Navy's new $4.6 billion destroyer was accepted despite need for new engine
By ANDREW DYER | The San Diego Union-Tribune | Published: July 19, 2018
(Tribune News Service) — When the Navy accepted delivery of the newly-built $4.6 billion Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer Michael Monsoor (hull DDG 1001) in April, it marked the occasion with a signing ceremony and a news release.
“Delivery of DDG 1001 marks the culmination of years of dedication and hard work from our Navy and industry team,” Capt. Kevin Smith, the Zumwalt destroyer program manager, said at the time. “We have incorporated many lessons learned from DDG 1000 and are proud of the end result.”
The only problem was the Navy already knew — and had known since February — that the condition of the Monsoor was far from ship-shape.
It already needed a new engine.
That information would not be disclosed for another three months.
News of the engine troubles broke on July 11, when Rear Adm. William Galinis — the program executive officer of ships at the Naval Sea Systems Command — acknowledged the issue at a Navy League breakfast.
His comments were first reported by the U.S. Naval Institute.
One of the Monsoor’s two $20 million engines would need to be replaced before the ship could transition to its future homeport of San Diego, he said. The engine was damaged during sea trials early this year, and will be replaced at the General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine.
“In February 2018, a post-cleaning inspection of one of the DDG 1001's two Main Turbine Generators revealed damage to the rotor blades of the generator's MT30 engine,” Alan Baribeau, a spokesman for the Navy, said by email. “After the damage was identified, and out of an abundance of caution, the Navy decided to remove the engine in its entirety to ensure a successful and safe transit of the ship to her San Diego homeport.”
Baribeau said the Navy accepted delivery of the ship in April — despite the damaged engine — in order to remain on-schedule.
“In order to support planned post-delivery activities, the Navy made the decision to accept delivery,” Baribeau said. “This course of action allowed for crew to move aboard and training to commence as planned.”
Shelby Oakley, who monitors Navy shipbuilding for the Government Accountability Office, said that delays often cost the government more money because equipment falls out of warranty.
“The Navy often pays to fix construction defects that are the contractor’s responsibility,” she said in an email. “In the case of DDG 1001..it is unlikely that the warranty remains effective.”
The Navy would not say whether the engines, manufactured by Rolls-Royce, were covered under warranty.
“The Navy and its industry partners are working together to determine the cause of the failure,” Baribeau said. “It would be speculative to comment on liability for the repair until the analysis is complete.”
The Monsoor is not the first Zumwalt-class destroyer to experience issues with its engines.
In 2016, the lead ship of the class, the Zumwalt, broke down off the Panamanian coast en route to San Diego.
Baribou said the issues the Zumwalt had and what happened with the Monsoor are not related.
“What we’re looking at (with the Monsoor) is an isolated incident,” he said.
Zumwalt-class destroyers, with their sleek lines and stealth characteristics, are among the most technologically-advanced ships in the Navy.
“If Batman had a ship, it would be the Zumwalt,” said Adm. Harry Harris, then-leader of U.S. Pacific Command, in 2016.
But Batman’s ship never really got out of the Batcave
In 2008, a shift in naval strategy and skyrocketing costs led the Navy to pivot back to the previous — and less expensive — generation of destroyers, the Arleigh Burke.
A planned purchase of 32 Zumwalt-class ships was reduced to 24, then seven, then reduced again. The third Zumwalt destroyer, the future Lyndon B. Johnson (or DDG 1002), will be the last.
The reduction in orders have led to higher production costs for the few that remain. A July 3 Congressional Research Service report estimated the combined procurement cost of the three Zumwalt destroyers to be $13 billion, a 45 percent increase from 2009. It pegged the price of the Monsoor at $4.6 billion.
An April GAO report said the total cost of the three Zumwalt destroyers, including research and development, was $24.5 billion — an average of about $8 billion per ship.
The ships, with their low-profile design and advanced guns, were originally intended to attack targets on shore, replacing retired battleships.
However, late last year, the Navy said it was reorienting the Zumwalt class’ mission to be more of a surface-to-surface combatant — that is, that they would be armed with more conventional guns and missiles to fight other vessels.
The change in mission orientation was announced after the 155 mm Advanced Gun System — designed exclusively for the Zumwalt class — was scrapped after ammunition costs shot up to $800,000 per round.
The Navy has not yet announced a replacement munition.
The Monsoor is named for Michael Monsoor, a Navy Seal based in Coronado who was killed in Iraq in 2006 and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. He is buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.
The ship is still on track to relocate to San Diego in December, Baribeau said.
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