Report: Cost spike for Navy’s next DDGs

Report: Cost spike for Navy’s next DDGs

The Navy may not realize any savings from copying the existing design of its workhorse destroyer for a new version of the ship, according to a report Wednesday — in fact, the new DDGs may end up costing billions more.

Sam LaGrone of Jane’s Navy International writes that according to the latest projections, the new Flight III versions of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer could cost between $3 and nearly $4 billion apiece, as much as double today’s Flight II version. That’s despite Navy officials’ onetime belief that restarting production of DDG 51s made sense because it would save money as compared with their previous planned run of next-generation Zumwalt-class destroyers.

Why might the new ships cost so much more? Because building a Flight III Burke isn’t the equivalent of just slapping a Lincoln badge onto a Ford, as LaGrone wrote:


The Flight III destroyers will field the result of the Hull and Radar Study: the Air and Missile Defence Radar (AMDR). With a planned aperture of 14 ft, the AMDR will be less sensitive than the 22 ft variant that was planned for CG(X) but more sensitive than the SPY-1D air-search/fire-control radar that equips Flight IIA ships.

The power-hungry AMDR will require a costly new electrical system encompassing a more robust electrical grid, and must be able to integrate follow-on systems, adding risk and uncertainty to the Flight III design.

In particular, ship designers will probably have to upgrade the 440 V grid in the current Arleigh Burkes to a 4,160 V grid to accommodate the 10 MW needed to drive the AMDR. Increasing the voltage in a Flight III grid would allow more power to flow safely and reliably to the ship’s systems, but it would incur additional engineering and design expenditures.

Other wrinkles: General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works shipyard has experience with the 4,160 volt power systems, LaGrone writes, because that’s what’s aboard DDG 1000. But Huntington Ingalls Industries’ yard in Pascagoula, Miss., has only delivered 440 volts, so that learning curve, along with “non-recurring engineering costs,”  could increase the price tag for the ships.

Plus, although the story does not mention this, the Navy has said it would like future copies of its DDG 51s to sail with a “hybrid” main propulsion system, perhaps similar to the one we just heard about aboard the USS Makin Island. Future destroyers might use their main and auxiliary gas turbines to generate electricity the ship could direct either to new weapons and sensors, or to push itself through the water. That upgrade, and others, could also drive up the cost.

The silver lining, LaGrone writes, is that most ship classes decrease in cost after the first few copies. That has certainly been true for the DDG 51s, which today roll out of the yards about as painlessly as a naval ship could. That was the whole point, in fact — why not just stick with a design the yards already know well and bolt on a few improvements?

Well — that’s what happened. Even though these projections make it sound as though the Flight III could cost almost twice as much as its predecessor, that may still be a comparative bargain, LaGrone reports:

The navy commenced its Hull and Radar Study in early 2009, when an analysis of alternatives for the CG(X) cruiser called for a 25,000-ton ship that would have cost an estimated — and unaffordable — USD6 billion per hull. CG(X) was cancelled in 2010.

After the almost year-long study, the USN determined that modifying the new Zumwalt-class destroyer — three of which are on order — for the BMD role would not be as cost-effective as a follow-on to the Arleigh Burkes, according to a report published in September by the Congressional Research Service. Elements within the navy’s surface warfare community were resistant to using the Zumwalt’s wave– piercing tumblehome hullform as the basis of the new BMD combatant. The innovative hullform is thought by many to be at its weight limit and have little space for larger radars or future weapon systems such as solid state lasers and electromagnetic rail guns.

That could mean that even at the premiums above the cost of today’s version of the ship, upgraded copies of the Arleigh Burke will remain the Navy’s bread and butter for decades.

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“the innovative hullform is thought by many to be at its weight limit and have little space for larger radars or future weapon systems such as solid state lasers and electromagnetic rail guns.”

is not even there and already has limitations to future weapons/combat systems?!!! …I’m the only one finding this surrealistic?

Probably it would be cheaper if we buy Australian DDG version.

