The U.S. Navy offered to dispatch its deadliest surface warship, the 16,000-ton next generation guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), to South Korea in order to better deter North Korea threats, The Korea Herald reported on February 6.
The head of U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris, suggested the idea during a meeting with South Korean lawmakers in Hawaii in January 2017, according to a South K0rean government spokesperson. Harris said that he could envision the USS Zumwalt stationed at Jeju or Jinhae naval bases located in the country’s south.
However, no official offer has been made so far by the U.S. government.
“It wasn‘t any formal, prearranged proposal, but seemed more impromptu,” a South Korean lawmaker told The Korea Herald. “But given recent requests from Seoul, you could take it as a sign that the U.S. will respond to North Korea’s nuclear program more actively going forward.”
According to the South Korean government spokesperson: “A deployment of strategic assets is something that we can certainly consider as deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear and military threats (…) If the U.S. officially makes a suggestion, we will take a review … as there are issues regarding the Zumwalt’s stationing and operation time frame.”
The USS Zumwalt was commissioned into active service on October 15 (See: “US Navy Commissions Most Technologically Advanced Stealth Warship”) and is the lead ship of a class of three guided-missile destroyers. The ship features a wave-piercing tumblehome hull and stealth design. Armed with SM-1, SM-2 and SM-6 missiles (fired from the ship’s Mk 57 Vertical Launch System), the Zumwalt can be used for ballistic missile defense.
There are also considerations to equip the ship with lasers and other high-tech weapons in the future given the Zumwalt’s new integrated power system that can produce approximately 78 megawatts of power–almost as much as a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The U.S. Navy is currently evaluating a replacement for the primary projectile used for Zumwalt’s two main guns. As I reported elsewhere:
With a cost of $800,000 to $1 million per Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) round, the precision ammunition has become too expensive for the service. LRLAP is the only ammunition specifically designed to be fired by the USS Zumwalt’s two 155 millimeter/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).
Next to still lacking a functioning main weapon system, the USS Zumwalt has also suffered a number of engineering casualties over the last months including an embarrassing breakdown that required the $4 billion ship to be towed out of the Panama Canal.
Two more ships of the Zumwalt-class are currently under construction.
China already announced its opposition to the stationing of the USS Zumwalt in South Korean waters. Chinese Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Tuesday that Beijing is “watching closely.”