Capabilities and Missions of the Zumwalt Class Destroyers

Over the next several years, a series of new, Zumwalt-class destroyers will join the Navy. In a recent interview, Capt. Jim Downey, DDG-1000 program manager at Naval Sea Systems Command, discussed the capabilities of these new warships and how they will help the Navy fulfill its goal of being where it matters, when it matters.

Navy Live:  Could you explain the main mission DDG-1000?

Capt. Downey:  DDG-1000 is actually a multi-mission destroyer.  It covers surface, sub-surface, as well as air warfare areas.  Its real focus is in the littorals, providing volume fire support in the littorals, as well as support to our special operations areas.

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Navy Live:  What’s the volume fire support?

Capt. Downey:  Volume fire support comes from our significant gun systems on the ship and that’s to provide support right to our ground forces and precise targets ashore to help the Navy and those ground forces in that type of combat area.


Navy Live:  How does the mission differ from previous DDGs, like the Arleigh Burke?

Capt. Downey:  There are several differences of significance in this ship.  In addition to providing major new technologies, the ship itself is designed significantly differently.  It’s designed with a significant radar cross-section reduction, a 50-fold reduction from our current surface combatants.  That allows it to get in closer to land and be less detectable.  That aids in its littoral dominance capability.  That’s one area that’s different.  The ship is designed significantly differently to support that mission area.

The ship is also designed in power and propulsion and in manning significantly differently.  The power and propulsion is the integrated power system, and that’s designed with a 78 megawatt system.  That is a difference where the main propulsion, auxiliary propulsion, and the advance induction motors actually provide all of the power for the ship.  In addition to typical ships today where the generators, those main generators support movement of the ship and other generators support the combat system and the ship systems, this is an integrated system of power, and that one system which is redundant throughout the ship supports all those mission areas as well as propulsion.

The benefit of that is to not have to upgrade the ship in the future to provide more power capability if more power is needed for combat systems.  So that’s one major difference in the ship.

Another major difference from past ships is this ship is designed…for less crew.  Specifically, the ship is designed around the concept where there’s less operational spaces on the ship but more capability in those spaces that are provided. An example is, there’s no engineering control space on the ship.  The typical CIC or Combat Information Center is combined with engineering control and damage control into one ship’s mission center allowing less people to operate across a variety of equipment.  That gives them more capability.

So you have control over power and control over combat systems in the same space to take advantage of that integrated power system.

The launching systems on the ship are significantly different also, in two ways.  They were designed for future missiles, longer missiles, heavier missiles, wider missiles.  That’s the MK 57, the launching system.  And they’re designed on the periphery of the ship instead of center line.  That is specifically to protect the ship if there were ever damage control events related to those launchers.


Navy Live:  As far as the actual mission of the DDG-1000, what would you say is the primary difference between the older class, not the systems on board, but the actual mission support that they’ll be given?

Capt. Downey:  The main area difference is the littoral dominance capability.  So it’s a multi-mission ship, it’s globally deployable and supports many mission areas.  But the key difference in the ship, other than the power and the missiles that I talked about, is it’s much harder to detect the ship.  The ship is specifically designed with a 50-fold radar cross section reduction from our prior ships.  That is to allow it to get closer to land for closer, to more closely project power ashore as it moves closer to land.  There’s other systems aboard that support that in addition to the hull design.  It has an in-stride mine avoidance for operating in hazardous waters, all designed to allow the ship to get closer to a hostile area and then to project power ashore.

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Navy Live:  So how, besides the obvious, how is it more effective than the earlier class ships?

Capt. Downey:  There’s significantly more power available to the ship to operate the ship and to use the power as needed for those operations.  It also allows for the system to have less overhaul time in the future.  You won’t have to add power to the ship.  That’s a big difference.

Another difference is this ship, our largest destroyer we’ve built, is a 15,000 ton ship with about 120 crew.  The ship was actually designed for an optimally sized crew.  Regarding the space consolidation that I talked about, the living accommodations of the crew, there’s no general birthing on the ship.  There’s staterooms on the ship.  The staterooms range from one to four people would actually live in the staterooms.  Nothing larger than a four person stateroom.  All of the staterooms have integrated heads in the stateroom so there’s no general birthing, and there’s very few general heads.  They’re all aligned directly in the staterooms.

So with that, the systems are designed for a smaller crew; there’s much more automation in the damage control of the ship; and there’s more automation and capturing the aviation assets, the helos, the Fire Scout capability on the ship.  All designed to reduce the work load for the crew.


Navy Live:  Can you tell me real quick about the automated damage control system?

Capt. Downey:  Sure.  There are multiple sensors in the ship, throughout the ship, monitoring the equipment, monitoring fluid levels, monitoring the boundaries of the ship for multiple purposes.  That’s integrated into the control system of the ship and the crew can see that information.

With that, there’s several different capabilities than we have today, much more advanced.  In firefighting, there’s a fire suppression system, much more significant automated fire capability, allowing the damage control crews to be smaller.  There’s tele-robotic fire nozzles out to fight the fire on the flight deck, so personnel are not out there on the flight deck.

Then on the power side, the power is designed with a unique capability that’s referred to as Integrated Fight-Through Power or IFTP.  The automation related to IFTP for damage control is an automatic reconfiguration of the power for the ship as needed based upon the damage control situation of the ship.  Those are some of the biggest features for the automation of the damage control.

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Navy Live:  What are the ship’s aerial and aircraft capabilities?

Capt. Downey:  There’s multiple aviation assets that can support.  It can house two helos at a time, principally H-60s, but it can land a wide variety of helicopters.  In addition to the two helos it can support three VTUAVs or Fire Scouts at a time.  It has a capture system for the VTUAVs on the flight deck.  It’s a much larger flight deck than typical destroyers.  It’s almost double the size.  It’s a 150 foot flight deck out there.  Then we have an assist system for the helicopters that does not include personnel to capture the helicopter.  So as the helicopter lands on the flight deck it triggers the assist system and the assist system mechanically captures the helicopter.  That system moves the helicopter into the hangar, out of the hangar, and turns the helicopter as needed prior to launch.


Navy Live:  So how long do we expect to see this ship in service?  How long do you expect it to be in service?

Capt. Downey:  Sure.  It’s designed for a service of 30 years and beyond, so that’s built right into the service life of the ship.  The first ship will deliver here from the hull mechanical electrical standpoint in 2014 and then it will receive its combat systems activation and commissioning in 2015.  Then the first of the class goes through a series of operational testing to declare that it’s met its initial operational capability, and that will occur in 2016.  Then each ship is designed for 30-plus years. 


What do you think is the most interesting innovation for the Zumwalt-class destroyers?