My friend and colleague Rob Weisman at the Boston Globe just wrote a splendid feature headlined Warship 2.0 on the systems development behind the DDG 1000 Zumwalt guided missile destroyer. While the Navy is attempting to lower the heart-stopping $3.3 billion pricetag to build the initial versions of the technically-advanced warship, its proponents say that in today’s dollars the present Arleigh Burke class of destroyers that have been built for the past 20 years cost about $2.4 billion a copy. So, the Navy argues, taxpayers are getting a spanking new destroyer for just under $1 billion more than it cost for the last few Arleigh Burke’s going down the ways (actually, they are floated in a big moveable drydock when launched. The last destroyer to go down the ways slid lengthwise into the water more than two years ago.)
Sixty Arleigh Burkes have been built so far and the Bath Iron Works (BIW) in Bath, Maine, one of two U.S. yards that builds the vessel, is working on its last six Arleigh Burkes, the last of which will be launched in 2010. I have something of a vested interest in BIW given that my summer home is perched on the Kennebec River a mere quarter of a mile away. Rob also wrote a sidebar on BIW talking about the ups and downs of a yard umbilically attached to Navy contracts. BIW is trying to diversify into private shipbuilding and is going after a contract worth as much as $2.5 billion to build Fast Cutters for the Coast Guard.
Known for building high quality vessels that often come in under cost and ahead of schedule, BIW should have a good shot at the CG contract. That’s the inside word, anyway.