In 1970, Elmo Zumwalt became the youngest person to serve as the Chief of Naval Operations after being appointed to the position by Richard Nixon. Before this point in his career, Zumwalt had been awarded a Bronze Star with Valor for his actions in WWII against the Japanese in the Battle for Leyte Gulf. Zumwalt had also served as Commander Naval Forces Vietnam, and was also the two-time winner of the June Week Public Speaking Contest (Perhaps due to his experience as a debater. Just goes to show what participating in Speech and Debate can do for a person.). Perhaps Zumwalt’s biggest honor, however, came Monday night when the USS Zumwalt hit the waters off the coast of Maine.
The USS Zumwalt is the first of three DDG-1000 class of destroyers to be built by the US Navy. As it stands, the USS Zumwalt is the largest destroyer ever constructed, measuring 100 feet longer than the typical destroyer. Despite being the largest destroyer ever built (The company that built the ship, Bath Iron Works, had to build a special, 106 foot-tall, $40 million dollar building just to complete parts of the hull), the ship will hold less than half of the total crew which usually inhabits such a destroyer, thanks to advances in technology.
Not only is this new destroyer thinner and longer than the USS Arizona, a battleship sunk during the bombings at Pearl Harbor, but it is also half the weight. This is due in large part to the ship being constructed from a super-lightweight carbon fiber composite.
The USS Zumwalt is designed with a very angular profile which makes it 50 times harder to detect with a radar than other destroyers in its class: “It has the radar cross-section of a fishing boat,” stated Naval Sea Systems Command spokesperson, Chris Johnson. The ship will also sit lower in the water than typical destroyers, adding to its radar-deterrence.
The destroyer will also feature new technologies such as a wave-piercing hull, electric-drive propulsion, computer automation, and two Advanced Gun Systems (AGS). The AGS can fire rocket-powered, computer guided ballistics accurate up to a range of 63 miles – 3 times further than current destroyers.
The USS Zumwalt also boasts a 78-megawatt producing power plant, capable of powering up to 78,000 homes. This huge store of power makes the USS Zumwalt ideal for testing future weapons, such as the electromagnetic rail-gun, which uses electricity and a magnetic field to shoot projectiles 7-times faster than the speed of sound.
As is the tradition with all ships, the destroyer was supposed to be christened with a bottle of champagne at its launch, but the government shutdown prohibited this from occurring. Thus, the christening has been rescheduled for next spring. The christening will be fulfilled by Elmo Zumwalt’s daughters.
Image via Wikimedia Commons