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Navy hopes stealth destroyer answers a rising China

By Eric Talmadge

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 05:14 a.m. HST, Jun 04, 2012


SINGAPORE >> A super-stealthy warship that could underpin the U.S. navy's China strategy will be able to sneak up on coastlines virtually undetected and pound targets with electromagnetic "railguns" right out of a sci-fi movie.

But at more than $3 billion a pop, critics say the new DDG-1000 destroyer sucks away funds that could be better used to bolster a thinly stretched conventional fleet. One outspoken admiral in China has scoffed that all it would take to sink the high-tech American ship is an armada of explosive-laden fishing boats.

With the first of the new ships set to be delivered in 2014, the stealth destroyer is being heavily promoted by the Pentagon as the most advanced destroyer in history — a silver bullet of stealth. It has been called a perfect fit for what Washington now considers the most strategically important region in the world — Asia and the Pacific.

Though it could come in handy elsewhere, like in the Gulf region, its ability to carry out missions both on the high seas and in shallows closer to shore is especially important in Asia because of the region's many island nations and China's long Pacific coast.

"With its stealth, incredibly capable sonar system, strike capability and lower manning requirements — this is our future," Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, said in April after visiting the shipyard in Maine where they are being built.

On a visit to a major regional security conference in Singapore that ended Sunday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the Navy will be deploying 60 percent of its fleet worldwide to the Pacific by 2020, and though he didn't cite the stealth destroyers he said new high-tech ships will be a big part of its shift.

The DDG-1000 and other stealth destroyers of the Zumwalt class feature a wave-piercing hull that leaves almost no wake, electric drive propulsion and advanced sonar and missiles. They are longer and heavier than existing destroyers — but will have half the crew because of automated systems and appear to be little more than a small fishing boat on enemy radar.

Down the road, the ship is to be equipped with an electromagnetic railgun, which uses a magnetic field and electric current to fire a projectile at several times the speed of sound.

But cost overruns and technical delays have left many defense experts wondering if the whole endeavor was too focused on futuristic technologies for its own good.

They point to the problem-ridden F-22 stealth jet fighter, which was hailed as the most advanced fighter ever built but was cut short because of prohibitive costs. Its successor, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, has swelled up into the most expensive procurement program in Defense Department history.

"Whether the Navy can afford to buy many DDG-1000s must be balanced against the need for over 300 surface ships to fulfill the various missions that confront it," said Dean Cheng, a China expert with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research institute in Washington. "Buying hyperexpensive ships hurts that ability, but buying ships that can't do the job, or worse can't survive in the face of the enemy, is even more irresponsible."

The Navy says it's money well spent. The rise of China has been cited as the best reason for keeping the revolutionary ship afloat, although the specifics of where it will be deployed have yet to be announced. Navy officials also say the technologies developed for the ship will inevitably be used in other vessels in the decades ahead.

But the destroyers' $3.1 billion price tag, which is about twice the cost of the current destroyers and balloons to $7 billion each when research and development is added in, nearly sank it in Congress. Though the Navy originally wanted 32 of them, that was cut to 24, then seven.

Now, just three are in the works.

"Costs spiraled — surprise, surprise — and the program basically fell in on itself," said Richard Bitzinger, a security expert at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University. "The DDG-1000 was a nice idea for a new modernistic surface combatant, but it contained too many unproven, disruptive technologies."

The U.S. Defense Department is concerned that China is modernizing its navy with a near-term goal of stopping or delaying U.S. intervention in conflicts over disputed territory in the South China Sea or involving Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province.

China is now working on building up a credible aircraft carrier capability and developing missiles and submarines that could deny American ships access to crucial sea lanes.

The U.S. has a big advantage on the high seas, but improvements in China's navy could make it harder for U.S. ships to fight in shallower waters, called littorals. The stealth destroyers are designed to do both. In the meantime, the Navy will begin deploying smaller Littoral Combat Ships to Singapore later this year.

Officially, China has been quiet on the possible addition of the destroyers to Asian waters.

But Rear Adm. Zhang Zhaozhong, an outspoken commentator affiliated with China's National Defense University, scoffed at the hype surrounding the ship, saying that despite its high-tech design it could be overwhelmed by a swarm of fishing boats laden with explosives. If enough boats were mobilized some could get through to blow a hole in its hull, he said.

"It would be a goner," he said recently on state broadcaster CCTV's military channel.


AP writer Christopher Bodeen contributed to this report from Beijing.

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manakuke wrote:
Littoral combat ships with missions closer to shore
on June 4,2012 | 05:29AM
Classic_59Chevy wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on June 4,2012 | 05:58AM
Charliegrunt wrote:
Good question. Greater thought should be given to the advantage of using the information as a deterrent or keep it secret and use it as an element of surprise.
on June 4,2012 | 07:24AM
star08 wrote:
outlines are unclassified.
on June 4,2012 | 07:33PM
Manapua_Man wrote:
Thanks for revealing this information to the everyone. Even revealed we are only buying 3 of them instead of 32. I hope this number is bogus and not the actual count. We don't have to give exact figures to the World in this case.
on June 4,2012 | 06:21AM
localguy wrote:
As the Army has always said, "What can be seen can be hit. What can be hit can be killed." I guess the Navy didn't here about this. China launches of cheap, small boats around their coast. Someone spots the DDG and within a very short time aircraft carrying antiship missles are headed out for the hunt.
on June 4,2012 | 06:22AM
Lanikaula wrote:
But Rear Adm. Zhang Zhaozhong, an outspoken commentator affiliated with China's National Defense University, scoffed at the hype surrounding the ship, saying that despite its high-tech design it could be overwhelmed by a swarm of fishing boats laden with explosives. If enough boats were mobilized some could get through to blow a hole in its hull, he said. "It would be a goner," he said recently on state broadcaster CCTV's military channel. So much for STEALTH & "more than $3 billion a pop"! Long live the M.I.C....NOT!
on June 4,2012 | 06:32AM
mrluke wrote:
The Navy has already spent more $ re-designing their uniforms!
on June 4,2012 | 08:12AM
sumoroach wrote:
That is so some upper officer who retired got to get the navy to change uniforms so he can make money.
on June 4,2012 | 11:02PM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
1) If China wanted to defeat us, all they would have to do is call in our loans.

