Thursday, September 08, 2005

Death on a Stick

Do not miss Mike Goldfarb's outstanding article on the Navy's new class of destroyers, the DD(X). It's an amazing story and if you're a military gadget buff, it's pure candy. Highlights:
. . . f the Navy sticks to its schedule, by 2012 two DD(X) ships will be operational, each armed with a battery of two 155mm (6.1-inch) Advanced Gun Systems with a range of no less than 68 miles.

THE PRIMARY REQUIREMENT for the DD(X) program is to "carry the war to the enemy through offensive operations and destroy enemy targets ashore with precision strike and volume fires." Despite the impressive range of the Advanced Gun System, to achieve this requirement DD(X) will operate far closer to shore than its predecessors. In order to "dominate the littoral," the ship has been constructed with a number of features which will offer a tremendous improvement in survivability, the first among which is stealth.

DD(X) is designed to be the quietest surface ship in the fleet. The ship will be quieter even than the Los Angeles class submarines. More remarkable, however, is the ship's unique design, which will greatly enhance its ability to remain invisible to electronic surveillance. To reduce the ship's radar signature, the ship's designers have eliminated right angles from the deck. In addition, the ship's superstructure is built out of a composite material of wood and plastic--the effect of which is both to absorb radar and lessen the overall weight of the ship (leaving room for future, weight-intensive improvements).

Perhaps the most visibly striking feature of the DD(X) is its wave-piercing, tumblehome hull form. The tumblehome hull has a twofold effect. By having the hull slope inward from the waterline, the hull's exposure to waves is reduced, which in turn reduces the rocking motion of the ship, making it less easily detected by enemy radar. In addition, the tumblehome hull will make the DD(X) far more survivable than its predecessors in the event of an underwater explosion from a torpedo or mine.

There's also a rail gun in development for the DD(X) which would have a range of 267 nautical miles. Oh, and it'll make 30 kts.


Matt said...

Maybe I'm just a ignorant landlubber, but I fail to see how the new 6 inch guns on the DDX offer revolutionary new destructive power, particularly since they're only packing 24 pound of HE per round. I understand their accuracy, range, and rate of fire are all exponential improvements, but it doesn't seem like it could do significant damage against hardened targets. Or am I missing something?

Anonymous said...

It kinda looks like the USS Monitor.

Tamquam Leo Rugiens said...

I worked extensively with the 5"/38 gun of WWII vintage aboard a Gearing class Destroyer built in 1945. We carried, at that time, two twin mounts, one forward and one aft, with a range of about 7 miles. Each of those guns had a rate of fire of 20 rounds a minute, the powder cartridge weighed 28 lbs. and the projectile 55 lbs. The magazine for each turrent contained 1,800 rounds of various types (AAC, HEPD, WP, AP, WP, etc.) suitable for different missions. At that time we had available to us Rocket Assisted Projectile rounds which weighed more but could be shot further (accuracy I cannot vouch for). On the one hand a 24 lb. payload does not sound like much for a projectile which must weigh between 80 and 100 lbs. (my WAG estimate), but I also understand that modern explosives are orders of magnitude more powerful than what we had then. All that being said, those guns don't look all that wonderful. Not much bang for $50,000, ammo too specialized and not enough of it. Plus, if they are going to use missile tubes as armor, what's going to happen when that armor is pierced? Finally, the superstructure is made of composite materials and WOOD??? Makes it sound real survivable - NOT!