The Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer DDG 1000 is floated
out of dry dock at the General Dynamics Bath Iron Works shipyard.
The ship, the first of three Zumwalt-class destroyers, will
provide independent forward presence and deterrence, support
special operations forces and operate as part of joint and
combined expeditionary forces. Photo credit:
photo via General Dynamics.
The United States has an impressive array of weapons systems,
but it could be argued that none are as imposing as the U.S.
Navy's warships. In fact, the U.S. often uses the deployment of
these weapons as a "show of force" to intimidate
would-be-aggressors into backing down -- and who wouldn't be
intimidated by a veritable floating fortress in your
Unfortunately, these ships don't last forever, nor are they
cheap. The good news is these ships typically take years to
build, and provide their respective defense contractors with a
healthy boost to their bottom line. So, let's take a look at the
three most expensive Navy ships for 2014 and see why the Navy
considers them essential to military operations.
3. LHA 6
-Class Amphibious Assault Ship
The amphibious assault ship America (LHA 6) returned to
Ingalls Shipbuilding on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, following
successful builder's sea trials in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo
credit: Steve Blount via
Huntington Ingalls Industries
At nearly three football fields in length (844 feet), and 20
stories high from keel to the top of its deckhouse,
Huntington Ingalls Industries
' LHA 6 is indeed a floating fortress. More importantly, the
comes with an impressive array of weapons, including (but not
limited to), RAM launchers, .50 caliber machine guns, and a
Phalanx Close-In Weapon System -- a rapid-fire, radar-guided gun,
that can shoot down missiles, planes, and other ships. The
can accommodate nine F-35Bs, four AH-1Z Viper Attack helicopters,
12 Mv-22 Ospreys, and a variety of other aircraft.
More importantly, this ship is an essential when it comes to
transporting Marine Expeditionary Units and their equipment. In
fact, it can carry up to 1,871 troops, in addition to its
1,204-person crew. The Government Accountability Office's,
or GAO, estimated program unit cost for this titan? $3.4 billion
-- and while that might seem like a staggering number, it's still
not as expensive as the next two vessels on this list.
2. DDG 1000
An artist rendering of the Zumwalt class destroyer DDG 1000,
a new class of multi-mission
surface combatant ship designed to operate as part of a joint
maritime fleet, assisting Marine strike forces ashore as well
as performing littoral, air and sub-surface warfare. Photo
credit: U.S. Navy photo illustration.
With a length of 610 feet, and a beam of just over 80 feet,
' Bath Iron Works' DDG 1000
is the largest U.S. Navy destroyer ever built. However, because
of its low radar profile -- courtesy of advanced technologies
that, in part, allow it to ride low in the water -- the
is actually stealthier than other warships. This directly
benefits its multi-mission role, which according to the GAO, is
"to provide advanced capability for littoral operations and
land-attack in support of forces ashore." To put it simply,
provides near-shore support for land troops, and also helps
dominate the water.
Speaking of dominating, the
has a truly impressive array of weapons, including Advanced Gun
Systems, Peripheral Vertical launch Systems, a number of missile
systems, and a power plant that can produce 78 megawatts of
electricity. This means the
could be used for futuristic weapons like the Electromagnetic
Railgun -- an extended range launcher that uses electricity to
fire projectiles at 4,500-5,600 mph. More importantly, thanks to
automation technologies, the
can be crewed with 142 sailors. That's less than half of what's
needed on traditional destroyers. The GAO's estimated
program unit cost for this stealth destroyer? $7.3 billion.
Expensive, but not nearly as expensive as the last ship on this
-Class Nuclear Aircraft Carrier (CVN 78)
The aircraft carrier Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Gerald R.
Ford (CVN 78) is moved to Pier 3 at Newport News Shipbuilding.
photo via Huntington Ingalls Industries by Chris Oxley.
According to the Navy, aircraft carriers are the "centerpiece"
of the U.S.' Naval forces, and are "the premier forward asset for
crisis response and early decisive striking power in major combat
operations." In other words, aircraft carriers are the big
guns -- both figuratively, and literally -- and Huntington
Gerald R. Ford
is no exception.
It's 1,092 feet long, its beam is 134 feet high, its Flight
Deck is 256 feet wide, and it has a crew of 4,539. More
Gerald R. Ford
is the first new design for an aircraft carrier since the
, and it comes power-packed with new technology. This includes:
an electromagnetic aircraft launch system, new reactor plants
that increase electrical power generation, and there's more space
for Flight Deck operations thanks to a decreased island.
's weaponry includes the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, Rolling
Airframe Missile, Phalanx Close-In Weapon System, and it can
carry 75+ aircraft. Clearly, this is one ship you don't
want to mess with, and it comes with an equally daunting price:
an estimated $12 billion per program unit cost, according to the
Why this matters
The above three ships are definitely expensive, and they get even
more expensive when you factor in the fact that the Navy intends
to purchase more than just one. For example, the Navy ordered
-class assault ships for an estimated total program cost of $10.1
-class destroyers for an estimated total program cost of almost
$22 billion; and three
Gerald R. Ford-
class carriers for an estimated total program cost of $36
However, each ship was designed to augment, or replace their
ageing counterparts -- the
was designed to replace the USS
(LHA-5) of the
-class amphibious assault ships, the
was originally seen as a replacement for the
-class battleships that were retired in the 1990's, and the
Gerald R. Ford
is a replacement for the USS
(CVN 65). Consequently, each ship fills a vital role for the
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The U.S. Navy's Most Expensive Warships for
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