Navy's New Stealth Destroyer to Test Fire Missiles Next Year

January 12, 2018 Topic: Security Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: USS ZumwaltZumwaltStealthnavyMilitaryTechnologyWorld

Navy's New Stealth Destroyer to Test Fire Missiles Next Year

The activation process for USS Zumwalt development includes calm and heavy weather examinations to further verify the ship’s stability.

The question how the ship handles and maneuvers in the water has received attention in recent years, given that it utilizes a cutting-edge, wave-piercing Tumblehome Hull technology for increased performance in certain key respects. Some observers and news reports have raised the question, citing various sea states and structural nuances, that the hull might not be able to achieve the requisite amount stability needed for a full range of mission sets.

Navy developers of the new USS Zumwalt high-tech, stealthy destroyer are widening the mission envelope for the ship, exploring new ammunition for its guns and preparing to fire its first missile next year, service program managers said.

The new ship, engineered with a sleek, radar-evading design, was initially conceived of in terms of primarily engineering a shallow-water land attack platform. While the ship was envisioned as a multi-mission platform at its inception, current emerging threats and new technology have led Navy strategists to scope a wider strategic view for the ship.

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In particular, given the rapid evolution of targeting technology and advanced long-range precision weaponry, particularly those being developed by near-peer adversaries, the strategic calculus informing maritime warfare is changing quickly.

“The aim of the ship will focus on surface strike. Long range surface ship platform in contrast to a previous look at a littoral platform able to launch suppressive fire in close to land,” Capt. Kevin Smith, DDG 1000 Program Manager, told reporters at the Surface Navyl Association symposium.

Long-range strike technology, coupled with advanced seekers, electromagnetic weapons and higher-resolution sensors, quite naturally, create the need for greater stand-off ranges; such a technical phenomenon is a key element of the Navy’s current “distributed lethality” strategy designed to better prepare the Navy for modern, open blue-water combat operations against a technologically advanced adversary.

Part of the initial vision for this ship, which is still very much part of its equation, is to engineer a ship able to detect mines. For this reason, the ship has been architected with a shallow draft, enabling it to operate closer to shore than most deep water surface ships.

At the same time, threat assessment experts, strategists and Navy weapons developers also heavily emphasize the growing need for the ship to succeed in the event of major nation-state force-on-force maritime warfare.

In preparation for all of this, the ship is now going through combat activation in San Diego, Calif., to pave the way toward preparing the weapons systems for the ship’s planned move to operational status in 2020, Smith said.

This process will also carefully refine many of the ship’s other technologies, such as its advanced Integrated Power System and Total Ship Computing Environment, multi-function, volume-search SPY-3 radar and sonar systems.

The activation process for USS Zumwalt development includes calm and heavy weather examinations to further verify the ship’s stability.

The question how the ship handles and maneuvers in the water has received attention in recent years, given that it utilizes a cutting-edge, wave-piercing Tumblehome Hull technology for increased performance in certain key respects. Some observers and news reports have raised the question, citing various sea states and structural nuances, that the hull might not be able to achieve the requisite amount stability needed for a full range of mission sets.

At the same time, many ship developers – including its former Commanding Officer - say the ship’s developmental performance has inspired great confidence and also solidified the pathway toward an as-of-yet unprecedented seapower platform.

In fact, during its transit from the East Coast to San Diego for ship activation, former ship CO Capt. Kirk had occasion to closely direct and monitor the ships movements and handling characteristics.

“The ship did well in all the sea conditions we experienced. The ship has a different sailing envelope than a flared hull. Our calm and heavy weather trials will help fill in some gaps,” Kirk said.

USS Zumwalt Stealthy Configuration

The USS Zumwalt, described by Smith as a first-of-its-kind vessel, is expected to bring ground-breaking maritime radar evading technology to combat.

Although one might not typically think of destroyers and stealth together, the contours of the hull and deck have been engineered to substantially lower its radar signature.

“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.

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. Lower observability can also reduce risk to the ship in open, deep water as it will make it less vulnerable to detection by enemy aircraft or anti-ship guided missiles.