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General Dynamics Scores Lucrative Contract For New US Navy Destroyers

September 28, 2011

It seems when it comes to naval warfare in the early 21st century, the prevailing trend suggests smaller ships, smaller fleets, and broader roles. Judging by how much money China is pouring into its Type 022 fast attack craft and the US Navy’s scramble for littoral warships, this (gasp) paradigm shift is all too evident.

Last week the US Navy signed a billion dollar contract with General Dynamics Bath Iron Works for a pair of Zumwalt class destroyers. The two ships, DDG 1001 and DDG 1002, are expected to enter service in four years.

At the moment, work has just begun on either vessel but their elder sibling the DDG 1000 nears completion in a Maine shipyard. The three Zumwalt class ships are categorized as guided missile destroyers ideal for coastal defense and a variety of missions.

They  also mark a drastic shift in warship design, their appearance reminiscent of ironclads or dreadnoughts from the early 20th century. If this writer isn’t mistaken, a certain [Russian] billionaire’s super yacht also bears a resemblance to a  Zumwalt class destroyer.

Philippe Starck has first dibs on bringing the Dreadnought look back.

Another factor that sets the Zumwalt apart is the broadness of its projected role. While it’s capable of engaging other vessels and performing anti-submarine warfare, like destroyers of old it’s meant to support shore-based operations. This reinforces the belief that within a decade, the U.S. military’s missions are going to be carried out in foreign theaters–big power force projection stays in vogue.

What the Zumwalt class lacks in traditional wave-breaking fierceness—it’s supposed to be stealth capable—it compensates for in size. Displacing at 14,500 tons and 600 ft long,  Zumwalt class destroyers are warships to be reckoned with if deployed en masse. A modest total of three DDGs are scheduled to join a U.S. Navy fleet populated by older Arleigh Burke class destroyers.

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