Asia Defense

US Navy Christens Third Zumwalt-Class Guided Missile Destroyer

The future USS Lyndon B. Johnson was christened on April 27 at a shipyard in the northeastern United States.

Franz-Stefan Gady
US Navy Christens Third Zumwalt-Class Guided Missile Destroyer
Credit: U.S. Navy

The future USS Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG 1002), the third and final ship of the Zumwalt-class – the U.S. Navy’s largest and technologically most advanced class of guided-missile destroyers — was christened at the General Dynamics-Bath Iron Works (BIW) shipyard in Maine on April 27.

Lynda Johnson Robb and Luci Johnson, the two daughters of former President Lyndon B. Johnson, in whose honor the ship was named after, served as the ship’s sponsors and christened the guided missile destroyer by breaking a bottle of champagne across the bow. According to the Associate Press, several peace protesters who blocked the road in front of the shipyard were arrested.

“The future USS Lyndon B. Johnson will serve for decades as a reminder of President Johnson’s service to our nation and support of a strong Navy and Marine Corps team,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “This ship honors not only President Johnson’s service, but also the service of our industry partners who are vital in making the Navy the nation needs.”

The third and last Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer was officially laid down in December 2017, although construction of the Lyndon B. Johnson already began in April 2012. The Pentagon had plans in 2015 to scrap the ship as a cost saving measure but had to abandon these plans after an assessment concluded that scrapping the warship might end up costing the U.S. Navy more than continuing its construction. As I explained earlier this year:

Zumwalt-class destroyers feature distinct wave-piercing tumblehome hulls and a stealth design meant to reduce the ship’s radar cross-section. The destroyers are equipped with eighty MK57 vertical launch tubes, each capable of accommodating one to four missiles including SM-1, SM-2 and SM-6 missiles or Tomahawk land-attack missiles. The warships will also be armed with new long-range anti-ship missiles such as the Maritime Strike Tomahawk following a change of the mission requirements of the Zumwalt-class from a land-attack platform to surface warfare in November 2017. (The SM-6 surface-to-air missile can also be deployed as an anti-ship missile.)

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In comparison to the preceding two ships of the class — the USS Zumwalt and USS Michael Monsoor — the Lyndon B. Johnson will feature a steel deckhouse instead of the composite structures as a cost saving measure. The entire Zumwalt-class still does not have a suitable projectile for its two Advanced Gun Systems and remains incapable of executing land-strike missions, which up until November 2017 was the Zumwalt-class’ primary mission requirement, as I explained previously:

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).

The ship is expected to be commissioned in 2021.