WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Navy will build only two of seven planned futuristic guided-missile destroyers and instead build more of a class that's better suited for anti-aircraft and missile defenses, a top admiral said Thursday.
Arleigh Burke destroyers like the USS McCampbell have better missile defense capabilities, a top admiral says.
Commanders have a greater demand for the missile defense capabilities of the existing Arleigh Burke class than the surface fire options that highlight the planned DDG-1000 destroyers, Vice Adm. Barry McCullough told a House defense subcommittee.
"The future threat, particularly from proliferated ballistic missiles and advanced anti-ship cruise missiles, can be better addressed" by the Arleigh Burke class, McCullough said. "Modifying the DDG-1000s to support these missions is unaffordable from the Navy's standpoint."
The Navy had planned to spend up to $9 billion in research and development on the DDG-1000 program and up to $20 billion to design and deliver the seven ships.
But the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, warned in a report released Thursday that design issues are likely to drive those costs higher.
The two DDG-1000 ships are to be largely automated, have advanced weapons systems designed to hit targets far inland and incorporate composite materials that will make them harder to detect.
Construction on the first of the DDG-1000s, known as the Zumwalt class, is supposed to begin in October. Sketches released by the Navy show a sleek, low-profile ship that looks more like a submarine running on the surface than current U.S. surface ships.
More than 50 of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are in service, including the USS Cole, bombed by al Qaeda operatives off Yemen in 2000. Nine more are under construction at a cost of $1 billion each, and the Navy would build another eight under the plans McCullough outlined Thursday.
The Navy can use existing ships and technology to support troops ashore, one of the major roles the DDG-1000s were expected to play, McCullough said. And he said another ship class on the drawing board could handle the close-to-shore missions planned for the Zumwalt class.
The announcement drew mixed reviews on the House Armed Services subcommittee that oversees Navy shipbuilding programs. Its chairman, Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Mississippi, warned that defense contractors are likely to mount "significant efforts" to overturn the Navy's decision.
"The question before this Congress is simple," said Taylor, whose Gulf Coast district includes shipyards that are expected to take part in building the DDG-1000s. "Does this ship have the correct capabilities that our Navy needs in the future?"
He suggested that some of the technologies developed for the Zumwalt-class ships could be used aboard the new Burke-class destroyers.
But Texas Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, the panel's ranking Republican, said the Navy's plans are being put under pressure by the increased cost of fuel oil, and he asserted that its shipbuilding plans were never realistic.
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