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The Pentagon will order an initial eight highly-automated DD(X) destroyers being developed by Northrop Grumman Corp. and General Dynamics as the centerpiece of the U.S. Navy's 21st century fleet, a defense official said on Wednesday.
Ending speculation the ship might be killed, the Defense Department cleared a plan to let both Los Angeles-based Northrop and General Dynamics, Falls Church, Virginia, each go ahead with detailed design work, the Pentagon said.
The chief U.S. weapons buyer, Kenneth Krieg, also approved "low rate initial production" of eight ships after a meeting on Tuesday of the Defense Acquisition Board, which considers major weapons systems, said the defense official who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak about the matter.
He estimated the value of the eight ships at $20 billion.
The DD(X) will have substantially lower radar and acoustic "signatures" -- making it harder for an enemy to find and hit -- and be highly automated to cut crew size by more than half compared with current destroyer levels.
It will incorporate new technologies that also would be used in a new aircraft carrier and a new cruiser. The Navy hopes the first DD(X) will be delivered in 2012.