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US Navy’s Most Advanced Stealth Warship Has No Bullets for Its Big Guns

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US Navy’s Most Advanced Stealth Warship Has No Bullets for Its Big Guns

The U.S. Navy is slated to cancel precision ammunition for the guns aboard its latest warship citing excessive costs.

US Navy’s Most Advanced Stealth Warship Has No Bullets for Its Big Guns
Credit: Lockheed Martin

The U.S. Navy is moving to cancel the primary projectile for the two big guns of its most advanced stealth warship, the 16,000-ton next generation guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) citing excessive costs, according to information obtained by Defense News.

The so-called 155 millimeter Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) is the only munition designed to be fired by the USS Zumwalt’s two 155milimeter/62-caliber Advanced Gun Systems (AGS), the main armament of the ship with an estimated range of up to 63 nautical miles (72 miles, 115 kilometers).

The reason for the  likely cancellation of the LRLAP order is the steady rise of the per unit costs of the projectile as the number of Zumwalt-class destroyers was cut from 28 to just three. “We were going to buy thousands of these rounds,” a U.S. Navy official familiar with the program told Defense News. “But quantities of ships killed the affordable round.”

The price for one LRLAP projectile is around $800,000 or more.

According to Lockheed Martin, “the LRLAP system provides high-volume fire support at a rate of 10 rounds per minute through the depth of the magazine. It uses the world’s most advanced, g-hardened electronics—including a global positioning system and inertial measurement unit—to withstand the punishing gun-launch environment.”

The company claims that the LRLAP is “the most accurate and longest-range guided projectile in U.S. Navy history.” Furthermore, “155mm LRLAP provides single strike lethality against a wide range of targets, with three times the lethality of traditional 5-inch naval ballistic rounds—and because it is guided, fewer rounds can produce similar or more lethal effects at less cost.”

According to the U. S. Navy official, there were no performance issues with the LRLAP system. “Not that I’ve ever heard. Everything seems to have been performing correctly. I never saw any test results that showed we had problems,” the official noted. “We don’t have an issue with the gun, and no issue with that ship carrying the gun. We have an issue on the price point.”

As of now, the U.S. Navy has not made an official announcement whether it will go through with the cancellation of the LRLAP. One of the questions will be what other ammunition can be had for the AGS and at what price.

“To address evolving threats and mission requirements, the Navy is evaluating industry projectile solutions (including conventional and hyper-velocity projectiles) that can also meet the DDG 1000 deployment schedule and could potentially be used as an alternative to LRLAP for DDG 1000,” a U.S. Navy spokesperson said on November 4 in an email to Defense News.

The USS Zumwalt was commissioned into active service on October 15 (See: “US Navy Commissions Most Technologically Advanced Stealth Warship”). The stealth warship, featuring a wave-piercing tumblehome hull and stealth design, is the lead ship of a class of three multi-mission destroyers. Two more ships are currently under construction.