Cruise Missiles on Icebreakers and Destroyers without Ammo

USS Zumwalt, guns but no ammo

I sometimes wonder if the world is going a bit mad. Take, for example, the case of icebreakers with cruise missiles and destroyers with guns but no ammunition. 

Despite the increased strategic importance of Arctic, the US has only one heavy icebreaker in service and it appears to be held together by baling wire and the skill of its engineering personnel. The crew of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star recently completed a mission to cut a resupply channel through 15 miles of Antarctic ice in the Ross Sea despite suffering a turbine failure and flooding due to a major shaft seal leak. The crew were able to make repairs sufficient to complete the mission. The good news is that the Coast Guard is building a new heavy icebreaker which, if all goes well, will be launched in 2023. 

What is weird about the new icebreaker, however, is that the Coast Guard is making provisions to allow the icebreaker to be outfitted with cruise missiles. That’s right, cruise missiles. Not for breaking ice, but presumably to allow the icebreaker to freelance as a warship, if necessary. I would think that breaking ice would be enough. The ship is called an icebreaker after all. Breaking ice is a big job all by itself. 

If the ship was called a destroyer, on the other hand, one might expect it to be capable of destroying things. Turns out that the US Navy’s latest and greatest new destroyers each have two big guns but no shells.   

The US now has two of the most expensive and most advanced destroyers ever built — USS Zumwalt and USS Michael Monsoor. The third ship of the class, USS Lyndon B. Johnson is expected to be commissioned in 2019. The destroyers, costing $4 billion each, have two primary guns, 155 mm Advanced Gun System howitzers. The guns were designed to fire Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP), a GPS guided round with a range of 60 nautical miles. The problem is that the LRLAPs, which were originally estimated to cost around $50,000 each, now cost $800,000 per round. The Navy decided that the LRLAPs are just too expensive, but so far has failed to find a suitable replacement.

It had been generally assumed that the destroyers would have high-tech rail-guns installed, but the rail-guns are not ready for prime-time, so at least for the foreseeable future, the destroyers have guns but no ammunitions. The destroyers will not be able to destroy too much. 

The new destroyers are not entirely toothless. They do carry cruise missiles. I wonder how they would work as icebreakers.

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5 Responses to Cruise Missiles on Icebreakers and Destroyers without Ammo

  1. Doug Bostrom says:

    If only all countries had a food chain like ours wherein voracious contractors consume more and more money to produce fewer and fewer weapons, we might indeed achieve “peace in our time.”

    “Thank your for your $12 billion and here is your bullet. Shoot it wisely. Oh, and remember: even though you’re our only customer, we’ll sue you if you try to promote too much competition within our oligopoly.”

  2. ws says:

    Gas Turbines run nicely on land based applications, Jets, and
    cruise ships..

    Shock and vibration, endemic to ice-breaking operations??

    They had issues with combustion turbines on locomotives

  3. dar says:


    Multiple US Gov’t ShutDowns Didn’t Deter Highest Ever Budget for Pentagon
    The United States, Inc. just survived two shutdowns in two months yet this did not deter the approval of a $716 billion military budget for the year 2018-2019, the highest military budget ever, and still is among the G7 countries’ military spending combined…
    This is probably the number one irreconcilable aspect of the American democracy and as a society at large, which gravely contradicts their own perceived moral high ground in all geopolitical interventions and military misadventures abroad.
    In what many consider to be a nod toward the dictum of ‘peace through superior firepower,’ the US government has approved the largest one-year military budget in its – or anybody else’s – history.
    With the adoption
    of a $700 billion one-year military budget — the largest the Pentagon has yet received and far beyond the military spending of Russia and China combined — the Trump White House has granted itself the ability to add thousands of troops, buy flashy new military hardware including aircraft and combat ships, and an opportunity to step up the weaponization of US democracy around the globe…

  4. One really feels that this nautical blog is not the venue for political discussions. Generally at sea politics and religion are not discussed and that works out quite well particularly with multi-national crews.
    However this is not my blog – just my opinion.

    Good Watch

  5. ws says:

    GE’s LM-2500 combustion turbine is fully shock qualified, Mil-S-901C and is utilized on several classes of US Navy surface combatants:


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