Washington, D.C. — The United States Navy has a sophisticated new weapon, the Long Range Land-Attack Projectile (LRLAP). But it can’t use it because rounds for the gun cost nearly $1 million each.
The weapon was intended to be part of the Advanced Gun Systems (AGS) for the DDG-1000 Zumwalt, the Navy’s new guided-missile destroyer. Defense News called the ship the Navy’s “newest and most futuristic warship.”
Named for the youngest man ever to serve as the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, the Zumwalt boasts outstanding stealth and performance capabilities — most of which are still classified by the Department of Defense.
In addition, according to Defense News, the ship’s “two huge guns . . . can hit targets 80 miles away.”
Defense News also reports,
“The LRLAP is a guided precision munition that is key to the DDG 1000 Zumwalt-class’s mission as a land-attack destroyer.” The gun is reportedly so accurate that, according to its developer, Lockheed Martin, it can “defeat targets in the urban canyons of coastal cities with minimal collateral damage.”
Lockheed Martin also says the LRLAP 155mm round is “the most accurate and longest-range guided projectile” in Navy history.
Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most expensive, with each round costing between $800,000 to $1 million.
The first Zumwalt-class ship, DDG-1000 was recently commissioned on October 15, 2016. But now the Navy says that because of the prohibitive costs, it won’t be purchasing additional LRLAP munitions for the ship’s Advanced Gun Systems.
The Navy’s plans, according Sam LaGrone, editor of the U.S. Naval Institute News, failed to anticipate the huge expenses. The original intention was to purchase 2,000 rounds for a total of about $2 billion.
In addition, the Navy also planned to build thirty-two Zumwalt stealth ships. However, due to cost overruns, that number was pared down to three, with each one costing about $4 billion.
The smaller number of ships led to an increase in the cost of the ammunition, according to Defense News. The video below is a promotional video of the LRLAP projectile system.
A U.S. Navy official who is familiar with the program, reports, “We were going to buy thousands of these rounds.” However, he continues, the lower “quantities of ships killed the affordable round.”
He adds that there are no performance issues with the LRLAP and AGS systems. “Not that I’ve ever heard,” he elaborates. “Everything seems to have been performing correctly. I never saw any test results that showed we had problems.”
The official further explains,
“We don’t have an issue with the gun, and no issue with that ship carrying the gun. We have an issue on the price point.”
As a result of the cost issue, the Navy is now seeking alternative rounds that the AGS can fire.
“We are looking at multiple different rounds for that gun,” says the Navy official. He reports that three or four different alternatives have been considered, and he asserts, “There are multiple companies that have looked at alternatives to get the cost down and use that delivery system.”
However, finding a replacement may be difficult. The AGS was custom-built for the LRLAP, which itself was created as part of a program to produce a precision guided 155 mm artillery shell for the U.S. Navy. A substitute is not expected to be found by the time the Zumwalt completes its sea trials and joins the Pacific Fleet in 2018.