October 3, 2022

Inside the USS Zumwalt, the World’s Largest Destroyer

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But the Zumwalts have been plagued by problems.

The U.S. Navy's stealth destroyer, the USS Zumwalt, passes Fort Williams State Park, with Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse in the background, on its way to Portland Harbor on Thursday, December 10, 2015.

The USS Zumwalt passing Fort Williams State Park, with the Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse in the background, on its way to Portland Harbor in 2015.

Derek Davis/Portland Portland Press Herald/Getty Images



Despite their cost, the Zumwalts have been plagued by equipment problems. Soon after its commissioning in 2016, the USS Zumwalt broke down in the Panama Canal. The second ship in its class, the USS Michael Monsoor, failed during sea trials the following year.

As a 2018 report from Military Watch Magazine noted the Zumwalts “suffered from poorly functioning weapons, stalling engines, and an underperformance in their stealth capabilities, among other shortcomings.”

“They have almost entirely failed to fulfill the originally intended role of multipurpose destroyer warships, while the scale of cost overruns alone brings the viability of the program into question even if the destroyers were able to function as intended,” the outlet said. 

The Zumwalts lack several vital features, including anti-ship missiles, anti-submarine torpedoes, and long-range area-air defense missiles, the military expert Sebastian Roblin wrote in a 2021 National Interest article. Roblin called the destroyers an “ambitious but failed ship concept.”

And, noted Roblin, their weaponry wasn’t cheap. The ship’s long-range land-attack projectile guided shells cost roughly $800,000 each — about the same price as a cruise missile. The munitions were eventually canceled, considered too pricey to merit producing. 

Roblin said the Zumwalt was produced based on “unrealistic” estimates that banked on minimal cost, despite coming in 50% over budget.

 



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