Having spent $23 billion on a stealth incredibly powerful destroyer, it has now dawned on the U.S. Navy that to use the USS Zumwalt’s weapon system will cost it $800,000 a shell.
Although the United States’ latest stealth destroyer, the USS Zumwalt, packs an overwhelming firepower, there is one aspect which the U.S. Navy supposedly overlooked: the cost of ammo.
The USS Zumwalt is equipped with 155mm Advanced Gun Systems. This weapon system is so high tech that every shell that it fires is GPS enabled. These GPS-guided shells have been dubbed as the Long Range Land Attack Projectile. Having a strike range of 60 miles, the projectiles can kill with deadly accuracy.
To boot, the Zumwalt can rapidly fire ten of these every minute. All of this is very impressive, the only issue though is, these babies cost $800,000 a pop.
As you may have guessed increasing the demand for these shells will bring down the cost. There is a slight problem though: the Zumwalt-class ships were designed in the 1990s. At that time the U.S. Navy had envisioned an armada of 32 ships.
Twenty six years later, the size of that armada has shrunk to just three. With the decline in the number of orders for the ships, their overall cost has jumped. So did the cost of the shells.
The asking price of $800,000 is a wild departure from the sub-$50,000 price Lockheed Martin had originally claimed. Furthermore, their asking price is astronomical when compared to the dumb, unguided rounds fired by the Mk. 45 5” guns, present on existing destroyers.
Given the fact that the U.S. Navy has already sunk in $23 billion into the program, it’s caught in a tight place.
According to Defense News, a probable way out could be to switch over to Excalibur GPS-guided artillery rounds, which have the same GPS-enabled striking capability but with a much reduced range of just 23 miles.
If that doesn’t work for the U.S. Navy, it could conversely get rid of the entire Advanced Gun System and replace it with long-range anti-air batteries. Or, even better, it could install one of those fancy railguns that it has been working on for the past so many years.
Here’s hoping it chooses the railgun option.