One of the prime attributes of the DDG 1000 Zumwalt-class destroyers is the design’s 78-megawatt integrated power system, able to switch electrical power between propulsion, sensor and weapon systems. It’s long been touted as the best platform to field new energy-gobbling weapons like rail guns and lasers.
A year ago, however, it appeared the first ship that might carry a rail gun to sea might be a joint high speed vessel (JHSV) fitted with a temporary installation. Briefers at naval exhibitions spoke publicly of the plans, and at least one model of the proposed demonstration was on display.
Plans for the at-sea demonstration remain in place, officials said, but it’s looking more likely that a test using an expeditionary fast transport (EPF) — the new designation for JHSVs — won’t take place at least until 2017, if at all.
“What I’m finding is if I go ahead with the demo it will slow my development,” Rear Adm. Pete Fanta, director of surface warfare, said during a Dec. 30 interview at the Pentagon. “I would rather get an operational unit out there faster than do a demonstration that just does a demonstration.
Fanta is eying the number two main battery position on the destroyer Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG 1002), third and last of the Zumwalt class, as a prime candidate to take the first at-sea rail gun. The ship, under construction at Bath Iron Works, carries two 155mm Advanced Gun Systems (AGS) in those positions.
“Would I like it on DDG 1002? Yes. That would be my goal,” Fanta said, noting he has looked at installing an operational rail gun just before the ship “gets ready to go to its first deployment. I need to be able to have a power generation, a power transference and the barrel round integration to work for that level of integration to get out there.”