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The One Important Fact About the U.S. Navy's New Stealth Destroyer Everyone Forgets

The U.S. Navy’s new stealthy high-tech destroyer incorporates a range of emerging, not-yet-deployed technologies including new navigation, propulsion, auxiliary systems, computer systems, fire protection and damage control capabilities, service officials said.  

The USS Zumwalt, the first in a series of three next-generation destroyers planned for the fleet, is slated to be operational by 2019.  

On Friday May 20, 2016,  the new ship was formally delivered to the Navy at Bath Iron Works in Portland, Maine.

“The shape of the superstructure and the arrangement of its antennas significantly reduce radar cross section, making the ship less visible to enemy radar at sea,” a Navy statement said.

"The U.S. Navy accepted delivery of the most technically complex and advanced warship the world has ever seen," Rear Adm. (select) James Downey, DDG 1000 Program Manager, said in a written statement just following the delivery several months ago.

Several reports have indicated that ships off the coast of Maine recently thought the DDG 1000 was a small fishing boat due to its stealthy design. That is precisely the intent of the ship – it seeks to penetrate enemy areas, delivery lethal attack while remaining undetected by enemy radar. The ship is engineered for both land attack and open water surface warfare, Navy officials explain.

DDG 1000 recently went through successful Acceptance Trials and Hull Maintenance and Electrical (HM&E) systems.  Following HM&E delivery, the ship went through a brief crew certification period at Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine, before sailing to Baltimore for commissioning. Following the commissioning, the ship will transit to its homeport in San Diego where Mission Systems Activation will occur, Navy officials explained.

New Ship Technologies:

Once operational, the Navy’s first high-tech Zumwalt-class DDG 1000 destroyer will pioneer a handful of yet-to-be seen destroyer ship technologies, service officials have explained.

Not only does the ship have a new electric drive system for propulsion as opposed to diesel or steam –but the ship is configured with sonar, sensors, electronics, computing technology and weapons systems which have not previously been engineered into a Navy destroyer or comparable ship, Wade Knudson, DDG 1000 Program Manager, Raytheon, said in an interview several months ago.

The Zumwalt-class destroyers will have unprecedented mine-detecting sonar technologies for destroyer through utilization of whatis called an integrated undersea warfare system, or IUW, IUW is a dual-band sonar technology which uses both medium and high-frequency detection, Knudson added.

Medium sonar frequency is engineered to detect ships and submarines,  and high-frequency sonar adds the ability to avoid sea-mines, he added.

The DDG 1000  is engineered to detect mines because the destroyer is, in part, being developed for land-attack missions, an activity likely to bring the vessel closer to shore than previous destroyers might be prepared to sail. The ship  has a shallow-draft to better enable it to operate  closer to shore than most deep-water ships.

The DDG 1000 is built with what is called a total ship computing environment, meaning software and blade servers, which run seven million lines of code, manage not just the weapons systems on the ship, but also handle the radar and fire control software and various logistical items such as water, fuel, oil and power for the ship, Knudson explained.

The ship is engineered to fire Tomahawk missiles as well as torpedoes, Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile and a range of standard missiles such as the SM2, SM3 and SM6.

Additionally, as a survivability enhancing measure, the total ship computing environment also ensures additional layers or redundancy to ensure that messages and information can be delivered across the ship in the event of attack, Raytheon officials said.

Many of the blade servers and other technical items are housed in structures called electronic modular enclosures, or EMEs. There are 16 EME’s built on each ship, each with more than 235 electronics cabinets. The structures are designed to safeguard much of the core electronics for the ship.

The ship’s integrated power system, which includes its electric propulsion, helps generate up to 58 megawatts of on-board electrical power, something seen as key to the future when it comes to ship technologies and the application of anticipated future weapons systems such as laser weapons and railguns.

The DDG 1000 also has an AN/SPY-3 X-band multi-function radar which is described as volume-search capable, meaning it can detect threats at higher volumes than other comparable radar systems.   The volume search capability, which can be added through software upgrades, enables the radar to detect a wider range of missile flight profiles.

As the first Zumwalt-class destroyer gets ready for delivery to the Navy, construction of the second is already underway. The DDG 1001 is already more than 75-percent complete and fabrication of DDG 1002 is already underway, Navy officials said.

Kris Osborn is editor-in-chief of Defense Systems and Managing Editor of Scout Warrior. This first appeared in Defense Systems here.

Image Credit: U.S. Navy Flickr.