The Navy couldn’t launch a canoe for less than a billion. They will join the Air Force who will soon have one 200 billion dollar airplane.

Double the defense budget conquer the Middle East completely and sell ourselves the oil for $5/barrel :)

Probably rely on 2011 model of DDG could be better. And more LCS Litorial could be good for the navy and the country’s defense.

Nonrecurring versus recurring engineering and costs have plagued Navy ship acquisition for decades. Once you get the the nonrecurring engineering done, per hour metal pounding and electronic component assembling is driven by wage labor costs, which have basically remained the same hours as the prior model. The problem are designers who have no responsibility for costs, program managers who are never held accountable, and admirals who don’t care how much their toys cost. What advantage does the new hull form provide? Compare that against extended range for sensors and weapons, and what trade off makes sense? Cost as an input factor. Otherwise the Pentagon will continue to bankrupt the nation.

Anybody who didn’t see this coming a hundred miles away really ought to be fired. Falling victim to feature creep will kill you EVERY TIME. That’s why it’s so hilarious when people suggest cancelling the F-35 and starting over would be cheaper.

We should use navy laborer, navy professionals, materials, parts and steel from US and naval shipyard to eliminate third party manufacturer cost, seller agent commission cost, tax cost and bring down the overall cost.

Like pp_muscimol I strongly question the assertion that the Zumwalts don’t have sufficient growth margin, especially compared to the Burkes. The smaller sized DDG-51 has already used up much of its growth margin (Flight IIAs at 9200 tons are more than 10% heavier than the originals). The Zumwalts hull was INTENDED to later be used for the cruiser; it already has 4X the power generation of a Burke and the article admits the 4,160 Volt power system is already in place, so in terms of electrical growth the DDG-1000 is in a much better position. It is a 14,000+ ton lead ship so one would expect at least 10% or 1,400+ tons of growth margin to still be available — likely far more than in a Burke. With a Flight III Burke now expected to cost the same as a Zumwalt, the question is was the wrong hull chosen? Would the larger Zumwalt hull have been the better choice and actually have ended up costing less in the end (since the electrical system and many other features were already in place)?

“Feature creep” in the civilian world means increasing the requirements during development. In the military contractor world it means cutting features that we promised because the contractor’s poor management and incompetent staff can’t deliver.

The contractors need to make more money and they need to deliver less for it. Once you understand THE driving force behind all military procurement these days it’s no surprise that we get less and less for higher and higher costs.

Just use what we already have and concentrate on developing less expensive things for defense.

While its nice for R&D with BIG cuts will a new ship have enough money to make it into wide spread service???

That would be so funny (HA HA), if it wasn’t so true.

The “innovative” hullform is not really all that innovative, look at any of the “heavies” built around the turn of the century. Almost all of the pre-dreadnaughts had the same basic hullform, apparently derived from the hydrodynamic advantages discovered during the prior naval infatuation with the “steam ram” warship type. (the advantages in drag are the reason why most large commercial ships have the bulbuous bow that looks almost like a sonar dome.) The other reason for it in the DD-21 design was an impression that it would reduce the radar cross section, which might just be useful in an era of smart and semi-smart ASCMs. (Even if it was not enough of a reduction to be called “stealthy”, it might not be advantageous to have the biggest RCS in a flotilla!)

Still, if in 1900 designers could put a 20000 ton battleship on a “wave piercing” hull, Id bet we still could! (the biggest issue with the particular design was that the hull tended to be very “wet” forward in moderate to high wave states, hence the term “wave piercing”!).

PEO people have to eat too you know!

Drip! Drip! Drip! As the sarcasm collects in the wash tub.… . ..

I’d like to know how much of that $3-4B is nonrecurring engineering expense, which is traditionally tacked onto the lead ship. Take that away and the recurring costs (the actual per-ship cost) should be far lower. Electric drive, AMDR procurement and installation, and various evolutionary improvements developed over the course of this decade shouldn’t increase the cost to those levels.

Out of the $3,500 B our governement spends… $140B is procurement and $80B is R&D. That’s only 6% of the Federal budget. If something is bankrupting the nation it isn’t solely acquisition programs.

