The Navy will invest $25 billion in a new class of surface combatants to bolster
its clout at sea and, more importantly, to extend its dominance on land.
Using naval forces for land attack can be accomplished today via aircraft carriers.
But that involves risking pilots flying over the battle zone. The solution,
say U.S. military planners, is to have a ship with long-range firepower that
can do the job without sending aviators into harm's way.
The ability to hit targets from over the horizon also means that commanders
can keep their ships safe from coastal mines and enemy anti-ship missiles-the
weapons of choice for potential U.S. foes.
In about 10 years, the DD-21 class of surface combatants will begin replacing
the Navy's fleet of DD-963 destroyers and FFG-7 guided-missile frigates. The
plan is to buy 32 ships.
The Navy's land attack role as part of a U.S. joint force is increasingly gaining
popularity at the Pentagon because it suits the U.S. strategy of fighting wars
without unduly risking lives. A case in point is the use of Tomahawk cruise
missiles during recent military contingencies.
The Marine Corps, for example, has become an enthusiast of DD-21 for obvious
reasons. The ship complements the corps' other expeditionary platforms for the
21st century-the advanced amphibious assault vehicle, the V-22 tiltrotor aircraft,
and the improved landing craft air cushion transport.
In addition to seeking range and speed in its platforms, Marine forces want
the fire support DD-21 will possess. Future wars in littoral regions will make
it particularly dangerous for Marine amphibious ships to get too close to the
shore, experts say. The long-range precision strike capabilities of DD-21, they
predict, will protect forces by establishing "battlefield dominance"
against air, surface, and subsurface threats.
U.S. amphibious forces have been involved in 50 crises around the globe during
the past decade. This hectic pace is not expected to slow, say Marine Corps
officials. So they want DD-21 because it can "influence events ashore,"
says Maj. Gen. Dennis Krupp, Marine Corps director of expeditionary warfare.
During the next century, "if a force is not capable of expeditionary warfare
it will be unemployed," he says during a recent conference in Panama City,
Florida, sponsored by the National Defense Industrial Association.
Marines want to keep their large amphibious ships over the horizon and DD-21
will allow them to do that, which makes it a "force multiplier," says
Among the planned innovations for DD-21 are integrated gas turbine/electric
propulsion, vertical advanced gun system, a stealth design, a robust C4I capability
with open computer systems, and remote weapons launching. It will also feature
advanced undersea warfare and mine countermeasures systems, says Capt. Ray Pilcher,
Navy director of land attack warfare, who briefed the NDIA conference.
He explains DD-21 will operate seamlessly with forward-deployed joint forces
via a "sensor-to-shooter" connectivity. This would give the commander
flexibility to both counter maritime threats and destroy land targets.
DD-21 could be armed with as many as 250 short and long-range missiles. That
compares to 122 missiles in the current Ticonderoga-class CG-47 cruisers.
Unlike previous generations of Navy warships, DD-21 will be designed entirely
by contractors teamed with Navy researchers. This makes DD-21 a "showcase
for acquisition reform," according to the program manager, Navy Capt. Tom
Bush. The project will involve a two-team industry competition for the ship's
design. Once a winner is selected, the construction will be shared by the two
shipyards from each team. This approach is necessary, say Navy officials, because
they do not want to risk the losing shipyard going out of business.
The Navy awarded a combined $68.5 million contract to the two teams-one led
by General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine; and the other by Ingalls
Shipbuilding, Pascagoula, Mississippi. They will split the funding in equal
Bath Iron Works partnered with Lockheed Martin Government Electronic Systems,
Mooretown, New Jersey, to form the Blue Team. The competing Gold Team has Ingalls
along with Raytheon Systems Company, Falls Church, Virginia.
Each one is responsible for developing an independent ship design and life
cycle support concept for the DD-21 system. The Navy will select the winning
design by the spring of 2001. The first ship of the class is expected to join
the fleet in 2008.
But even though the Navy is allowing the contractor to design DD-21 from a
clean sheet, it has imposed a $750 million per ship cost cap. That would apply
to the fifth ship of the 32-vessel series.
DD-21's price tag makes it an attractive proposition in the context of declining
spending on new platforms by the Defense Department. By comparison, the advanced
DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers cost about $1 billion.
But experts are skeptical that a ship as advanced as DD-21 can be built within
that cost constraint. The $750 million threshold is indeed "ambitious,"
says Richard Scott, naval editor of Jane's Defence Weekly, based in the United
Another significant cost driver would be the integration of the Aegis combat
system into DD-21, which is not part of the official requirements for the ship.
Slade predicts there's a 50/50 chance that the Navy will opt to make Aegis
part of DD-21.
A Navy spokesman says the $750 million price tag includes the cost of a combat
system, not specifically an Aegis combat system.
The service did not request that the Aegis combat system be placed on DD-21,
nor did it request any specific weapons system be included on the ship. Rather,
the industry teams will determine which systems best meet cost and performance
requirements, says the spokesman. "Each team has been given the maximum
trade-space to develop total system concept designs" based on the operational
"Each team will look at the Aegis to see if it's applicable to the DD-21
mission," says Paul Lemmo, business development manager at Lockheed Martin
Government Electronic Systems. Both cost and mission considerations will play
a role, he says in an interview.
While the Aegis was primarily designed for anti-air warfare, the DD-21 is more
focused on land attack. The question that must be asked, says Lemmo, is "do
we need that much functionality?"
The Ingalls-Raytheon team does not immediately plan to address the Aegis question.
"We will not get into that until the end of phase 2 [in early 2001],"
says Chic McDaniel, DD-21 business development manager for Raytheon.
The Navy, says McDaniel in an interview, "made it clear it does not want
to be burdened" by legacy systems with unique hardware configurations.
He does not, however, rule out the possibility that Aegis will be part of DD-21.
"Aegis has evolved and matured," he says.
Slade says he has seen some preliminary sketches from the shipyards, and some
are "quite radical." But he predicts that, as it often happens when
new ships begin the design cycle, "they will eventually be toned down,
diluted to a more conventional ship."
Even though both shipyards will share the construction work, there are coveted
rewards for the winner of the design competition.
"The winner will probably get the added value sections while the loser
will do the bulk of the metal bending," says Slade. But there is also a
morale factor. Whoever wins will have the bragging rights.
"We have a clean sheet, " says Lemmo. "The design is entirely
up to industry."
Raytheon's McDaniel points out that even though both Ingalls and Bath Iron
Works will share the construction work, the selected team will spend at least
five years working on the ship's design. Subsequently, the shipyards will determine
how they will split the project. The plan is to build about three ships a year.
Most of the cost-savings the Navy expects from DD-21 come from the ship's small
crew. That is because manpower eats up the largest share of the cost of operating
DD-21 has a requirement for a crew of 95 sailors. Current cruisers have 330.
While it costs $9,000 an hour to operate an Aegis destroyer, the Navy asked
industry to slash that expense by two-thirds. The service would like DD-21 to
cost about $2,700 an hour, says McDaniel.
The manning cutbacks sought by the Navy are a "significant challenge,"
Scott, from Jane's Defence, asserts this goal is "extremely ambitious."
He is skeptical that crew size can be sustained in a combat situation when the
ship may incur battle damage.
He believes the Navy had to drastically cut back on crew size demands for future
ships because there's a perception among the world's naval powers that U.S.
ships are "overmanned."
One of those naval powers, the United Kingdom, is closely watching what the
U.S. Navy is doing with DD-21, says Scott. The United States, he adds, is clearly
"leading the way." And there is growing concern among NATO navies,
particularly, that "you have to have standoff capability."