US Navy Says No More $800,000 Ammo for New Zumwalt Destroyer

© AP Photo / Robert F. BukatyThe first Zumwalt-class destroyer, the USS Zumwalt, the largest ever built for the US Navy, leaves the Kennebec River on Monday, December 7, 2015, in Phippsburg, Maine.
The first Zumwalt-class destroyer, the USS Zumwalt, the largest ever built for the US Navy, leaves the Kennebec River on Monday, December 7, 2015, in Phippsburg, Maine. - Sputnik International
The US Navy has announced that it will not purchase any more of the pricey long-range ammunition for the service’s new destroyer, the USS Zumwalt.

The 225-pound, 7-foot-long projectiles come with a price tag of $800,000 each. 

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In an early November interview with USNI News, Navy spokeswoman Captain Thurraya S. Kent did not reference the price of the ammunition, but commented that, “to address evolving threats and mission requirements, the Navy is evaluating industry projectile solutions (including conventional and hypervelocity projectiles) that can also meet the DDG 1000 (Zumwalt) deployment schedule and could potentially be used as an alternative to LRLAP (Long Range Land-Attack Projectile).”

Named for Elmo R. Zumwalt, Chief of US Naval Operations during the Vietnam War, the destroyer’s primary mission will be putting down inland terrorist training camps and making beachheads approachable for Marines. The 610-foot ship will not be deployed as a weapons system for at least another year.  

The vessel’s angular design and low radar signature can make it appear physically and sonically to be about the size of a mid-size fishing boat. According to the service’s description, "The composite superstructure significantly reduces cross section and acoustic output making the ship harder to detect by enemies at sea."  

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US Navy budget records indicate that in 2015 the shells cost about $476,946 each, but as the number of Zumwalt-class destroyers fell, from 32 to just three, prices for the projectiles rose dramatically. If the 2,000 planned rounds for the three vessels were purchased at the current rate, it would cost the service upwards of $2 billion.

Lockheed Martin, which developed the LRLAP, released a statement saying, "As the DDG 1000's mission continues to evolve, and taking into consideration funding profiles available to support the weaponization of the ship in light of the severe reduction in the planned production quantities, the US Navy decided to evaluate alternate solutions to LRLAP. Lockheed Martin is working aggressively to provide the Navy with options in relation to the DDG-1000's long-range land attack mission."

One issue in acquiring new ammunition is finding shells that can fit the Zumwalt’s barrels, which were specifically designed for LRLAP.  Rear Adm. Jim Downey told USNI in May, “It’s a unique barrel for this ammunition. It’s a six-inch round designed with the turnings to allow the LRLAP to fly out of that barrel. There’s been some studies over the year that [indicate] that you could but you’d have to undertake a modification of the system…It’s not impossible but you can’t directly fire [hyper velocity projectiles] out of that barrel without modifications.”

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