My point is given the fact that unlike alot of the organs of Government, the military and the Department of Defense are Constitutionally mandated, budgetary concerns should be made elsewhere when the military spending relative to GDP is at an all time low.

I don’t think you understand the acquisition process if you’re making comments like that. There is a chart on the process you can find online that shows the complexities. Between when a RFI is issued asking for companies to propose solutions… to the awarding of a contract to develope… to the designs production implementation… there are significant numbers of instances (~50) where the Government can hang additional requirements or demand changes on the program and demand additional test to prove them… many of which are recursive processes, so you can be trapped by someone who can’t be satisfied. In the civillian world, its a more linear process, that can be accelerated more easily by a decision made by supervisors and management. Having done work in both, it comes down to the difference between having one person who tells you what they want versus having 10 people telling you conflicting versions of what they want… and it gets worse the more complex the program.

Let us assume the Navy has the existing pool of laborers skilled in the right areas and large enough to draw from… Navy laborers and professionals cost more by virtue of their retirement packages, though they are paid less per hour; so less loss when they’re inefficient… Materials, parts, and steel a significant portion does come from the US, but the industrial capacity is actually exceeded by our demand and has been a large contributor to the increased cost of ship construction.

I know and have worked with Navy laborers and professionals, and while I think they could handle some of it, there certainly aren’t enough of them and it would probably take 10 years to bring on new people and get them expierenced enough… unless you hired them away from those ship builders which would cost more not less.

If you actually put a process as simple as eating a peanut butter & jelly sandwich under the microscope you could create a chart of greater complexity. Do people screw up eating PB&J sandwiches? no. It’s not the process that is to blame so much as the incompetence, lack of discipline, and obliviousness to cost & schedule risk by decision makers, that results in the ensuing chaos. Careful now! If you start talking about process you may be derided as a process weenie by a few posters here who believe contractors can do anything and we should just pay more and more and look the other way, and that the oversight process weenies are to blame for what is wrong with DoD.

Only disposable and expendable things need to be less expensive. When you consider the advanced capabilities that allow modern warships to do the job of several more, you don’t need “more” or as many to accomplish the same job. Military expendature relative to the rest of the economy are at an all time low, yet we have the best and the largest in the world. It seems to me things are working out pretty well. Cheaper is only necessary if we actually needed “more”.

“Only disposable and expendable things need to be less expensive” — Do you manage your own household finances or does a company manage its finances by this guiding principle? “it seems to me things are working out pretty well.” Are you serious??

Wrong again. All things being equal, adherence to process is a good and beneficial thing. But process is no substitute for performance and productivity. If the process does not If you follow the process and the results are not satisfactory, where does the problem lie ? Is the process itself getting in the way, or is there some other problem ? Good processes help you find and resolve problems. Bad processes enable the problems to linger and grow. There is no substitute for mangers taking responsibility and exercising judgement in allocating the resources with which they are entrusted. And, yes, this is motherhood and apple pie.

exactly where am I wrong again? Your 2–3 statements I don’t have too much of a problem with. Your 4th statement/question is grammatically incoherent. I could venture an answer to the question “where does the problem lie?” — there are many problems, once common problem is that many programs are ill-conceived from day 1. Therefore you could follow the process pretty well, but you could be working on the wrong thing, or you could be working on a doomed to fail program that is impossibley constrained, with flaws only to be exposed during operational testing, which occurs at the end of the development phase after all your development budget is spent. Of course, many operational testers can predict operational test failure because test planning often.…sucks. Your remaining statements I don’t have too much of a problem.

BRAVO, VP! Encore?

Good processes and good execution can occasionally make even marginal PMs at least reasonably successful. Bad process execution OR bad processes will make even the best, most innovative, most educated, PM fail miserably. Fix the broken processes and we have a chance, but until we find a way to “fix” the people tasked to execute those processes.… Hmmmmm. Unfortunately, Im thinking that in our current “system” the skills that actually will allow a person to advance through the bureaucracy to those positions of authority just might not be the same, or even compatible with, the talents needed of good program management.

