$800,000 Per Round – And You Thought Turkey Ammo Was Expensive

The U.S. Navy’s third and final Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyer was launched over the weekend, but burgeoning costs are preventing the Navy from purchasing ammo for its 155-millimeter Advanced Gun System weapons, unique to the destroyers.

The Zumwalt-class was designed as a stealth guided missile destroyer with multi-mission capabilities and a focus on land attack to support USMC troops. Intended to replace current battleships to meet new congressional mandates for naval fire support, the ship is built around two Advanced Gun Systems intended to fire the unique Long Range Land Attack Projectile ammunition, dubbed Long Range Land Attack Projectiles (LRLAP).

The two 155-millimeter AGS weapons on each Zumwalt-class destroyer decrease radar signature by lowering into the ship when not in use and fire the LRLAPs, which are a GPS-guided shell with an effective range of 60 miles. The guidance system all but guarantees the shell hits its target.

Unfortunately, the Navy can’t afford the LRLAP shells, according to Popular Science. When the Zumwalt class was created, there were supposed to be 32 of the new stealth ships built to replace the Navy’s four retired Iowa-class battleships, each outfitted with AGS systems.

When rising production costs since the programs inception in 2001, as well as the costs of overseas conflicts, ate up the program’s budget, the number of destroyers to be built shrank to seven, and finally to three with a total cost of $13 billion.

At the program’s start, each LRLAP round was projected to cost about $50,000, which is pretty hefty, but fairly standard when it comes to modern guided munitions, and something the Navy was willing to pay for a nearly guaranteed hit on target.

But those costs were calculated when the fleet was projected to be 32 ships, with the discounts incurred with mass production. With only six guns installed on the three ships, the cost of each shell has risen drastically—to the tune of $800,000 each. The Navy has declined to buy LRLAP shells at that cost, the PM story says.

Federal Nabs Carbine Contract with Lead Free Ammo

The Navy has placed a $41 million 5.56 NATO ammo order with Federal Ammunition.
The Navy has placed a $41 million 5.56 NATO ammo order with Federal Ammunition.

For its small arms, the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center awarded Federal a five-year Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract valued at $41 million.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC), awarded a $41 million, five-year Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract for MK 318 Mod 0 carbine small rifle cartridges. The rounds will be utilized by the Navy and Marine Corps units, and will begin shipping early in 2019.

The MK 318 Mod 0 cartridge, Caliber 5.56mm Ball, Carbine, Barrier is compatible with existing 5.56mm weapons systems and utilizes Federal’s unique barrier defeating projectile.

The 62-grain open tip match, lead-free projectile is designed to defeat intermediate barriers while providing terminal performance through barriers commonly encountered during warfare, like auto windshields and doors.

“This contract demonstrates the design and production strengths within our business, achieving our goals of meeting customer requirements,” said Federal Ammunition President Jason Vanderbrink. “We are enthused Federal ammunition will continue to serve Navy and Marine Corps units, and their unique needs in combat. Design parameters and development of the projectile, a joint effort between Federal and NSWC, represent the continued innovation, and excellence required to support our units in the field.”