HMS Queen Elizabeth and RFA Tidespring recently met up with the Zumwalt class destroyer, USS Michael Monsoor.

Michael Monsoor is the second Zumwalt-class destroyer. The ship is 600 feet in length, with a beam of 80.7 feet (24.6 m) and displacing approximately 15,000 tons.

The Zumwalts were designed as multi-mission surface combatants tailored for advanced land attack and littoral dominance with a mission of providing credible, independent forward presence and deterrence and operating as integral parts of naval, joint or combined maritime forces. Their main guns are a pair of Advanced Gun Systems (AGS). Because the AGS is unusable due to issues with ammunition, they cannot provide naval gunfire support and their mission is now surface warfare.

The USS Michael Monsoor

HMS Queen Elizabeth is currently conducting part two of flying trials with F-35B jets. The goal is to test the aircraft in more challenging wind conditions and to practice the ship in handling and loading of the aircraft with weapons.

The first of three such phases to be held on the ship completed earlier in the year, the developmental testing (DT-1) aimed to generate enough flight test data to certify the F-35B Lightning as ready for future operational testing aboard the ship say Naval Air Systems Command.

The two F-35Bs involved were vertically landed aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time September the 25th, piloted by Royal Navy Commander Nathan Gray and Royal Air Force Squadron Leader Andy Edgell, both test pilots with the Pax River ITF.

By October the 8th, the Integrated Test Force (ITF) had collected enough data to support operational test.

“It has been a superb effort by everyone across the ITF and HMS Queen Elizabeth so far in the UK’s F-35B sea trials,” said Royal Navy Capt. Jerry Kyd, the ship’s Commanding Officer at the time.

“I could not be more pleased with the team spirit and dynamism from all that has delivered a volume of quality data which has put us well ahead of where we expected to be at this stage. I am very grateful to all the ITF folk who have been focused, professional and willing to go the extra mile—more to come!”

The test team—comprising nearly 175 ITF members aboard the ship—completed several needed parameters during DT-1, including day and night short-takeoffs and vertical landings with minimal deck motion, in varying wind conditions and with and without internal stores.

“I’m very proud of the test accomplishments by the combined team of the 1,500 personnel comprised of the ITF, the carrier strike group and the crew of HMS Queen Elizabeth with her embarked 820 and 845 squadrons,” said Andrew Maack, the F-35 Pax River ITF’s chief test engineer.

“It was impressive to see the excellent teamwork at all levels of the organizations.”

Beyond the completed DT-1 test requirements—which were performed within the same flight envelope as will be used in the first operational test phase—the ITF also conducted about half of the testing that falls under the DT-2 threshold, or the flight envelope needed to reach initial operational capability (maritime).

The ITF returned to the ship in late October for DT-2, which will concentrate on external stores testing, minimum performance short-takeoffs and SRVLs, and night operations.

A third developmental test for FOCFT(FW), followed by operational testing, is scheduled for 2019. Together, the tests will help the Ministry of Defence reach F-35B IOC(M) in 2020.

40 COMMENTS

    • I just had a quick look on Wikipedia and according to everything there the issue with the ammo is that … brace yourself because this is pretty amazing … its development was cancelled due to cost! There were no performance issues with test firing and there is no replacement! At times when we bury our heads in our hands about some U.K. defence chaos it’s worth remembering that it’s not just us.

      Apparently the ammo was already expensive but when the Zumwalt build program got cut from 32 to 3 the corresponding drop in volume for the ammo production sky rocketed the cost up to … brace yourself again … $800,000 to $1m per shot!

        • The USN has and will have a grand total of 3 of these cruisers. Program cancelled due to cost.
          (They are not destroyers, at 15,000 tons)

      • At $120m per hour in ammo costs I’m assuming they thought future wars would end really quickly. It would probably be cheaper to just shower enemy cities with money (in the same way we did with leaflets) and hope they all just decide to spend the next few weeks deciding how to spend it all rather than go to work.

        • Had it shot normal 155mm shells, these guns would be affordable, but sadly they became 155mm guided missile launchers, that cannot fire normal 155mm shells.

        • To use a common phrase, it’s just good business. Private business needs to generate at least a minimal profit to survive. If the customer (in this case the government) has told them “we’re going to buy X number of ships, all of which will need ammunition and support throughout their lives”, then the business will gear up to meet that demand. If the customer then goes “actually we can’t afford X, we’re only going to buy Y ships and the ammo and support for them”, the business is still left facing initial investment costs of X. Should the business then sell Y at the same cost as X and make a huge loss, or should it recuperate the costs that the customer made them incur?

      • Reading that article they too want more offensive weapons on ships, even Amphibs.

        It really is scandalous that the RNs escorts have so little ASM punch.

        • In US navy circles there has been a lot of talk of strapping things kinetic to anything that floats for a while. If you discuss the issue with RN bods they will say we don’t need a large anti-ship load out because we are on the side of the US of A………….strange but true.

          • How naïve for a G6 nation such as ours to be so utterly dependent on the US. There may be a time when they are not friends of ours, particularly seeing we and Australia are in deep shit for spying on trump pre US election.

  1. I’m guessing if they could go back to the start they’d use the money for more SSN. If not then there is no need for this capability. When you add this to the controversy around the merit of the LCS, it shows how a desire for innovation can waste a lot of defence resource. Did anyone see the dreadnought 2050 concept a while back? Loved it but the fear would be taking into the same bear trap as the USN had with these platforms.

    • As useful as more SSNs would be, I imagine if they could go back the USN would’ve invested in a more conventional multi-role Burke successor. High output IEP, modern AESA radars, more cleaner superstructure and enclosed mast, maybe the bigger Mk57 VLS instead of the Mk41. Now the current development budget is gone and they’re going to be building F3 and F4 Burkes for the next decade or two instead of coming up with a modern successor.

