All Three US Navy Zumwalt Stealth Destroyers Should be Based in South Korea, says Think Tank
All three of the U.S. Navy's stealthy Zumwalt-class destroyers to be deployed to Asia should instead be based in South Korea at a U.S. naval base, recommends an American think tank in Washington D.C.
The repositioning of the Zumwalts, each of which costs over $5 billion, was one of the major recommendations the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) included in a report on the future fleet architecture for the Navy.
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One of the ports CSBA said might harbor the Zumwalts is Jinhae-gu, a port city to the west of Busan dependent on the Republic of Korea Navy and where the U.S. Navy operates a small base.
The CSBA report argues the Zumwalts are ideal for operations in littoral or close to shore environments around South Korea. These destroyers can conduct fire support; anti-submarine warfare missions or counter-special operations forces missions. North Korea is boosting the capabilities of its special operations forces.
Other key military roles the Zumwalts can take on are being centers for command-and-control for surface forces in the East China Sea.
"It offers a lot of capabilities that would be very useful in that particular region, and if you try to deploy it from San Diego, then you're less able to take advantage of them," said Bryan Clark, the report's head author and a former special assistant to then-Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert.
The Zumwalts are the largest, most sophisticated and most powerful destroyers in the world. The USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) - the lead ship in this class -- began patrolling off the east coast of South Korea in January.
Her two sister ships -- USS Michael Mansoor (DDG-1001) and USS Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002) -- will also be assigned to the United States Seventh Fleet and will be deployed to Asia by the next decade. Their opponent: China's People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).
The USS Michael Mansoor was christened at the Bath Iron Works in Maine on June 18, 2016. The USS Lyndon B. Johnson will be armed with an electromagnetic railgun in place of one of its 155 mm guns.
All three ships in the Zumwalt-class will likely mount laser weapons systems to shoot down aerial drones and, eventually, missiles.
As for combat lasers aboard the Zumwalts, Rear Admiral Michael Manzir, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Systems, said the Navy is "moving towards funding a directed energy plan which would enable us to move towards implementing interim directed energy laser capability between now and 2020."