Very sci-fi looking and the idea of shooting laser beams--that certainly puts the warship in a next-gen class. I'm curious as to how often the Navy rolls out a next-generation ship and what the typical life span is on these vessels. Any one have any clue?
Beth, these are good questions. Navy ships last a very long time. In the 1990s we were still using battleships built during WWII. They could still be in use, but the decision was made to produce new ships instead of keeping the old ones. These are large machines and it is easy to fit them out with new equipment over time. The battleships I mentioned, were outfitted with cruise missles and Phalanx gun system, which were not even concieved of when they were built. Frankly, with something as large as a combat ship, putting laser weapons or rail guns is not a big deal. They could be put on existing ships today, and probably would be.
Good question. I'm curious about the cost too. The article says that less manpower can be used in these more powerful vessels. Is the lower payroll balanced out by the higher cost or is there long-term savings?
This next-gen warship is sooner than expected but right on time given that we move faster through cycles-fashion, innovation, etc.-than ever before. It's good to see the navy addressing noise pollution in the ocean.
Beth, in 2007 the Washington State Ferry System retired the four ships of the Steel Electric class; they were built in 1927. While the ferries did not go in harm's way, 80 years is still a HECK of a long time. They had overhauls through the years, but not many.
One might argue that they saw harder service than a Navy destroyer; Navy vessels don't operate every single day with little down time. 6 months at sea, 6 months for maintenance is more common, I think.
@TJ: Maintenance throughout the lengthy lifecycle of these ships is a huge issue during development in terms of specialized capabilities to ease the support problem. I'm assuming this ship has many such features, many purely software-based, to optimize its care and feeding over the course of its tenure.
Comparing commercial ships to naval vessels really is a case of comparing apples and oranges. Your point about up-tempo operations and daily availability is well taken. Certainly, the people of Washington got their money's worth out of those ferries. Modern cruiseships are a similar case. Time at the dock is time spent NOT making money for the operator.
Naval ships, as you pointed out, spend MUCH of their life at the dock. However, time at the dock doesn't necessarily mean that ALL of the systems on the ship go unused as the ship still houses a crew. Even if depleted due to leaves, and some sailors opting to live ashore when in port, the 'hotel' systems still must be on-line. These systems don't ever get a rest.
There's another aspect to naval vessel lifespan that hasn't been addressed: technical obsolescence. While a USN ship likely has a 50 or 60 year design life, advancing technology may shorten it's useful life to the Navy by decades. A recent example of this is the MHC-51 (USS Osprey) class. Commissioned in 1991 through 1999, all 12 Ospery-class ships were decommissioned in 2006-2007, representing service lives of only 8-13 years. Economics, technological obsolescence (and yes, politics, as the Osprey's mission was given to the new LCS ships) are the principal reasons that these ships now serve with the Greek, Egyptian, Lithuanian, Turkish, Taiwanese and Indian navies.
Naval warships take a lot of beatings, whether it be from Mother Nature, pounding seas, storms, etc. of from NGS. I worry about automation, and builders trying to cut corners to save on the budgets. It will be the crews that pay the price for their oversight.
These ships MUST be tested in all types of conditions to the fullest extent possible, and the longest time possible.
@JDT: I agree. I bet there was and still is a serious simulation aspect to this ship to test all types of conditions whether related to the weather or to different types of at-sea battle scenarios. It would be interesting to inside the war-room of sorts to see what is being conducted.
Nice article, Elizabeth. When Bath rattles off details such as "electric drive/integrated power systems, automated ship control and damage control systems, and a totally integrated, ship-wide command and control system," it sounds like a modern factory.
i seriously doubt a rail gun will ever be deployed as a standard weapon as it tends to destroy itself in a few rounds. With all the problems with it guided rockets are a far better weapon.
An the real future weapon should be a low pressure cannon launching guided projectiles or missles we already have, just modied to launch from th 50-80', 24'' dia fixed at 45deg or so gives warheads 100-500 mile range at a % of the cost of a cruise missle.
Next we just can't afford the oil to run these. They need a small nuke like the Hyperion 100Mw heat source steam generator powering the propulsion and house. When docked can supply the base with electric.
