DDG-1000 and Battle Damage

Zumwalt Underway alt

Over at Salamander’s digs, there is some spirited discussion about the next experimental transformational phantasmagorical monstrosity to be inflicted upon the sailors of the United States Navy.  USS Zumwalt, DDG-1000, is now fitting out in the cold waters of the Maine coast.  The Navy’s propaganda blitz for DDG-1000 continues, but I shall not enumerate all of the highly questionable “features” of the class here, only noting that a quote from the DefenseNews article caught my eye.

Sensational projections about DD(X) technical risk and cost have proved inaccurate.

Here is an image provided by uber-smart commentor Sid over at the porch.  This is the “operations center” aboard Zumwalt, as conceived:


Wide-open space, crammed with electronic gizmos, computers, display screens, data lines, power cords, etc.  You get the idea.  Looks like NASA.  Not only is this place gonna be sitting WAAAAAYYY above the water line, and will be an interesting place to be with a tumblehome hull form in heavy seas, but it is protected (?) by a bulkhead of carbon fiber, sandwiching a sheet of balsa wood.  Not exactly Kruppstahl.

One cannot but wonder what the results would be of a hit by a medium caliber projectile or cruise missile warhead, causing damage much similar to what you see below, on USS San Francisco (CA-38).  The 10lb plate pictured on San Francisco is many orders of magnitude more robust, by the way, than any structural material above the maindeck on Zumwalt.


The Zumwalt “operations center” would be a shambles of fried circuitry, shattered display screens, and dead and dying sailors.  Technical risk?  You bet your sweet a**.   We would do well to study our own history from time to time.   Oh, by the way, San Francisco suffered the damage as a result of combat in the littoral, off Guadalcanal.

14 thoughts on “DDG-1000 and Battle Damage”

  1. I’m just finishing up the chapter on Guadalcanal in SEM’s The Two Ocean War. In just that campaign, we lost combatants, mostly cruisers and destroyers.

    The stupendous cost of the DDG-1000 aside, I’m a bit more optimistic about the program than URR. I look at it primarily as a testbed class with regards to technologies that will be used in future surface warship classes.

    The integrated drive system is going to be the way forward as the power demands of electronics and radars are ramped up (the IED uses the main plant for both propulsion and ship’s load). The total ship’s computing environment will happen, might as well learn how to do it right (and that’s usually learned by doing it wrong a time or two). The 155mm AGS has promise, but is still not what I’d hoped for. If they can develop a reasonably priced anti-ship projectile, that would be a huge benefit.

    I think the peripheral VLS system should be fairly low risk, and better suited to damage mitigation than the current Mk41VLS.

    The tumblehome hull is the least of my concerns. Lots of questions about damaged stability, but it also has some advantages.

    Time will tell.

    1. If it is a test bed, call it a test bed. I can live with that. But they are most pointedly not doing so. The design of the ship, including the idea of carb-fib and balsa bulkheads surrounding what is the vital command spaces, is of major concern. The ability to absorb punishment and continue fighting is a design standard, spoken or unspoken, with us since the days of the Armada. Nothing about today’s environment at sea has mitigated a single bit of it.

      1. The carbon-fiber/balsa has just about as much protection as an aluminum deckhouse. Unless you’re looking at a minimum of 50# plate, it’s not protection against anything but the smallest splinters.

    2. Steel is an excellent construction material for warships…..

      A friend of mine went aboard the Turkish destroyer we accidentally shot with two sea sparrows in 1990. He said that, except for a burned out compartment and some damage in an adjacent space, the ship was fightable. A Gearing….. made of steel. Just sayin’.

    3. There is no substitute for steel on a warship. If one wants to see what can happen to an Aluminum superstructure in a fire, just look up USS Belknap and take a hard look at the pics. They ended up razoring the super and completely rebuilding it. The guy who was my DivO on Courtney was the guy who had the deck when that happened too. My one claim to “fame.”

    4. I would just as soon see experimental systems on a normal ship, where we can test them one at a time. When you have a whole slew of them, it could be tricky debugging some of the gremlins.

      Build a little, test a little, learn a lot.

      1. Ordinarily, I’d agree wholeheartedly, and one of my longstanding complaints about the program has been that it has attempted to make too great a technological leap forward on too many fronts. Some things, like the PVLS and the VSR would have been better tested on a modern equivalent of the USS Norton Sound, or even the Cornfield Cruiser. Certainly some form of the AGS could have been sent to sea on something. Of course, unlike the 1970s when Norton Sound was used as a testbed, 40 years later we don’t have a few thousands surplus WWII hulls around to use for testing.

        But some of the technologies are so integral to the design of the ship that they simply couldn’t be grafted onto any existing hull, such as the ships integrated propulsion system or the total ship’s computing environment.

        The Navy has spent a lot of time and effort on testing each technology in a stand alone environment ashore. And God bless BiW, they’ve built the ship so far on time and on budget. So we’ll see how well it works out over the next 20 years or so.

        Even if the program isn’t what the Navy needs, it’s still orders of magnitude better managed than the LCS program. DDG1K defined the systems, developed the technologies, tested components, and then cut steel.

        LCS kinda went about that bass-ackwards, and poorly at that.

  2. I read the line “sensational projections…have proved inaccurate” and I thought I was still in the post on obamacare.

    On a real note, what is this about 10 lb steel? If it isn’t a top secret composite mix around my turret and hull, I don’t get it… please clarify.

    1. Plate steel on warships, particularly armor, is measured not usually by inches, but rather pounds per square foot.
      10# steel is normally the general structural steel, roughly 3/8″ thick. 25# steel is about 1″ thick. 100# steel= 4″ thick, and so on.

      Usually 10# steel is mild steel, while 25# and higher, particularly if it is to have armor properties, is STS or higher grade steel.

      Unlike a benchmark equivalent (like Rolled Homogenous Armor), the pound per square foot measurement is actually (roughly) empirical.

  3. Hit the button too soon!…
    Wanted to make one correction guys:

    The balsa wood “top hamper” (or whatever they may really call it) is actually a covering for the antennas apparently and is not really a partof the main superstructure.

    That said, you know the Vomitiporium doesn’t have much other than some “Mother Pleaser” protection.

    And actually, protecting the antennas from shrapnel damage really isnt such a bad thing as I guess the box is made with an aramid layup.

    But still, brings back the prospects of no joke “splinter damage.”

    Especially a few years from now when that balsa gets wet from the inevitable holes that folks will drill into that house.

    Bottom line is, when it comes to “Survivability” the design of this ship is completely unbalanced.

    It takes a ****BALANCED**** measure of both “Susceptibility Reduction” or design elements which contribute to getting hit in the first place…

    The other part is “Vulnerability Reduction” or design elements that allow you to absorb a “reasonable” amount of damage after the inevitable hits, and still “Fight Hurt” (Recoverability).

    (Note:THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE SHIP HAS TO BE EXPECTED TO BE COMPLETELY INVULNERABLE!!!…you get in a fight, you might just die, nature of the beast)

    But the Zumwalts have all their eggs in the “SR” basket (Its the sexiest part…and makes the most money for the contractors) with its stealth (the LCS with its speed).

    And then what VR elements are there like automated DC systems are adapted from civilian applications which are likely not to survive the contact with the enemy…and which WILL eventually happen no matter that purported stealth.

    In short, another Battle Losing Sailor Killer design off the ways of the “Transformational Navy”

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