Draft Shipbuilding Report Reveals Navy is Killing CG(X) Cruiser Program

By / December 7, 2009

The Navy will kill the CG(X) cruiser program and instead develop new warships based on the design of Arleigh Burke-class DDG-51 destroyers, according to a draft report the service is preparing for Congress.

The long-term shipbuilding report, due to Congress in February, says unaffordable cost estimates and immature technology doomed the CG(X) program, which was supposed to fill a critical role in integrated air and missile defense. Inside the Navy reviewed a copy of the draft, which is labeled "for official use only -- pre-decisional information -- not for release outside the Navy."

The Navy's fiscal year 2009 budget plan called for buying the first CG(X) cruiser in FY-11, but eight months ago Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced officials would delay the program to revisit its requirements and acquisition strategy. This summer, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead asserted the Navy might still buy CG(X) cruisers.

"I would say that CG(X) could be the next surface combatant," the admiral told reporters June 30 after a speech in Washington, DC.

But that is not going to happen, according to the new draft report. Due to "the ship's projected high cost and [the] immaturity of its combat systems technology and design, the Navy has determined that it is not in the department's best interest to pursue CG(X) procurement," the report states.

"However, it will be critical to pursue the technology development and combat system design for application on a smaller combatant such as a DDG-51 variant," the report continues.

The new move to kill CG(X) follows the Navy's dramatic decision last year to truncate the Zumwalt-class DDG-1000 destroyer program. The DDG-1000s were intended to support integrated air and missile defense but the service decided it was more affordable and efficient to restart the DDG-51 program.

The Navy is buying nine DDG-51s from FY-10 to FY-15 and anticipates adding an integrated air and missile defense capability to new DDG-51s as early as FY-16, the report states. These upgraded DDG-51s will be modifications of the current design, combining the "best emerging technologies" aimed at further increasing integrated air and missile defense capabilities and providing a "more effective bridge between today's capability and what had been planned for CG(X), the service writes.

While the Navy has "much work" to do to determine the final design, the service envisions the DDG-51 variant having "upgrades to radar and computing performance with the increased power-generation capacity and cooling required by these enhancements," the report states. The report also states procurement of a new class of DDG(X) destroyers will begin in FY-23 "and is anticipated to be a modification to legacy ship designs."

A congressional source said the decision to kill CG(X) is more significant for combat systems integrators Lockheed Martin and Raytheon rather than the two shipyards that build surface warships: General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works in Maine and Northrop Grumman's Ingalls shipyard in Mississippi.

Lockheed is the main combat system integrator for DDG-51s. The CG(X) program was expected to include a competition for such work, which would have given Raytheon a chance to vie for the lead role going forward, the source said. But the death of CG(X) means Lockheed will likely retain its lead role because recompeting the combat system would generate the sort of large costs the Navy wants to avoid, the source said.

Future destroyers will have upgraded radar technologies leveraging development of the Advanced Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) that will provide increased integrated air and missile defense capability and will be "much more capable" than today's DDG-51s, the report states. Northrop Grumman, Lockheed and Raytheon are the prime contractors for this radar. The AMDR envisioned for DDG-51s will be physically smaller than the system previously planned for CG(X), said the source.

As sister publication Inside the Pentagon first reported Dec. 3, the report says the "most significant issue" associated with destroyer procurement is that the Navy cannot afford to buy two destroyers per year in the future when concurrently buying costly new ballistic missile submarines.

"This is likely to negatively impact the shipbuilders, but due to anticipated budget constraints is a necessary action," the report states. -- Christopher J. Castelli

Editor's Note: For charts from the draft Navy shipbuilding plan,click here.