a jobs bill.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2017 7:46 a.m. PST


Andrew Walters03 Aug 2017 8:15 a.m. PST


Onomarchos Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2017 8:18 a.m. PST

The defense budget has always been something of a jobs bill. That does not mean that you have to buy junk with the money spent.

altfritz03 Aug 2017 8:59 a.m. PST

But they're stealthy, right?

Shadyt03 Aug 2017 9:20 a.m. PST

The Zumwalt will be the first ship armed with a railgun. Plenty of range with that.

Garand03 Aug 2017 9:45 a.m. PST

If the Zumwalt has an 80-cell VLS, what's to prevent it from carrying Standards, Harpoons & the like? Radar issues?


coopman03 Aug 2017 10:26 a.m. PST

To provide our enemies with a more target-rich environment.

lugal hdan03 Aug 2017 10:45 a.m. PST

Are they modular in any way?
Maybe those are just the "on paper" capabilities?

StarCruiser03 Aug 2017 3:13 p.m. PST

Harpoons can't be launched from any standard VLS system currently available.

There has been an announcement that a new ASM has been picked and can be loaded and launched from existing VLS systems so… that may be a fix for that failure.

Lion in the Stars04 Aug 2017 9:14 p.m. PST

Zumwalt can carry 80 cells worth of missiles. You can figure that probably 5 cells are ESSMs (20 missiles total), 5 cells are VL-ASROC (5 missiles), 10-20 cells are Standards (10-20 missiles, and Standard is reasonably capable as an ASM), and the remaining 50-60 cells are Tomahawks.

Someone needs to kick Congress' butt about Sunk Costs. Cost of development is spent, the only thing canceling the ammo does is ensure that the Zumwalt doesn't have a functional gun at all.

Example: Counting development costs, the M982 Excalibur GPS-guided shell costs a quarter-million dollars per shell, but buying one additional shell is less than $85,000. USD


The LCS was supposed to be a low-cost, no major loss when sunk, ship.

The problem is that the littorals are extremely dangerous. Either you make a ship that cannot get hit/killed (expensive), or you make so many ships that losing one or even a dozen doesn't impact readiness.

And let's not forget how casualty-averse the US is, which means that the idea of losing ships being acceptable just doesn't fly.

Basically, the LCS concept was fatally flawed, though the LCS2 trimarans are actually pretty good for 'showing the flag' or other non-combat roles. I mean, you could actually use an LCS2 as an improvised LST, it has space for an entire armored company, and has roll-on/roll-off ramps. Plus, the trimarans have a huge helo deck and hangar, in addition to the large cargo hold.

The problem is that the USN didn't get all the modules built. The even bigger issue is that the LCS modules are not the same as the Danish STANFLEX modules (which have a module to do EVERYTHING the USN wanted the LCS to do).

Were I to re-bid the LCS, I'd sacrifice some of the extreme speed (LCS can clear 40 knots), and insist on using the STANFLEX modules. I would also insist on a larger crew, simply to allow for damage control. There's not enough bodies to do two things at once on an LCS.

GreenLeader Inactive Member11 Aug 2017 2:00 p.m. PST

Can Tomahawk not be used against a ship? And if not, why not?

Lion in the Stars15 Aug 2017 7:46 p.m. PST

The current Tomahawks don't have a radar or IR sensor usable to track ships, they use GPS coordinates to hit targets. The Block IV "Tactical Tomahawk" can update it's target position, but doing that requires an observer with eyes on the target and constantly feeding the new position to the missile. So it's theoretically possible but nearly impossible practically speaking.

There *is* a plan to give Tomahawk Block IVs a radar sensor good enough for over-the-horizon anti-ship work, but deployment isn't scheduled until 2021. That new radar will eat up some warhead space.

There was also a discussion about adding anti-radar sensors (from the Advanced HARM) to the Block IVs, don't know where that project is in terms of deployment. Not sure if that is also part of the anti-ship guidance package, since anti-radar missiles mission-kill ships quite readily.

Once you get a Tomahawk to hit the target ship, though, said ship will be in a world of hurt. The current Tomahawk warhead is a dual-mode penetrator and blast-frag, plus it adds unburned fuel to the blast as a thermobaric. So you're likely to get a hole blown clear through the hull, plus a huge explosion and fire. So long as the missile hit at a nice downward angle, there will be flooding.

GreenLeader Inactive Member16 Aug 2017 7:23 a.m. PST

Lion in the Stars

Thanks a lot – very interesting indeed.

Perhaps my memory is fading, but I seem to remember that in the old '2nd Fleet' series of board wargames, they used to rate Exocet-armed ships as '7-1' (7 = damage inflicted / 1 = range), Harpoon-armed ships as '8-2' and those with Tomahawks as 'something-5'… which I always assumed meant that those Tomahawks could be fired at great distances against enemy vessels.

Just goes to show that some of the things we 'learn' from wargames are not always right. Assuming I am remembering all this correctly, that is.

GreenLeader Inactive Member16 Aug 2017 7:54 a.m. PST

I wonder if part of the issue is the (understandable) desire to 'standardise' fleets.

Take the Royal Navy of 30 or 40 years ago had a large number of different types of escorts:
Type 82
Type 42
Type 21
Type 22
County Class
Leander Class (of which there were numerous sub-classes)
Rothesay Class

Now, the escort fleet is just:
Type 45
Type 23

Sure, it's smaller and all the rest, and I accept that standardisation is a good and logical thing… but it also has led to the RN only having two types of escort, meaning these two classes have to try and cover every possible type of deployment.

Lots of duties could / should be fulfilled by a cheaper, smaller corvette / 'gunboat' type vessel, rather than deploying a billion-pound Air Defence Destroyer. Indeed, a 2000-tonne, gun-armed vessel which is armoured against small-arms fire, maybe with a Phalanx system and certainly a heli-pad, would be a very useful asset indeed. Something like a River-class on steroids.

Perhaps the progress towards the 'cheap and cheerful' (allegedly) Type 31 is a recognition of this reality, but I imagine the RN will keep adding to the specs of this, making it more and more expensive, and thus only ending up with a handful of them.

Ultimately, we might end up seeing the likes of the Arleigh Burke / Type 45 / Type 26 regarded as a 'capital ship' and for these to be supplemented in their respective fleets by considerable numbers of smaller, cheaper vessels.

Though perhaps that makes too much sense.

Lion in the Stars16 Aug 2017 6:14 p.m. PST

There used to be a Tomahawk Anti Ship Missile, it had the same seeker head as the Harpoon but vastly greater range (on the order of 1500nautical miles). Problem was, there was little ability to make sure that the 'destroyer' you fired the TASM at wasn't really a cruise ship with a comms issue.

As far as standardizing the fleet goes, that's actually an important point in controlling manpower costs. With steam plants, each ship class has a unique powerplant, which requires it's own schools and other overhead. With gas turbines, you have a single school per engine and just install a number of engines per hull (and the USN has been using the same engines since the FFG7/Spruance classes).

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