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The USS Zumwalt May Have Found Ammo It Can Actually Afford to Fire
Popular Mechanics ^ | Dec 14, 2016 | Kyle Mizokami

Posted on 12/19/2016 6:04:42 AM PST by sukhoi-30mki

When last we heard from the USS Zumwalt, the Navy had admitted that the brand-new stealth destroyer couldn't fire because its custom ammo was too expensive. Now, the service may have settled on a replacement to get the vessel and its brethren back in business.

The U.S. Navy says its Zumwalt-class destroyers, state-of-the-art ships designed to bombard targets on land, could be equipped with the Excalibur precision-guided artillery round originally developed for land forces.

The three Zumwalt-class land attack destroyers were designed around the Advanced Gun System (AGS). The 155-millimeter AGS gun, paired with the brand-new Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP), can strike targets on land as far as 60 miles away. A single Zumwalt destroyer, packing two guns, could drop 1,200 precision-guided shells on enemy targets an hour. At shorter ranges, a single howitzer could fire multiple rounds on different trajectories at the same target, ensuring they all hit the target at exactly the same time.

Unfortunately for the Navy, the cost of the LRLAP artillery round spiraled out of control. In 2001, Lockheed Martin claimed the artillery round would cost "less than $50,000 each"—an absolute bargain. By November 2016, the cost per-round had ballooned to $800,000. Suddenly, firing 1,200 shells looks like a good way to spend 1/600th of the entire Department of Defense operating budget in a single hour. The Navy canceled the LRAP round.

A M777 self-propelled howitzer with 1st Battalion, 12th Marines fires an M982 Excalibur round in Afghanistan, 2011. Department of Defense photo.

According to USNI News, the Navy is now looking to replace LRLAP with the Excalibur artillery round. Excalibur was designed for Army and Marine Corps howitzers to provide precision-guided artillery fire at long ranges. Both services have used the round in both Afghanistan against the Taliban and in Iraq against the Islamic State. Excalibur is the same diameter as LRLAP and thus packs the same punch but has a range of roughly 30 miles, or half that of the canceled round.

On the ground, Excalibur is revolutionary in its own way. While unguided artillery often needs to be "walked" onto target by firing single rounds and adjusting the howitzer's aim, Excalibur can hit targets on the first try—GPS guidance ensures that the shell will strike within 16 feet. This improves the element of surprise, as the enemy doesn't see a line of artillery rounds inching toward them and take cover appropriately.

Excalibur is also much cheaper to shoot; US Naval Institute news cites an approximate cost of 1/4 the cost of LRLAP. According to other sources the land version costs just $70,000 a round. While manufacturer Raytheon says it's compatible with every 155-millimeter howitzer it's been tested with, there could be some design changes that have increased costs for the seaborne version.

At that price, the Excalibur sounds like an acceptable compromise, even with the shorter range. One problem, though, is that it means the Zumwalt will have to get closer to the coastline in hostile territory. This will minimize Zumwalt's reaction time against shore-based anti-ship missiles. Cruising ten miles off a coastline to engage a target twenty miles inland, Zumwalt would have about fifty seconds to track, identify, lock onto, and shoot down an incoming C-802 anti-ship missile flying at Mach 0.9. That's the missile Houthi rebels used to heavily damage the HSV Swift, a catamaran-hulled transport used by the United Arab Emirates in the Bab-el-Mandeb strait. Zumwalt will have Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles to down the threat. Bottom line: The shorter range will incur greater risk.

Excalibur is also much cheaper to shoot; US Naval Institute news cites an approximate cost of 1/4 the cost of LRLAP. According to other sources the land version costs just $70,000 a round. While manufacturer Raytheon says it's compatible with every 155-millimeter howitzer it's been tested with, there could be some design changes that have increased costs for the seaborne version.

At that price, the Excalibur sounds like an acceptable compromise, even with the shorter range. One problem, though, is that it means the Zumwalt will have to get closer to the coastline in hostile territory. This will minimize Zumwalt's reaction time against shore-based anti-ship missiles. Cruising ten miles off a coastline to engage a target twenty miles inland, Zumwalt would have about fifty seconds to track, identify, lock onto, and shoot down an incoming C-802 anti-ship missile flying at Mach 0.9. That's the missile Houthi rebels used to heavily damage the HSV Swift, a catamaran-hulled transport used by the United Arab Emirates in the Bab-el-Mandeb strait. Zumwalt will have Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles to down the threat. Bottom line: The shorter range will incur greater risk.

One possible benefit to Excalibur, though, is that the high-tech round is capable of hitting moving targets, something LRLAP couldn't do. A new variant of Excalibur, Excalibur S, has a semi-active laser seeker. Once fired, the shell can home in on a laser painting an enemy target. While that would require an airplane, drone, or human actually pointing a laser at the target, that would also mean the shell would be useful against enemy ships. Raytheon is also considering a millimetric-wave seeker, which would allow the Navy to simply fire the shell in the direction of an enemy vehicle or ship and the shell would guide itself toward the target.

According to USNI News, it might cost $250 million to modify the three Zumwalt-class destroyers to use the Excalibur artillery round. While an expensive modification, it the ships need to use something, and the cheaper overall cost of the new rounds probably makes it worth it in the long run.


TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: 155mm; miltech; usn; usnavy; usszumwalt
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1 posted on 12/19/2016 6:04:42 AM PST by sukhoi-30mki
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To: sukhoi-30mki
the vessel and its brethren

Ships are ladies. Shouldn't that be 'sisteren'?

