Though several significant design issues have marred the Zumwalt-class, it is far from its home port and finally at sea.
The United States Navy’s USS Zumwalt, a guided-missile destroyer, is conducting its first operational deployment, leaving Guam after a port call.
In a statement, the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet said, "this is the first time USS Zumwalt has pulled into Guam, and marks the farthest it’s ever been from its home port of Naval Base San Diego since its commissioning.”
Guam is an interesting port of call for the ship, one of the United States Navy’s most essential resupply nodes in the Pacific Ocean—and a good location for a vessel with a reduced radar bounce-back signature, given the island’s strategic nature.
“This port call is a testament to the crew’s hard work and the resiliency of the ship,” said Capt. Amy McInnis, commanding officer of Zumwalt.
“I’m grateful to preside over a crew that conducts themselves with the utmost professionalism and I’m glad we were afforded this time to rest and recharge.”
The guided-missile destroyer incorporates several advanced features not seen in other U.S. Navy ships. It is expressly designed with stealthy, radar-mitigating features intended to keep the vessel out of sight of enemy radar.
Despite the Zumwalt’s advanced nature, the ship has not exactly been a success. The ship’s dual deck-side gun pods, Advanced Gun Systems, were to fire 155mm Long Range Attack Projectiles, essentially long-range, highly accurate naval artillery shells, in support of land forces. Unfortunately, the ammunition’s prohibitively hefty price tag—approximately $1,000,000 per projectile—sank the gun’s usefulness.
The design also suffered from a high per-hull price tag, prompting the Navy to halt future Zumwalt production in favor of more Arleigh Burke-class destroyers—despite the Burke’s Cold War-era design.
The 7th Fleet added that “Zumwalt departed Guam Sept. 19 to continue operations in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” adding that the USS Zumwalt is “assigned to Task Force 71/Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, the Navy’s largest forward-deployed DESRON and the U.S. 7th fleet’s principal surface force.”
“U.S. 7th Fleet is the largest forward-deployed fleet in the world, and with the help of a network of alliances and partners from 35 other maritime-nations, the U.S. Navy has operated in the Indo-Pacific region for more than 70 years, providing credible, ready forces to help preserve peace and prevent conflict.”
Caleb Larson is a multimedia journalist and defense writer with the National Interest. A graduate of UCLA, he also holds a Master of Public Policy and lives in Berlin. He covers the intersection of conflict, security, and technology, focusing on American foreign policy, European security, and German society for both print and radio. Follow him on Twitter @calebmlarson