Facts are this too big and easily damaged. Better go to a Tri hull with the outer ones protecting the inner one from fighting damage. Other advantages is on a 500' Tri you can do an aircraft carrier as so much deck. Destroyers, Cruiser like above only 250-300' long.
No Navy can bring up 10% of ours so greatly increasing size, numbers, tech makes no sense when smaller, more economical, survivable craft able to put far more ordnance on target farther away run on mini inherently safe nukes would make a better future we might be able to afford.
And maybe a gov that stops starting wars over oil so the navy can do things like diaster relief, etc instead so we might be better received in other lands and less wanting to kill us. Just a thought. PS Saves a lot of money too.
The article notes that the quiet hull tumblehome makes the ship "stealthy." But can a ship that size travelling through the sea really be very stealthy? Or is that just a comparative term, i.e., more stealthy than predecessors?
Unfortunately, unlike aircraft which are only required to be stealthy in air, a ship is required to operate in two environments - air and water - and be stealthy in both simultaneously. We have proven that it's possible to be almost invisible to radar, but anyone out there who has read 'Blind Man's Bluff' knows that the Russians never could figure out how to build submarines quiet enough that we couldn't find them. It continues to be very difficult to truly be the Silent Service.
"Stealth" is ALWAYS a relative term. There's no such thing as 'undetectable', only undetectable under *what* conditions. The tumblehome hull is designed to deflect surface radar upward rather than back to it's source, but the ship is far from undetectable.
Similarly, the noise specifications (I have equipment aboard the Zumwalts) are quite stringent having been lifted in part from the Seawolf (the submarine) program. This makes the ship less easily detected by coastal patrol submarines (remember, Zumwalt's mission has a large fire-support component).
I fully agree that the tumblehome design presents a significant rollover risk, even at the 600' length of Zumwalt. But what's really shocking about this ship is it's overreliance on automation. Zumwalt was designed to reduce operational costs by reducing crew size (the biggest cost driver for ship operation). Now assuming that the shipbuilder and it's vendors can sort out the myriad technology conflicts and deliver an operational ship on time (I have deep reservations about this) the fact remains that in combat, should one piece of the automation system fail there's a significant risk that the remainder of this house of cards will fall. And that the tiny crew will be neither technically savvy enough, nor numerous enough, to save their vessel. For comparison, I give you the 505' Arleigh Burke destroyers, a much less automated ship, with a crew of approximately 280. Zumwalt, a larger ship, will sail with only HALF that number.
Would disagree with your assertion regarding 'over-reliance' on technology. As part of the original design team, I have my opinion and you will have yours. Also, your assertion that the systems are essentially single-point-of-failure systems is false. There is more redundancy in these systems of systems than you are aware. You also apparently underrate the skill level of the sailors in attendance.
Regarding tumblehome; do you think we just sat down one day and said 'Gee, this looks cool, let's build one"? This surface combatant has been studied and modeled in more ways than you can imagine and many more that simply aren't known outside the industry. Some of the finest naval designers in the business(our own Navy Laboratories) as well as professional 'naysayers' to test the model/concept were employed. She has been simulated, scale-modeled, poked and prodded. Rest assured this design is no guess.
To answer someone else's question: the railgun and ship-borne laser capabilities were indeed studied and currently are not part of the design. The point the article was trying to make was that both of these weapon systems require immense amounts of power. Zumwalt has the ability to generate these power levels. The radar systems alone consume enough energy to light up a small city.
It is just sad that after all our efforts, we will only build a couple ships. Certainly they are costly but, they do things other ships can't do. Very much like the B-2 but, that is another story for another day.
Considering how aviation technology has dramatically updated the look and performance of fighter jets over the past few decades, it seems that this radical departure from a conventional battleship paradigm might even be overdue.The look and description of some of the performance enhancements sound very interesting, and I'm looking forward to reading more about the project . Looks like already 2 weeks late on this one -- More, please!
As energy efficiency becomes more and more a concern for makers of electronics devices, researchers are coming up with new ways to harvest energy from sound vibration, footsteps, and even electromagnetic fields in the air.
The government wants to study your brain, and DARPA wants to use similar information to give robots true autonomy beyond any artificial intelligence developed to date. Sound like science fiction? It's not.
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