Back in May I reported on the latest boondoggle in development by the military-industrial complex: the USS Zumwalt. It is staggering even by the standards of a perpetually over-funded apparatus that evidently views the taxpayer with utter contempt. Such contempt seems to be on the rise as demonstrated by the recently admitted total failure of the Air Force’s F-35 program, as well as the creation of a multi-generational citizen debt with the AF’s 20-year, $100 billion project of stealth nuclear bombers.
The Navy’s USS Zumwalt is the lead player in a projected fleet of thirty-two, 610-foot warships that is the “largest and most technologically sophisticated destroyer” ever produced. At least that is prevailing tagline, and it certainly looks spiffy in the video below. However, in reality, the USS Zumwalt arrived into the hands of the Navy many years late and carrying a price tag of $4.4 billion with a reduced “fleet” now entailing just three ships. Three … and the other two are still in development.
The original concept for the land-attack destroyer was floated more than 15 years ago then underwent several permutations. The final design called for a destroyer with a stealthy shape and advanced gun system that can fire rocket-propelled projectiles with pinpoint accuracy.But the growing cost forced the Navy to reduce what was originally envisioned as a 32-ship program to just three ships. The loss of economies of scale drove up the cost of the individual ships.
The slow-going and rising costs were little surprise after the General Accounting Office warned that the Navy was trying to incorporate too many new technologies into the ship.
(Source: Associated Press) [emphasis added]
Despite having “little surprise” over the wastefulness and ineptitude of the entire program thus far, it actually gets even worse.
A super-high-tech-cutting-edge war machine can’t just sit idle for photo ops. It has to be outfitted with projectiles to be directed by its state-of-the-art delivery system. For this task, the Navy sought the expertise of mega defense contractor, Lockheed Martin.
But, wait, isn’t that the same Lockheed Martin that gave the American people the F-35?
Looks like Lockheed is nothing if not consistent:
The GPS-guided, rocket-powered projectiles developed for the new 155mm Advanced Gun System currently cost about $800,000 apiece, nearly as much as a cruise missile, making them too expensive for the Navy to buy in large quantities for the stealthy USS Zumwalt, according to officials.
The projectiles were supposed to be less expensive than missiles, providing a cost-effective way to pummel targets from 70 miles away, clearing a path for amphibious landings.
But the current price compares with $1 million for a cruise missile, which has a range of 1,000 miles. And the price is expected to grow, officials said.
For now, there are no plans to buy projectiles beyond the initial purchase of 90, according to the Navy’s draft 2018 budget. The Zumwalt is supposed to be stocked with 600.
It’s stunning news for a program plagued by growing costs.
“Congress is going to want to know how the Navy could get so far down the road without realizing that the price tag on these projectiles is so high,” said Loren Thompson, defense analyst at the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Virginia.
Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin, which developed the 155mm projectiles, blamed the low production rate of ships — only three are being built, compared with the 32 originally envisioned — for driving up costs of the guided munitions. The defense contractor is working with the Navy with options, a spokeswoman said.
(Source) [emphasis added]
No, the stunning news is that the boundaries of the defense industry’s hubris are only expanding despite these documented outrages against the wallets of current and future generations. Stunning, too, that so many Americans would rather take to the streets to protest the results of an election between two despised candidates, rather than demand an end to a system that robs them blind and will never view peace as a profitable solution.
Image Credit: Anthony Freda Art