      I do remember that Dreadnought 2050 concept. Must confess I’m not a huge fan of its looks though. I confess I’m confused by what you mean by walking into the same “bear trap” as the USN? It’s a concept for what warships might look like in 30 years, not a design proposal for the T31 or destroyer replacement

  2. I’ve did read somewhere that the US navy have plans to replace the main guns of the Zumwalt with MK41 VLS, bringing the ships total complement of missiles to nearly 200 spread across AA, ASM and land attack. They want to make the Zumwalt into an out and out ship killer, sniping with stealth missiles and being defended by forward basing hunter-killer subs.

  3. The Zumwalt class are probably one of the biggest boondoggles in US procurement history. The cost of each ship with R&D costs added is 7.5 billion… Thats over 1 billion more than a Nimitz class carrier! How?! It basically has the capabilities (albeit with a more powerful radar) of an arleigh burke but for 7 times the cost! Its only saving grace is that it has a lot of extra power generation built in, so they could take a rail gun in the near future…

  4. Someone ( well lots of people) should have been sacked and charged with embezzlement for the Zumwalt fiasco, the scary thing is each of these three white elephants cost very close to what we have paid for both our 70,000 ton carriers.

    What is even more staggering is that they don’t even do the job they were built for and have ended up being nothing more than an Arsenal ship. Three of these for 20+ billion is a national scandal and if I was a US tax payer I would be pissed.

  5. Someone ( well lots of people) should have been sacked and charged with embezzlement for the Zumwalt fiasco, the scary thing is each of these three white elephants cost very close to what we have paid for both our 70,000 ton carriers.

    What is even more staggering is that they don’t even do the job they were built for. Three of these for 20+ billion is a national scandal and if I was a US tax payer I would be pissed.

    • Jonathan, In my experience of the Average US Tax payer, most of them are either Pissed or Stoned , either way they are In no fit state to realise WTF Is going on. just saying.

      • An unfortunate side affect of democracy is that it’s only really appreciated by those who don’t have it or can see the potential of it being lost. I’ve always been a believer in sufferage coming with some form of minor sacrifice just to ensure voters appreciate what they have.

        I personally would like to see a basic democratic process course that you have to take ( auto pass on participation as I’m not an IQist). The course should include basic understanding of your nations government ( executive etc), political parties and movements and assessing the quality of information sources and wide use of sources.

        I think this may need to become a basic defence mechanism for all democracies with the rise of the Information Age and its weaponisation by illiberal nations ( China and Russia).

  6. The Zumwalt class was a disaster in terms of their original mission and numbers being cancelled by the Navy. The AGS ammo fiasco in itself is a perfect example of everything that is wrong with weapons procurement nowadays. The ships themselves are going to under evaluation for many years similar to the GRF but the design itself along with its power generation capabilities will be serving as the basis for the next USN large surface combatant to replace the Flight III ABs. Probably with a modified version of the hull form.

    The original 3 have been remissioned as stealth strike platforms as outlined below. They will probably do a petty good job of it as well. These are unique ships and their sheer size and power will make them amendable to a lot of plug and play upgrades in the future. What’s in store for the AGS? Lord knows but the Navy is awaiting the testing of a much lower cost U.S. Army advanced ammo which is being developed now. We’ll see…. Get used to the design though, you’ll be seeing a lot more of them in the future.

    https://thediplomat.com/2018/02/us-navys-new-stealth-destroyer-to-be-fitted-with-ship-killing-missiles/

    Cheers!

    • They are unfortunately vomit inducing ugly, but as they say form must follow function. Is there any public data on their seakeeping qualities ? Has this been compromised in the name of stealth ? Any info would be appreciated.

      Cheers

      • Jonathan,

        I’ve read that the USN wasn’t “completely happy” with the seakeeping qualities of the Tumblehome form, however, a modified version was discussed by the chief of naval design for the next LSC. Much of the Zumwalt class design features will very likely be incorporated into that design much as Northrop Grumman is incorporating design features of the B-1 bomber into it’s new B-21 Raider aircraft.

        It’s interesting that most of the crew must possess a TS clearance to be assigned to the vessel which indicates that, aside from the new surface warfare AS mission, these ships will also be used as surface analogs to the 3 Seawolf class submarines which serve as the USN’s high risk special ops boats. Here’s a link, it’s a couple of years old and some info may have changed but it’s a pretty good description of the vessels inner workings.

        https://news.usni.org/2016/05/23/zumwalt_mix_challgnges

        Cheers!

  7. as a French colleague said. HMS Defender or USB Zumwalt both highly advanced radar and detection systems with little or no apparently affordable method of being a destroyer or able to properly defend themselves. He then mused about whether or not it @ would be comforting to know you are a sitting duck from a long way out”.

    • Whats strange is they put a very advanced new radar on it. So it should be able to detect threats further out than an Arleigh Burke, however they have not integrated the SM-2/3/6 so for air defense the only thing fitted is ESSM… It could pass targeting on to other destroyers, but why operate a stealth ship if you’re going to attach it to unstealthy battle groups?

      I would think however if they loaded those VLS cells with the LRASM (new long range anti ship missile) a stealthy platform operating alone in the pacific could be a pretty formidable anti-ship combatant that the chinese would need to deal with. the LRASM is autonomous enough to where submarines could send the general location of enemy ships and the zumwalt could fire on them from hundreds of miles out.

      Funny though, I was just looking up the LRASM and its unit cost is the same as one of those advanced shells designed for that gun!

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