And there is supposed to be something inherently wrong with motherhood and apple pie?

Nice thinking, guys.

But something to take into effect, a PM is just that: project manager.
In the civilian world, managers are there to supervise and smooth the productivity process.
If we have defense PMs who feel it isn’t their place to weed out inefficiency and smooth the workflow and productivity, then we need to grow a Trump backbone and tell them, “You’re Fired!”,
then get someone in there who actually wants to get results, not some technologically-inept desk jockey who, having no real ech knowledge, chooses instead to kowtow to every excuse the contractors throw at them.
The problem isn’t always solely the military PM, either: too often, defense contractors choke a project with more useful people just trying to justify their own existence and salary, but in reality they gum up the system more than they actually contribute or improve the situation.
PMs need the authority to sh*t-can folks out of the contractor chain if they’re seen to be lacking (just like the military would dump deadbeat servicemembers who don’t measure up).

It is far from certain at this point that DDG-1000’s stealth hullform won’t prove in practice to be a source of major seakeeping and shiphandling issues.

Had the Politics of Navy Shipbuilding Interminable (PONSI) not stepped in at the last minute in Summer 2008 to rescue the program, the Zumwalt Class would have been cancelled three years ago for loading far too much technical and programmatic risk into one acquisition project.

It is the stealth hullform that ultimately pushed the Zumwalt program beyond its Technology Management Hull Speed (TMHS). Until direct experience is gained in actual sea conditions with the Zumwalt’s tumblehome hullform, then it is better to wait on using this platform for anything more than technology demonstration.

One of John Boyd’s best quotes was “People first, ideas second, hardware last”. Organizational maturity models like CMMI characterize organizations at Step 1 as chaotic, ad hoc processes, the organizations functioning is dependent upon individual heroics (People). Processes are ideas, mental images originating from People that may or may not be formalized, codified. Also in Boyd’s OODA loop he considered Orientation one if not the most important steps in the loop, with culture being a key part of understanding orientation to the environment. One of the key elements of culture, is core values. All organizations & corporations have core values, such as USAF’s Integrity First. When organizations violate their core values, comprising them for expediency or short term gain, it loses its moral compass, ability to discern right from wrong, and magnifies internal friction. I agree with your last statement, attributing the problems with our government to the cultural factors that results in the wrong people occupying leadership positions.

There is something wrong with numbers. I google DDG 51 and it was just showing $ 1.84 million per unit. Are they drinking again, to come up with this numbers at $ 3 to 4 billion a piece?

The LCS is a waste of time… No firepower no armour and the sailors who are on them (some of them I know) absolutly hate it…

Completely new Radar system, completely new electrical system, hull lengthened by X feet, new powerplants, massively upgraded AEGIS, etc etc. These things are not free.

If those are the numbers, they match a DDG 1000, which has better stealth features, distributed vertical launchers that can’t be targeted like the Burke’s MK41 clusters, and other benefits.

The point of Flight III was to save money in comparison. If it won’t, cancel it and build as many DDG-1000s as you were going to build Flight IIIs, and either cancel AMDR (creating savings) or make it the DDG 1000’s radar. The billion-dollar questions are whether the report is reasonable in its projection or roughly doubled costs, and how fast we think those costs might drop.

It sounds like the new Burkes are going to be as expensive or possiblymore expensive than the Zumwalts(3.18 billion). Would it be wiser to build both classes if prices per ship are so similar? Just curious what everyone thinks.

For the cost of two of these Flight III ships, we could buy a whole lot of of our own heavy missiles and put them into a converted fore or aft VLS magazine on 15–20 existing DDG’s.

Bring it back to the DDG 51 original design at $ 1.84 million per unit. $ 3 to $ 4 upgrades per unit is not worth the cost. Otherwise restart the program from the drawing board at $ 0 cost per unit until each cost per unit is realize at anywhere between $ 1.84 million dollars per unit starting with new designs.

