This article first appeared in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.
The U.S. Navy is looking at building an alternative deckhouse for DDG-1002, the final proposed Zumwalt-class destroyer.
The current Zumwalt deckhouse is uniquely designed and constructed of composite materials at a special facility owned and operated by Ingalls Shipbuilding, a Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) unit.
Indeed, the special deckhouse has been one of the main selling points for the Zumwalt, with its specially designed composite construction that the Navy has touted as cutting down on weight and bolstering the ship's stealth.
Weighing in at 900 tons and bigger than half a football field, the deckhouse packs the ship's bridge, radars, antennas and intake/exhaust systems into a structure designed to provide a significantly smaller radar cross-section than any other ship in today's fleet.
But in a Jan. 3 solicitation, Naval Sea Systems Command (Navsea) says it “has a potential requirement for design and construction of a steel deckhouse and hangar superstructure, and aft peripheral vertical launching system (PVLS) modules for DDG-1002. This requirement will be solicited without full and open competition … from the only two sources in the Navy's destroyer shipbuilding industrial base: Bath Iron Works (BIW) … and Ingalls Shipbuilding.”
HII officials declined to discuss the solicitation specifically, but they note that it comes just as the Navy and Ingalls have begun negotiations on building the ship's deckhouse.
The Navy solicitation says, “This limited competitive procurement is an alternative to construction of composite deckhouse, composite hangar and aft PVLS for DDG-1002 by Ingalls … in the event a contract is not awarded non-competitively to Ingalls.”
Navsea spokesman Christopher Johnson says, “The notice was published as part of a risk-reduction strategy to provide the DDG-1002 composite deckhouse, composite hangar and steel aft peripheral vertical launching system to support the ship construction schedule.
BIW and HII will be given the opportunity to compete in a limited competition for the production of the components should the Navy and HII be unable to reach an affordable, fair and reasonable price for the DDG-1002 composite and steel components. Deckhouse construction material has no impact on the stealth characteristics of the ship.”
Ingalls is building the composite deckhouse and hangar for the DDG-1000 class at the company's Composite Center of Excellence in Gulfport, Miss.
Made almost exclusively using cored composite construction processes, the deckhouse and hangar take full advantage of the properties of carbon fiber materials and balsa wood cores.
When cured, the composite structure is as strong as steel but requires little maintenance and is very lightweight.
These attributes reduce maintenance costs over the lifespan of the ship due to its corrosion resistance in the marine environment and allow for improved hull stability, more payload and increased ship speeds, the company contends. The Gulfport facility also builds composite masts for the Navy's LPD-17 San Antonio class of amphibious ships.