Crew members have detected a leak on the Zumwalt, the new destroyer built at Bath Iron Works, but the Navy and defense experts say such errors are typical for a first-in-class ship.

The destroyer is docked at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, and local news organizations reported it was scheduled for training at sea. The Zumwalt instead will be delayed in Norfolk for repairs, which are expected to take 10 days to two weeks.

Naval Surface Forces Pacific spokesman John Perkins said crews on the Zumwalt found a seawater leak Monday in a lubrication system for one of the ship’s propeller shafts.

The Zumwalt had stopped in Norfolk on its way to Baltimore, where it will be commissioned next month.

In a statement, Naval Surface Forces said Zumwalt has a “built-in redundancy” of the ship’s propulsion system that enables the ship to operate even with the leak in the lubricating system. However, it was determined that the repairs should be completed in port before the ship and crew continued with sea training.

“Repairs like these are not unusual in first-of-class ships during underway periods following construction,” the Navy said.


Two defense experts agreed Thursday.

“You’re going to see these kinds of challenges come up, especially in these beginning phases,” said Eric Wertheim, a defense consultant affiliated with the U.S. Naval Institute and the author of the nonprofit’s “Combat Fleets of the World.”

“It would be surprising not to have teething problems with these first-in-class ships,” he said.


Wertheim compared the Zumwalt to a model home in a new housing development.

“The first house that’s built is going to be the first one of its kind,” he said. “The next ones will hopefully be easier.”


Loren Thompson, a naval analyst and the chief operating officer of The Lexington Institute, said the leak seems “inconsequential.”

“Normally, when there are issues in a first ship in a class,” he said, “the Navy and the contractor share the cost of resolving them.”

In its statement announcing the leak repairs, the Navy did not specify what the job might cost, and the Naval Surface Forces Public Affairs Office did not return calls from a reporter seeking additional information. A BIW spokesman would not answer a reporter’s questions Thursday and deferred comment to the Navy.

The destroyer, named for former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, cost about $4 billion and weighs in at 16,000 tons.


The shipyard is now building the second and third vessels in the $22 billion program, the Michael Monsoor and the Lyndon B. Johnson. The Zumwalt and its sisters are bigger and more technologically sophisticated than any warship built for the Navy. With its angular shape, the stealthy Zumwalt is designed to minimize its radar presence.


“It’s a really, really revolutionary design,” Wertheim said. “In many ways, the whole class, the three ships, are going to serve as test ships for new technology.”

Especially because the Zumwalt is so different from its predecessors, Wertheim said the need for this repair should not reflect poorly on BIW.

“Not unless we start seeing recurring problems that are taking place,” Wertheim said. “And we haven’t seen anything that would indicate any major problems that are abnormal.”

The Zumwalt left BIW on Sept. 2. Once it is commissioned in Baltimore on Oct. 15, it will sail to its new home in San Diego.


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