Comparing ddg-51 flight iii to ddg-1000 is pointless unless you account for the increased cost of adding the AMDR to those ships.

We should start everything from the scratch for new DDG designs and construction and bring the budget to anywhere between $ 1 to $2 million dollars per new construction unit . Upgrades will eventually bring up the price and its not feasible.

It’s a pity the wider American public doesn’t realize just how corrupt and criminalized the contractors are.

When the defense budgets are cut and these people flood into the commercial world unsuspecting companies will hire them. I’ve seen companies crippled by hiring former defense contract workers.

One PM even proudly told me that in his entire career not a single project of his had succeeded and yet he still got promotion after promotion. Why he though I would be impressed by this is just symbolic of the entire mentality.

We should work on new well planned projects from low to medium at a budget cost and not redo upgrades and out of the budget cost.

The USS Enterprise is 50 years old and upgraded the entire time. The US Navy has to plan for future upgrades in any hull design. If the hull is at it;s limits on teh first production run, then it is a liability in the future. This makes the Flight III ships more attractive for future procurement. The US Navy can use the three Zumwalts as gaining experience with that hull design in actual real world conditions.

The DDG 1000 has a composite superstructure in which much of the electronics are embedded. The primary resin used is vinyl ester, a material with notorious secondary bonding problems. In addition, the carbon fiber is glued in place before infusion with a rubbery, solid, EXTREMELY FLAMMABLE product with a flashpoint of minus 47 degrees! When you consider this is all assembled by an incompetent and lethargic workforce then the dollar cost is insugnificant in comparison to the cost of its future crew’s lives.

Since the electronics are incorporated into the structure, all it takes is a little flex to produce a crack. If the crack spans an electronic circuit, well, what happens to that next generation electrical system? Anyone want to guess? What happens when a flame comes near any of that flammable glue that is between EVERY LAYER of carbon fabric throughout the ENTIRE SUPERSTRUCTURE?

You can do all your engineering, all your field testing and all your sea trials but you’re never going to know just how competent your builders are until the first sailor tells you how he survived an RPG attack launched by a suicide crew from a fake lifeboat.

Every contractor should be forced to run regular videos to its workforce of combat footage with products similar to those they’re building. These videos should be complete with burning dead bodies in the aftermath and as a result of some of the absolute junk they send the military. No Marine I ever knew wanted to be shot down but all accepted it as part of the job they were called upon to do. What was universally unacceptable was to fall down in a piece of very expensive junk.

We should just make copies of Aegis previous variants for defense. At $1–2 million budget cost per unit. The more the better at a budget cost.

With what is going on today, Iran is exercising and gettng ready for war and already prepared for WWIII. I think we need to mass produce the DDG 51 of the old design at $1–2 million dollars budget each and mass produce modified SWCC in the Special Operations Craft-Riverine, Combat Boat 90H — Fast patrol Boat with anti ship/boat missile/ rocket for the country’s self defense. Iran may be gearing for an offensive on Israel and on us on our (USA) shores.

For the design changes all of this stuff requires (AMDR, new electrical system, hybrid propulsion) we might as well lengthen the hull and add a few more VLS cells or a 57mm Mk.110.

I still like the idea of building a dozen or so new CGNs. These could have the full sized AMDR, 128 or more VLS cells, and could provide a persistent escort for carriers, not limited by fuel like our DDGs.

Regarding the Zumwalt class, I still have my concerns over the hull form and just how stealthy one can make a large warship, maybe it would be best to postpone plans for an entirely new class of destroyers or cruisers until we get some real world experience with the three Zumwalts currently planned.

The new DD should have the modular nuclear power plant that is used on the aircraft carriers.
The Ronald Regan has 6 or 8 nuclear units. Why can’t the DD have two? The vulnerability of fueling
would be removed.

Dick, can you share some links or documentation? I’d love to learn more about this.

I think there is a law on the books that requires the Navy build “nuclear” cruisers.

General Dynamics and General Electric are related. The investigation on GE with China and the rise in prices on the modern DDG 51 could be link.

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