In a Congressional Research Service report published on April 16th 2018, Ronald O’Rourke, a specialist in Naval Affairs discusses a “change in mission orientation” for the DDG-1000’s. The Zumwalt-Class stealth destroyers will shift from a mission of Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS) to an emphasis on surface strikes. The shakeup comes in response to changes in the international security environment and to new demands of the Navy.
The destroyer, originally designed to attack land targets as far away as 80 nautical miles, will now become a ship killer. The DDG-1000s will now use missiles to attack surface ships, and possibly land targets. The developmental issues of the U.S. Navy’s Advanced Gun System (AGS), high projected cost of its Long-Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP), and naval mission needs were all contributing factors to the Zumwalt’s new mission. The new plan is to equip the Zumwalt stealth destroyers with 80 vertical launch system (VLS) tubes which can fire a mix of missiles, including anti-ship and land-attack cruise missiles.
From the report:
Change in Mission Orientation
As noted earlier, the DDG-1000 is a multi-mission destroyer with an originally intended emphasis on naval surface fire support (NSFS) and operations in littoral (i.e., near-shore) waters. Consistent with that mission orientation, the ship was designed with two new-design 155mm guns called Advanced Gun Systems (AGSs). The AGSs were to fire a new 155mm, gun-launched, rocket assisted guided projectile called the Long-Range Land-Attack Projectile (LRLAP, pronounced LUR-lap). DDG-1000s are designed carry 600 LRLAP rounds (300 for each gun), and to have additional LRLAP rounds brought aboard the ship while the guns are firing, which would create what Navy officials called an “infinite magazine.” In November 2016, however, it was reported that the Navy had decided to stop procuring LRLAP projectiles because the projected unit cost of each projectile had risen to at least $800,000. The Navy began exploring options for procuring a less expensive (and less capable) replacement munition for the AGSs.
The Navy to date has not announced a replacement munition for the AGSs.21 In the meantime, it was reported in December 2017 that, due to shifts in the international security environment and resulting shifts in Navy mission needs, the mission orientation of the DDG-1000s will be shifted from an emphasis on NSFS to an emphasis surface strike, meaning the use of missiles to attack surface ships and perhaps also land targets.
Under this new plan, the mix of missiles carried in the 80 vertical launch system (VLS) tubes of each DDG-1000 may now feature a stronger emphasis on anti-ship and land-attack cruise missiles missiles. The two AGSs on each DDG-1000 will, for the time being at least, remain for the most part dormant, pending a final decision on whether to procure a replacement munition for the AGSs (which would require modifying the AGSs and their below-deck munition-handling equipment, since both were designed specifically for LRLAP), or instead pursue another option, such as removing the AGSs and their below-deck equipment and replacing them with additional VLS tubes.
A February 15, 2018, press report states the following:
“ The Navy has a new vision for what its enormous high-tech destroyers will do: Killing enemy warships at extended ranges.
The Navy is asking Congress to fund a conversion of its 600-foot stealth destroyers from primarily a land attack ship to an anti-surface, offensive strike platform, according to budget documents released Feb. 12.
The service’s 2019 budget request includes a request for $89.7 million to transform its Zumwalt-class destroyers by integrating Raytheon’s long-range SM-6 missile, which can dual hat as both an anti-air and anti-surface missile, as well as its Maritime Strike variant of the Tomahawk missile.
Converting DDG-1000 into a hunter-killer is a win for the surface warfare community’s years-long drive to beef up the force’s offensive capabilities. It also answers the bell for U.S. Pacific Command, which has been pushing for the Navy to add longer range weapons to offset the increasing threat from Chinese long-range missile technology….
The decision to switch the requirements from a land-attack platform to an anti-surface platform came in November following a review of the requirements, according to the documents.
“After a comprehensive review of Zumwalt class requirements, Navy decided in November 2017 to refocus the primary mission of the Zumwalt Class Destroyers from Land Attack to Offensive Surface Strike,” the documents read. “The funding requested in [FY19] will facilitate this change in mission and add lethal, offensive fires against targets afloat and ashore.”