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(Bloomberg) — Delivery of General Dynamics Corp.’s first two electric-powered Zumwalt-class destroyers for the U.S. Navy is running more than a year late, in part for lack of enough electricians, according to the service.
Work at the contractor’s Bath Iron Works unit in Maine has fallen behind “due to the complexity of the first-ever all- electric ship and the particular demand it has created for skilled electricians shipyard-wide,” Commander Thurraya Kent, a Navy spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement.
The Navy and Bath Iron Works now estimate that delivery of the first of three vessels in the $22 billion program, which had been planned for September 2014, will be in November. The initial ship, designated DDG-1000 and named after the late Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, won’t be declared ready for initial combat until September 2018, about two years later than previously projected, according to Navy documents.
The latest delay, which hadn’t been disclosed until now, may add to congressional scrutiny of the Navy’s shipbuilding plans. The service already has drawn criticism over the increased cost of the first Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier, the most expensive warship ever built, and the vulnerability in combat of the Littoral Combat Ship that’s intended for operations in shallow coastal waters.
The Senate Armed Services Committee, under Republican Chairman John McCain of Arizona, a former naval aviator, may ask Navy officials about the delay during a hearing Tuesday on the service’s budget.
The Zumwalt destroyer is designed as a multimission land- attack vessel that will use electricity generated by gas turbines to power all of its systems, including weapons, according to a Navy fact sheet.
Delivery of the second vessel in the class, designated DDG-1001 and named after the late Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient Michael Monsoor, has been pushed to November 2016 from this December, according to Kent. The third is still on schedule for a November 2018 delivery, she said.
The service will continue to work with Bath “to manage risk and seek opportunities for improved performance,” Kent said.
Matt Wickenheiser, a spokesman for the Bath unit of Falls Church, Virginia-based General Dynamics, said in an e-mail that his company and other contractors on the destroyer “continue to work hard on test and activation of the lead ship, as well as construction on the two follow-on ships.” Among the contractors is Waltham, Massachusetts-based Raytheon Co., which is providing the vessel’s combat systems.
Kent said Bath encountered production issues “completing installation, integration and testing of this highly unique, leading-edge technology.”
The new destroyer’s Advanced Gun System from London-based BAE Systems Plc has two 155mm guns capable of firing “precision projectiles” 63 nautical miles (72.5 miles) inland. It’s to carry a crew of 142, down from about 300 on the Navy’s Aegis destroyers and cruisers.
The vessel is larger than any Navy destroyer or cruiser since the nuclear-powered USS Long Beach bought in 1957, according to the Congressional Research Service.
The $22 billion estimated cost includes development of what originally was intended to be a 10-ship program. The total procurement cost of the three ships total is an estimated $12.9 billion, or about $4.3 billion per ship.
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