Saturday, February 9, 2013

Zumwalt: The fiction becomes reality

Off submarines and nuclear aircraft carriers, it is the most expensive warship built so far. But it is above all types, certainly the most futuristic. A boat lines so unusual that had hitherto not imagine it can be a program for real and not a work of science fiction. After laying the imposing superstructure of the composite hull, in December, General Dynamics, which built the new American destroyer construction at BIW of Bath, has unveiled the first views of the future USS Zumwalt, whose assembly s 'ends. And the huge building that looks like a spaceship straight out of a Hollywood blockbuster, is impressive. A true "delirium" of engineers and military, a beast of war unique ...

A big cruiser that dare not speak its name

Seeded DDG 1000 program, the USS Zumwalt, who took the name of Elmo Zumwalt Admiral (1920 - 2000), an officer visionary who imagined several concepts of buildings (including multipurpose frigates type OH Perry and door escort aircraft-Sea Control Ship, the plans will be redeemed by the Spaniards to build the Principe de Asturias) is euphemistically called "Destroyer" by the Americans. With a length of 185 meters, a width of 26.4 meters and a light displacement of 10,000 tons, 14,500 tons to exceed full load, the template is rather that of a cruiser. The Zumwalt indeed largely outperform the major U.S. destroyers Arleigh Burke type (155.3 meters long, 9200 tons loaded) and even the type Ticonderoga cruisers (172.8 m, 9970 tpc). In addition to the aircraft carrier, the United States did, in fact, not built warship surface as large cruisers since the Second World War, with the exception of the nuclear cruiser USS Long Beach (219.7 meters, 17,525 tpc ), launched in 1959 and decommissioned in 1995.

The return of the long-range artillery

Two times heavier than the new type 45 British destroyers and frigates Franco-Italian Horizon type, USS Zumwalt is a multipurpose building but it has been especially designed for littoral operations. To this end, it will have two turrets 155mm housing a new gun, the Advanced Gun System (AGS), firing ammunition propelled and guided LRLAP (Long Range Land Attack Missiles), 2.2 meters long and weighing 104 kg.Developed by BAE Systems, the new weapon must eventually allow the destroyer to reach ground targets located 140 km away. The aim is, in particular, to make artillery preparations prior to an amphibious operation or support progression into enemy territory troops landed in an amphibious operation. Each of the two pieces of 155mm will have a reserve of ammunition and 600 can fire 10 rounds per minute.

Building a particularly stealthy

The building will, in addition, with 80 vertical launch cells for Tomahawk cruise missiles (with a range estimated at 1,700 km), Harpoon anti-ship missiles (up to 240 km), ballistic missile missiles SM-3 ( a new version with a range of 500 km is under study), surface to air missiles short range ESSM (19 km) missiles and anti-submarine VLA (12 km). The weapons will be completed with two 57mm turrets and torpedo tubes. The USS Zumwalt may, in addition, carry a Seahawk helicopter-type unmanned aerial vehicles and three type Fire Scout.

The DDG 1000 is characterized by its great stealth. Superstructures are concentrated in a single block, the walls host the various sensors and communication systems, including SPY-3 multifunction radar with planar faces. Featuring an inverted bow, the design limit at the "bumps" in order to minimize the radar cross section of the building. There is for example no mast, radar SPY-3 being integrated into the superstructure in the form of planar antennas, whereas the turrets are 57mm and 155mm "hidden" in a fairing when they are not in action. The radar signature of the USS Zumwalt should therefore be minimal.

In the field of electronics, we note the presence of a hull-mounted sonar and a towed sonar, as well as missile decoy launchers and anti-torpedo.

Electric propulsion and reduced crew

First American destroyer adopting electric propulsion, the Zumwalt was conceived as a platform fast, which must reach a speed of 31 knots. For this, it will be equipped with two gas turbines Rolls-Royce MT30, each developing 36 MW and two gas turbines 4500 series of British engine with a rated power of 3840 kW. Converteam will, for its part, two electric motors causing two rows of trees with their end of a variable pitch propeller. The entire propulsion develop 69.6 MW. Electrical power very important especially for the U.S. Navy to consider this building and its sistership the future integration of electromagnetic guns.

Significant efforts have been made to ensure that the DDG 1000 can be implemented by a small crew.Thus, with a high degree of automation, the USS Zumwalt should be reinforced by 150 sailors, including some officers (with the ultimate goal of bringing the crew of 125 men), a figure to be compared with 320 crew of Ticonderoga, the 280 men and Arleigh Burke, if we go back a little in time, the 1160 sailors from the USS Long Beach!

An exorbitant cost

Last reminiscent of Arsenal Ship project, a concept pharaonic on a huge platform to launch missiles (500 cells) abandoned in the late 90s, the DDG 1000 program, which was formerly known as DD 21 and DD (X), was initially launched to ensure the replacement of the 31 Spruance class destroyers. In all, 32 units were to be built Zumwalt class. But it quickly became apparent that this goal would not be achieved, far from it. Extremely complex and costly, the program has indeed been a very long gestation and a number of setbacks during its development. Real challenge for American engineers, the building is a true technological breakthrough compared to its predecessors, both in terms of design of the arms and part energy / propulsion. The latter, for example, required the construction of a model of the DDG 1000, Sea Jet, a boat 40 meters long for the experiment including electric propulsion.

Still, the budget allocated to the program has exploded over the years. Developed in 2011, the Pentagon estimated that the bill for studies and construction of the first three destroyers reach a staggering $ 20 billion. Too engaged to be canceled, the program has been maintained but drastically limited. Only the first three destroyers will be built. The USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), which set afloat is expected this year and delivery to the U.S. Navy in 2014, the USS Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001), whose construction began in 2010 and should be received by the Navy in 2016. The third and last building of this class, which will be christened USS Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG 1002), delivery is expected in 2018. Dates for the indicative time because it will obviously wait for the completion, testing and development of the seed, as many phases as critical challenges for industry and American sailors.

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