By Michael Fabey at Aviation Week's DTI
As budget-cutters swipe at major Pentagon programs and sequestration threatens to tighten the leash on expected expenses, the U.S. Navy remains focused on building its future surface warfighting fleet, says Rear Adm. Thomas Rowden, Navy Surface Warfare Div. director.
And the service is pinning its hopes on futuristic ships like the DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class destroyer and the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).
"I am also excited about the production progress of Zumwalt (DDG-1000), a marvel in design and technological development," Rowden says in a blog from earlier this month. "During my recent visits to Raytheon in Rhode Island and Bath Iron Works in Maine, I was impressed with how closely the two facilities are working together to ensure the success of this incredible warship." The ship is 65% complete, he says. "Zumwalt will set the tone for the next two ships, and our Navy will reap the benefits of these three for decades."
The Navy is slated to build three of the new destroyers, which the Navy says will offer reduced manning, hybrid drive, unsurpassed stealth and ferocious firepower. The Zumwalt is slated to cost a bit more than $3 billion.
While the Navy is proposing to deploy only three DDG-1000s, the service has plans to buy an LCS fleet of about 55. The Pentagon estimates the total acquisition cost for the LCS sea frames alone is about $37.4 billion. The Navy also plans to develop and fund the interchangeable mission module packages the ships will carry.
"We must aggressively bring LCS into the fleet," Rowden says. "With each successive ship, the shipbuilding process has become more efficient and we are achieving better results at lower cost. USS Independence (LCS-2) recently pulled into her homeport in San Diego after completing a series of successful Mine Warfare Mission Module tests off the East Coast, and Fort Worth (LCS-3) passed her acceptance trials with flying colors. The president of the Board of Inspection and Survey commented that LCS-3 had the most complete acceptance trials held to date, and the Navy formally accepted Fort Worth on June 6."
While the Navy awaits its LCS and Zumwalt fleets, though, its first priority has to be to maintain the ships the service has now, Rowden says.
"We absolutely must ensure the ships in the water today work the way they were designed and that their systems are interoperable," he says. "We will fix the systems that do not work properly and maintain the ones that do. This will ensure that our warfighters have systems that interact and share information in real-time, and will provide our commanders with the clearest -- and most accurate -- tactical picture to use when making critical decisions."
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