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Stealthy Destroyer USS Zumwalt Halts Homeport Shift for Repairs

USS Zumwalt
USS Zumwalt (foreground) and sister ship USS Michael Monsoor in San Diego, June 2023 (USN)

Published Aug 1, 2023 10:09 PM by The Maritime Executive

The first-in-class destroyer USS Zumwalt was scheduled to leave her home port of San Diego last week and transit to Ingalls Shipbuilding, where her special-purpose deck guns will be removed and replaced with launch tubes for hypersonic missiles. However, Zumwalt had to return to port for unspecified repairs shortly after departure, as reported by USNI and Navy Times. 

“We don’t get into details about specific maintenance issues on our ships due to operational security,” spokesperson Cmdr. Arlo Abrahamson told Navy Times. 

Zumwalt is a DDG-1000 stealth destroyer, one of four high-concept warship classes conceived during the early- to mid-2000s (alongside the two Littoral Combat Ship designs and the Ford-class carrier). This was a technology-focused era in Pentagon policymaking, and the DDG-1000 design incorporated multiple novel elements: a stealthy composite deckhouse, a tumblehome hull, an integrated electric propulsion system and an Advanced Gun System (AGS) on her foredeck for an envisioned shore bombardment mission. The high cost per hull forced a downsizing of the class from 32 to 24, then seven, then two (later raised to three after political pressure). 

USS Zumwalt delivered in 2016, two years behind schedule. She has deployed overseas once since her commissioning, and she has spent most of her time in and around San Diego under a separate Surface Development Squadron attached to Pacific Fleet. In September 2022, she completed three months of exercises with U.S. and allied forces in the Western Pacific, marking her first overseas deployment. 

Zumwalt's sophisticated deck gun system is unusable. Following the downsizing of the class to three ships, the cost per round to manufacture the specialized ammunition rose to $800,000-$1,000,000, making it prohibitively expensive. The rounds were never manufactured and the guns will be removed from all three ships beginning this year. Newly-designed missile tubes for the Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) hypersonic missile will take their place, and the objective is to have CPS launch capability ready by 2025.