2 posted on 12/19/2016 6:06:22 AM PST by NorthMountain (Northmountain)
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To: sukhoi-30mki

What howitzer rounds are fired from Spooky? Is the Zumwalt looking to do the same thing?


3 posted on 12/19/2016 6:08:44 AM PST by EQAndyBuzz (Too. Much. Winning.)
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To: sukhoi-30mki

Just looking at the ship design what the H use is it, can’t land a plane on it, no room on deck for many 50 Caliber weapons, does not act as a sub. Over Priced piece of useless PORK. It will never function well as a upgraded destroyer would.

You can bring the cost of ammo down, you can’t fix how badly it is designed and functions.


4 posted on 12/19/2016 6:09:03 AM PST by GailA (Ret. SCPO wife: Merry CHRISTmas, Happy Birthday JESUS CHRIST, suck it up buttercup you lost)
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To: EQAndyBuzz

Spectre fires 105mm ... the OP is discussing 155mm.


5 posted on 12/19/2016 6:09:33 AM PST by NorthMountain (Northmountain)
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To: sukhoi-30mki
By November 2016, the cost per-round had ballooned to $800,000.

Who the heck developed this weapons system, Batman's Penguin?

6 posted on 12/19/2016 6:10:24 AM PST by freedumb2003 (Faithless=Traitor)
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To: NorthMountain

“Spectre fires 105mm ... the OP is discussing 155mm.”

Thank you.


7 posted on 12/19/2016 6:11:29 AM PST by EQAndyBuzz (Too. Much. Winning.)
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To: sukhoi-30mki
According to other sources the land version costs just $70,000 a round.

At that price, why not just chuck a brand new Land Rover at them?

8 posted on 12/19/2016 6:14:23 AM PST by glorgau
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To: sukhoi-30mki

Having this kind of problem?..... pure STUPIDITY!


9 posted on 12/19/2016 6:14:47 AM PST by high info voter (Liberal leftists would have "un-friended" Paul Revere!)
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To: sukhoi-30mki
Every time I read about the Zumwalt I think of Jurassic Park with the old guy who built it constantly saying, "spared no expense", and how well that worked out in the movie.
10 posted on 12/19/2016 6:17:01 AM PST by Rashputin (Jesus Christ doesn't evacuate His troops, He leads them to victory !!)
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To: glorgau
At that price, why not just chuck a brand new Land Rover at them?

The looks on the faces of an ANGLICO team who'd just called for a fire mission would be priceless. :-)

11 posted on 12/19/2016 6:19:42 AM PST by Riley (The Fourth Estate is the Fifth Column.)
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To: sukhoi-30mki
Refering to the photo caption:. A M777 self-propelled howitzer with 1st Battalion, 12th Marines fires an M982 Excalibur round in Afghanistan, 2011. Department of Defense photo.

If the Dept of Defense can't tell those aren't self propelled, we have bigger problems than cost of ammo.
12 posted on 12/19/2016 6:23:47 AM PST by DocRock (And now is the time to fight! Peter Muhlenberg)
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To: sukhoi-30mki

Zumwalt Class. Pretty. Pretty useless.


13 posted on 12/19/2016 6:26:54 AM PST by Flick Lives (Les Deplorables Triumphant)
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To: GailA
can’t land a plane on it


14 posted on 12/19/2016 6:27:44 AM PST by NorthMountain (Northmountain)
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To: sukhoi-30mki

Another pork barrel project from the shops at Lockheed.

They deserve to be driven out of business. A has been company.

Even $70,000 a round is way to expensive. Just unfeasible.


15 posted on 12/19/2016 6:33:26 AM PST by Sequoyah101 (It feels like we have exchanged our dreams for survival. We just have a few days that don't suck.)
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To: Flick Lives

It’s the only ship with the infrastructure to deploy the rail-gun.


16 posted on 12/19/2016 6:33:48 AM PST by Despot of the Delta (It's time for Trump to become Vlad the Impaler. I want Progressive/Globalist/Establishment heads)
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To: EQAndyBuzz
On top of my gunsafe, is a 105mm and a 40mm rack, from a friend Cap'n PANG who flew a Spectre 130 in Afghanistan.


17 posted on 12/19/2016 6:35:05 AM PST by carriage_hill ( Peace is that brief glorious moment in history, when everybody stands around reloading.)
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To: DocRock

Exactly...unless there are about 10,000 microscopic, but very strong, elves hiding underneath!


18 posted on 12/19/2016 7:09:08 AM PST by HombreSecreto (The life of a repo man is always intense)
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To: Sequoyah101

I wouldn’t mind a $70k price tag, if it had capabilities similar to a cruise missile - IE a very high hit probability, and long range. I think those things are almost a million bucks a copy.


19 posted on 12/19/2016 7:12:01 AM PST by lacrew
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To: sukhoi-30mki
Hmmmmm.....how about taking the Excalibur and fitting it with a second stage solid rocket booster. This wouldn't need to be terribly smart, as the needed guidance corrections for accuracy can be done after the stage separates from the round.

However, other than tradition, why is a "gun" needed at all, when the same job can be done by a much simpler guided missile??

20 posted on 12/19/2016 7:19:03 AM PST by Wonder Warthog (The Hog of Steel and NRA Life Member)
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