? For your edification | Main | The migration of early humans ?

April 18, 2008

The big gamble

After years of existence "only as promises and PowerPoint presentations", the DDG 1000 destroyer, the CVN 78 carrier and the LCS (Littoral Combat Ships) are all underway. The production line for the DDG 1000 is about to start, the first CVN 78 is being built and the first LCS is only months away from putting to sea. Writing for Armed Forces Journal, Christopher Cavas calls this "The big gamble"; an excellent summary of past risks taken and the scope of the risk these concurrent programs pose to the fleet.

That the Navy is depending on so many untried designs at once is historically epic. And these new ships do not represent modest leaps: the Zumwalt-class DDG 1000 destroyer in particular is one of the most technologically advanced ships ever built, combining at least 10 major new technologies into one 15,000-ton package.

The introduction of new technologies often is incremental to minimize risk. The first nuclear-powered warship, Nautilus, for example, added a nuclear reactor to an otherwise conventional hull design in the early 1950s. The first Aegis combat system ships were based on an existing 1970s destroyer design then in production. The Navy’s first vertical launch systems for missiles replaced external launchers on the sixth ship of the Ticonderoga-class cruisers.

That step-by-step approach meant that teething problems with a new system didn’t negatively affect the entire design and provided a buffer in case a new technology failed.

Not so today. Better hope these designs work and the PRC designs do not.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at April 18, 2008 06:43 AM


Not a bad article but I have to scratch my head when he says:

"Concern also remains among a number of professionals that there might be stability flaws in the new tumblehome hull design, which has never been applied to a real ship."

Tumblehome hulls were very very common for several hundred years of shipbuilding, mostly in the age of sail. But a large number of warships also sported that hull type at the turn of the last century, and it was chosen precisely because of the stability factor. Everyone bailed on it after the tumblehome-hulled Russian fleet was largely annihilated by the Japanese at the Battle of Tsushima. And the Japanese won because of superior armaments, gunnery and manoeuvre.

It doesn't matter what kind of hull you have if the OPFOR can double your speed, has better, longer-ranged shells, and better aim.

Posted by: Chris Taylor [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 18, 2008 12:39 PM

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 18, 2008 01:02 PM