Vice Adm. Merz: New Round, Gun Removal Options for Zumwalt DDG

WASHINGTON — The Navy is looking at options for the Advanced Gun System (AGS) on the Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer (DDG) as it completes mission systems installation, options that include developing a new round or removing the guns all together.

The Zumwalt DDG is equipped with two 155 mm AGS guns — built by BAE Systems — for which the Long-Range Land-Attack Projectile (LRLAP) was developed by Lockheed Martin. The LRLAP, however, proved too costly and its range too short, resulting in its cancellation. The Navy has been exploring options to develop a new round but is not letting the lack of one delay the ship’s entry into the fleet.

“We determined that the best future for that ship is to get it out there with the capability that it has and separate out the Advanced Gun System, leaving everything else in place,” Vice Adm. William R. Merz, deputy chief of naval operations for Warfare Systems, testified Nov. 27 before the Senate Armed Services Seapower subcommittee, in response to a question from Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, the state in which the Zumwalt class has been built.

“[The Zumwalt] is a very capable platform with or without that gun,” Merz said. “We will be developing either the round that goes with that gun or what we are going to do with that space if we decide to remove that gun in the future. The ship is doing fine, on track to be operational in 2021 in the fleet.”

Merz said the Zumwalt, built as a land-attack platform, has been “remissioned to a strike platform, whether sea targets or land targets. It takes advantage of its tremendous arsenal of VLS [vertical launching system] cells. Those VLS cells are larger than any other surface ship VLS cells so that opens up an aperture of more weapons options for that ship.”

He termed the projectile challenge “as a science and technology challenge, not an engineering problem. We just cannot get the thing to fly as far as we want.”

Asked by King if the Zumwalt would be a platform for a future directed-energy weapon, Merz said the ship had the “balance of SWAPC — space, weight, power and communications — that allows us to expand this ship over time. She is going to be a candidate for any advanced weapon system that we develop.”