Surface Development Squadron One will include all three Zumwalt-class destroyers and two Sea Hunter drone ships.
The US Navy has established a new experimental squadron that will include all three Zumwalt-class destroyers alongside surface vehicles, including two experimental Sea Hunter drone ships.
At a ceremony in San Diego on Wednesday, Vice Adm. Richard Brown announced the formation of the Surface Development Squadron One, aka SURFDEVRON ONE.
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This new squadron will support new and emerging surface warfighting, develop technical solutions to tactical challenges, and coordinate materials, logistics, personnel and more while facilitating requirements for unmanned surface systems. The ultimate goal is to integrate the drone ships and the support fleet to accelerate the delivery of new warfighting concepts and capabilities.
Its first task is to figure out how the Zumwalt class destroyers' technologies and capabilities may be leveraged by the fleet. However, the Zumwalt has had a rocky history from the start.
The stealth destroyer’s gigantic Advanced Gun Systems (AGS) effectively became useless after the Navy decided to stop purchasing specialized ammunition for it. Additionally, budget cuts also led the Navy to trim down its plans for the ship, reducing the planned 32 ships to three. Each cost $4 billion to make, not including the $10 billion it cost to develop them.
The Zumwalt-class is now focused on surface strike, which may one day mean replacing its guns. But for now, the squadron appears to be a kind of accelerator so that new technologies and ideas can reach the fleet faster.
As for the Sea Hunters, the first one is already in operation and while the second is expected to be completed in 2020.