America’s Zumwalt Stealth Destroyers Have a New Mission: Navy Killer

    David Axe


    But does it have the right weapons? 

    The U.S. Navy is transforming its Zumwalt-class land-attack destroyers into surface-warfare ships whose main mission will be sinking other vessels at sea. In swapping the job of the three-ship class, the Navy is admitting that its original concept for the 600-foot, stealthy warships is no longer viable.

    “We see an opportunity with this ship, with its ability to carry the weapons it can carry and the types of design we put into it for signature control, that we think is a very good platform to be used forward as a surface-strike platform,” said Rear Adm. Ron Boxall, the sailing branch’s director of surface warfare.

    The mission-change, first reported by the news website of the U.S. Naval Institute in early December, came as Michael Monsoor, the second ship in the class after Zumwalt, set sail for builder’s trials off the coast of Maine. The third ship in the class, Lyndon B. Johnson, is under construction.

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    When the Navy originally wrote the Zumwalt class’s requirements in the mid-1990s, the focus was on shore bombardment. The Zumwalts — the Navy once planned to buy 32 of the ships — would use their two 155-millimeter cannons and high-tech guided shells to precisely bombard enemy forces in advance of an amphibious assault. The Zumwalts also carry up to 80 missiles in vertical launch cells.

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