Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was asked point blank on his visit Thursday to Bath Iron Works whether the Pentagon would reverse its decision back in 2008 to buy fewer DDG 1000 destroyers and more Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.
Hagel didn't offer a direct answer. Instead the defense secretary told the crowd of sailors and ship builders the Navy continues to consider its future and the current budget constraints has forced the service to change its plans. However, he never offered a signal that the Navy would make a push toward additional DDG 1000s beyond the three already planned.
In 2008, then-Chief Naval Officer Adm. Gary Roughead announced that the service would curtail its planned purchase of DDG 1000 destroyers in favor of the Arleigh Burke. Navy leaders explained that changing priorities had forced the service to make the decision. In 2010, then Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the program would end after the three ships were built.
Hagel told the crowd that the DDG 1000 "has a rather significant future" before he described the challenges the Defense Department is facing as the military deals with sequestration and continuing resolutions.
"We are going through a difficult time now, but we'll get through it," Hagel said.
Hagel visited after the Navy recently christened the USS Zumwalt, the first of three Zumalt-class destroyers planned by the Navy. The second two Zumwalt-class destroyers planned for the fleet are the USS Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001) and the USS Lyndon B Jonhson (DDG 1002) slated to join the fleet in 2018 and 2021, respectively, Navy officials said.
Hagel linked the DDG 1000 to the military’s Pacific shift and indicated that the ship’s first assignment will start from San Diego, Calif.
“It represents an important shift of our balance in assets, in our focus, America's interest to the Asia Pacific. We are not retreating from any part of the world,” Hagel said.
The DDG 1000 is engineered with a wave-piercing Tumblehome hull, a configuration designed to reduce the radar cross-section of the ship and strengthen the stealth profile. Among other things, the Tumblehome hull is engineered so that its sides slope inward above the waterline.
“The shape of the superstructure and the arrangement of its antennas significantly reduce the ship's radar cross section, making the ship less visible to enemy radar at sea,” a Navy statement said.
The ship is also built with an Advanced Induction Motor, or AIM, a technology which uses an electric-drive propulsion system to move the ship through the water, officials said.
The DDG 1000, which weighs more than 14,500 tons and it 600-feet long, will also generate as 78 megawatts of power with its all-electric integrated power system. This electrical capacity is also designed to accommodate future technologies as they emerge such as electro-magnetic rail guns and lasers, Navy officials said.
The ship will be formally delivered to the Navy for testing late next year and is slated to reach what’s called initial operating capability by 2016.