- The first-in-class ship of the Navy’s most advanced class of destroyers has test-fired a missile for the first time.
- The USS Zumwalt test-launched an SM-2 missile at a test range in California, testing the ship’s ability to defend itself against cruise missiles.
- The Zumwalt was commissioned four years ago, but its combat system hasn’t worked until earlier this year.
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The US Navy destroyer USS Zumwalt fired a missile for the first time during a recent weapons test, the Navy announced Monday.
The Zumwalt, a first-in-class stealth destroyer, test-fired an SM-2 missile from the ship’s launcher last Tuesday at the Naval Air Weapons Centre Weapons Division Sea Test Range in Point Mugu, California.
The Zumwalt was commissioned in 2016, but it was not delivered to the Navy with a functional combat system until earlier this year.
While the Zumwalt program has faced a number of significant setbacks, including cost overruns and major delays, a big issue was the ship’s main guns â€” the two 155mm guns of the Advanced Gun System.
When the Navy reduced its order from roughly thirty ships to just three, the cost of the rounds shot up. A single round of the Long-Range Land Attack Projectile was going to cost almost $US1 million â€” a figure closer to guided missiles than artillery shells.
And that wasn’t the only problem with the guns. Vice Adm. William Merz, then the deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems, told Congress in 2018 that the guns also lacked the desired range. “We just cannot get the thing to fly as far as we want,” he said, adding that the Navy was considering getting rid of the guns altogether.
The Navy was ultimately forced to reevaluate the combat system and change the ship’s mission. Instead of naval fire support for ground units, the ship has been retasked to an anti-ship combat role.
In May, following the destroyer’s delivery to the fleet, the Zumwalt test-fired the 30 mm mark 46 MOD 2 Gun Weapon System, a remotely-operated, high-velocity naval cannon for taking out small, high-speed surface threats, for the first time.
Now, the Zumwalt has also tested its ability to launch missiles. The SM-2 that was test-fired last week is a surface-to-air missile that can also be used against ships, and it showed the Zumwalt can defend itself from an incoming missile.
Capt. Matt Schroeder, the DDG-1000 program manager, said in a statement that “today’s successful test not only demonstrates the ship’s capability to fire missiles and conduct self-defence, it is also a significant step toward more advanced combat system testing and operations for our Navy’s most technically innovative warship.”
The Zumwalt is expected to achieve initial operating capability in 2021.