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article imageOp-Ed: Accountancy vs USS Zumwalt, a stupid story

By Paul Wallis     Dec 1, 2018 in Technology
Washington - The US military industrial complex is famous for its greed, not its combat savvy. Since the “Age of Shoddy” during the Civil War, its reputation for tacky intrusions into military needs has been fully justified.
USS Zumwalt is the latest “beneficiary” of this madness. USS Zumwalt, DDG 1000, is a naval superiority weapon in the same sense that top frontline aircraft are called air superiority weapons. Back in 2016, when USS Zumwalt’s combat systems were first made public, the ship was the start of a serious naval capacity challenge to anything on the oceans. Theoretically, this ship can take out anything from surly rubber ducks to major combat units of all kinds, and included land attack capacity similar to a battleship.
Now, there’s a litany of ludicrous (and verbose) cost cutting measures, even affecting the ship’s stealth capabilities, courtesy of Washington’s Filthiest. Naval experts around the world have expressed disgust at the cutbacks, and I’m going to add my few bucks' worth of spleen to the criticisms, just much less tactfully.
The cutbacks include:
1. Can’t fire its guns due to massive $1 million per round cost. Does $1 million per round sound combat-viable to you? This stupid number also excludes the cost savings for a heavy duty delivery system inherent in the design economics of the guns.
2. May lose stealth due to redesign limitations. What a surprise. Reconfigure something to the exact opposite of the original design, incur useless expense, and then say it’s too expensive? Some moronic logic you got there, grandma.
3. Cuts to stealth capacity add up to many more risks in combat. USS Zumwalt was clearly designed to be a mass murderer of targets in real time combat, not some damn accountancy exercise for the mentally deficient at the cost of the risks of creating easier target acquisition for enemies. Less stealth = Less combat viability, a definitive mistake.
4. Losing standoff capability in the name of keeping a few clunky missiles in business makes no military sense at all. Counters to missile systems are plentiful, cheap, and effective, as the US military, which has lots of systems like this, well knows.
…And now, a little venom
USS Zumwalt, in theory, is the equivalent of USS Monitor and CSS Virginia in the Civil War. The USS Monitor was the catalyst for the development of far more modern ironclads, and ultimately dreadnoughts. That little floating biscuit tin changed the whole nature of naval war.
USS Zumwalt is also out of the stealth environment in operational terms. You can’t un-design this ship, or its capabilities. Other nations, perhaps even less maniacally obsessed with cost and able to deliver similar systems at rational costs, will follow, as they did with the ironclads and dreadnoughts. The US military could score a quite undeserved, as well as unintentional, own goal by effectively neutering a major asset which its opponents are perfectly capable of developing themselves.
To say that the whole theory of military costing is bordering on farcical would be like calling the Atlantic ocean a bit damp. The United States is a nation which spends trillions of dollars on wars, and can’t see the value of basic costs at ground zero? Come off it. These “savings” are fraudulent in any operational context, totally counterproductive, and downright absurd in any technological sense.
The most likely opponent for the US Navy is China. China isn’t known to have railgun technologies (“known” doesn’t mean a damn thing in military tech), but they could “borrow” that tech easily enough. Imagine a fleet of say 50 Chinese Zumwalts, merrily sailing about and adding additional risks to basic USN moves.
Now imagine these Chinese ships operating at a fraction of the irrational costs cited for USS Zumwalt. What price US Taiwan and South China Sea policies, on those terms?
The United States was built on mass production, cheap production, and high volume production. All of a sudden, a critical, high operational value combat system is priced at new Ferrari prices, when those prices should be basic Hyundai hatch prices? No way does that stack up, even in the dribbling insanity of Washington’s less appealing nuthouses.
The United State military has thrived on superior technologies, for decades. Now you want to give those invaluable advantages away, to save a few bucks? It’s only a matter of time until someone comes up with their own Zumwalts. Or is reinventing the wheel now standard procedure?
The bottom line: Get your systems costing right at ground level, and keep these damn mindless corrupt buffoons away from any input on any type of costs. The current cost issues all look very fixable, without a lot of effort. One way to save money, for example, would be to not dismantle the original design, and replace it with a far inferior version. Another would be to realize that those railgun power packs could be mass produced at much lower costs by any US manufacturer, including LEGO, if necessary.
Morals of story:
a) The combat guys should be the only people with a say in new systems.
b) Anyone who can’t deliver systems at a viable price should be excluded from purchasing contracts.
c) If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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