2) I'm pretty we got the money to build these ships by borrowing it from China.

3) Thanks Congressmen and Senators from the last 30 years for all the "free" federal money. I hope selling our country to China was worth it to further your political careers.
on June 4,2012 | 08:40AM
HD36 wrote:
China is already making moves to replace the dollar as the world's reserve currency. They have signed bilateral trade agreements with many countries, including Japan, where they can trade using their own currency without exchanging it for dollars first. This will decrease the demand for dollars, and ultimately speed up the devaluation and increase interest rates, so that the economy collapses.
on June 4,2012 | 08:59AM
I know where you're going with this, but if we got the $$ from China to build new ships to address potential threats from China, then who really got the short end of the stick? We got their money, they got a piece of paper that says we owe them. It's the new version of the Cold War. As much as the U.S. is in debt to China, China is beholden to the U.S., that is if they ever want their money back. If AIG was "too big to fail", you can bet the USA is as well.
on June 4,2012 | 09:13AM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
I'd also like to point out that the island of Oahu could buy two of these "stealth battleships" or six of the giant golfballs for what this rail project is going to cost just to build. At least with these ships, we could sail them away and sink them so we wouldn't have to look at them, listen to them or pay to maintain them for the next 40 years.
on June 4,2012 | 08:44AM
false wrote:
Why would the owner of the US tolerate this?
on June 4,2012 | 09:13AM
primowarrior wrote:
I say we spend the money instead on bringing the old battleships out of mothballs. If just one could stop an alien invasion,imagine what 6 or 7 could do.
on June 4,2012 | 09:15AM
hawaiikone wrote:
If we enter into a cold war type situation with China, we will eventually collapse just as Russia did. Economically China will soon bypass us, and already holds vast amounts of American debt. If they're successful in removing the dollar as the world's reserve standard, we'll experience unprecedented inflation as well. Better we focus our efforts on creating and maintaining a capable nuclear defensive system that makes any military takeover suicide. Conventionally, no matter how well equipped one soldier is, a hundred to one odds are tough to beat.
on June 4,2012 | 09:50AM
Dragonman wrote:
Yes its stupid for our military to give out such top secret information to our potiential opponents. Also I think we should no longer have the location of Hawaii printed on maps, no sense letting the ememy know where Hawaii is located in the Indian Ocean, notice I said Indian ocean to throw ouropponents off, we all know Hawaii is located in the Pacific Ocean, opps I just gave away where Hawaii is located, sorry.
on June 4,2012 | 09:58AM
iwanaknow wrote:
If we build these 3 ships......it's a false sense of security we are building. On the other hand....look at all the ship jobs we are creating!
on June 4,2012 | 02:41PM
akuman808 wrote:
It cost $4.5 bilion to build a nuclear powerd aircraft carrier. No need to be stealth, let China know that another battle group is within striking distance. U.S.S. BARACK OBAMA...... LOL.
on June 4,2012 | 05:01PM
poidragon wrote:
It seems that the 'old men' in charge of the U.S. Navy really don't get the notion that, better tech, makes a better ship! Until that ship is actually built and put through its paces and rigorously tested, everything that the Navy claims it can do is 'pure unadulterated hog wash!' America is not protected by a 'paper military' but by an actual one, built on known principles of technology and ideology. It seems that the military continues to shovel completely unrealistic military hardware like the 'star war's system' that good ole' Ronnie Reagan loved or G. Bushes 'brilliant Pebbles' defense strategy that never really panned out or worked; now the Navy is selling Congress on a brilliant 'new tech' a stealth ship for only $3 billion per ship! What makes me laugh i that the Chinese are right, pack enough fishing boats with explosives and it won't matter how stealthy a ship is on the ocean, close proximity to a target will still sink it to the bottom!
on June 4,2012 | 05:45PM
HD36 wrote:
China has already developed a satelite destroying missle to knock out our achilles heel. They can also create an electromagnetic impulse from detonating a nuclear bomb in the atmoshere which would knock out all the electronics and render these ships useless. What we need is a weapon that can destroy the world if they attack us. It's none of our business if the there's a dispute between China, the Philippines, Vietnam, or Japan. Unless we get attacked, let's not be the policeman of the world.
on June 4,2012 | 09:45PM
Hugo wrote:
Decades ago I was sitting I a hot tub at Lanchester. The conversation with a couple of weapon designers, China Lake pukes was about how to detect surface ships. If you generate a wake, we can find you. Same technology used to detect nuke subs.
on June 5,2012 | 12:42AM
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