Next generation of high-tech destroyers takes to the seas

USS Zumwalt Navy destroyer

The Navy recently christened the USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), the first of the Navy’s newest class of destroyers, representing the next-generation of multi-mission surface combatants. The ceremony took place April 12 at General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works shipyard in Bath, Maine.

The 15,000-ton warship features a variety of cutting-edge capabilities. It utilizes a unique “tumblehome” hull, which slopes inward from above the waterline, according to Naval Technology. The shape of the boat significantly reduces the radar cross section, allowing it to be easily confused for a small fishing boat on radar. The hull also is designed to reduce the ship’s wake. In addition to reducing radar signature, the ship design aims to reduce infrared signatures through the use of an all-composite superstructure, low-signature electronically steered arrays and an integrated multifunction mast.

The ship utilizes a Raytheon combat system based on the Total Ship Computing Environment (TSCE) and will use open architecture, standardized software and commercial-off-the-shelf hardware.

Even with these capabilities, the Zumwalt boasts a crew of only 142, representing a significant costs saving as the Navy continues to deal with budget constraints. An advanced electro-optical and infrared suite will provide 360-degree surveillance and gun fire control, reducing the need for standing watch. Previous classes of destroyers required crew numbers ranging from 200 to 330.

The Zumwalt is the first ship to use electric propulsion and will use a Rolls-Royce gas turbine generator that would be able to produce enough power to use the Navy’s new electromagnetic rail gun, which will be tested in on the USNS Millinocket in 2016. The rail gun is capable of shooting a 23-pound projective at speeds up to Mach 7.5.

The ship is named after the late Adm. Elmo “Bud” Zumwalt, an innovative reformer who led critical changes by offering new opportunities to minorities and women, according to Military Times. Zumwalt became the youngest chief of naval operations in 1970, and was responsible for promoting the first African-American and female officers to the rank of admiral, as well as paving the way for female aviators.

Mouzetta Zumwalt-Weathers and Ann Zumwalt, the former admiral’s daughters, were joined by Zumwalt’s son, retired Marine Lt. Col. Jim Zumwalt. The two daughters each christened the ship with a bottle of champagne.

In terms of conventional weaponry, the Navy is considering the use of tactical Tomahawks, standard missile SM-3, and the Evolved SeaSparrow Missile (ESSM) for anti-air capabilities. The ship will be equipped with GPS-guided long-range land attack projectiles (LRLAP), which will provide precision, high-volume and persistent fire support as well as a five-fold improvement in naval surface fire range, according to the Navy.

The USS Zumwalt will be delivered to the Navy later in the year and will officially enter service in 2016. Two other destroyers of the same class are being built.

About the Author

Joey Cheng is an editorial fellow with Defense Systems.

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