Inside the Stealthy New Navy High-Tech Destroyer, the USS Zumwalt

The Navy's new stealthy destroyer will soon fire precision rounds from its long-range deck gun and fire SM-2 missiles from its vertical launch tubes.

The Navy's new "first-of-its-kind," high-tech stealthy destroyer, armed with the most lethal weapons ever engineered onto a surface ship, was commissioned Oct. 15, in Baltimore, Md. 

The ship is slated now to go through what’s called “ship activation" - a process of integrating the major systems and technologies on the ship leading up to an eventual live-fire exercise of its guns and missiles.

As part of this process, the Navy will eventually fire long-range precision guns and missiles from its lethal, stealthy new destroyer -- in anticipation of its ultimate deployment on the open seas, service and industry officials explained.

The new Destroyer, called DDG 1000 or the future USS Zumwalt, is a 610-foot land and surface warfare attack ship designed with a stealthy, wave-piercing “tumblehome” hull.

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 last year. 

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.


U.S. Navy

“In the next phase, the Navy will be driving, connecting, integrating and proving the functionality of the ship systems such as the radar, sonar and gun. The Navy will test out the basics make sure the ship can work then by testing those components of the ship that actually make it a warship,” Wade Knudson, DDG 1000 Program Manager, Raytheon, told Scout Warrior in an interview last year.

“The Navy will be making sure that the propulsion system works to create the power to drive the ship at the speeds it is supposed to go.”

Ship delivery follows extensive tests, trials and demonstrations of the ship’s Hull, Mechanical, and Electrical systems including the ship’s boat handling, anchor and mooring systems as well as major demonstrations of the damage control, ballasting, navigation and communications systems, Navy officials said.

The ship is slated to be commissioned in Baltimore, Maryland Oct. 15.

“Zumwalt's crew has diligently trained for months in preparation of this day and they are ready and excited to take charge of this ship on behalf of the U.S. Navy," Capt. James Kirk, commanding officer of the future Zumwalt, said in a written statement last year. 

 DDG 1000 Weapons

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.

The ship also fires Vertical Launch Anti-Submarine Rockets, or ASROCs. ASROCs are 16-feet long with a 14-inch diameter; a rocket delivers the torpedo at very high speeds to a specific point in the water at which point it turns on its sensors and searches for an enemy submarine.

The first weapons to fire from the Mk 57 vertical launch tubes will be the ship defensive weapons called the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile and the Standard Missile 2, or SM-2.

The ship is also built with Mk 57 a vertical launch tubes which are engineered into the hull near the perimeter of the ship. 

Called Peripheral Vertical Launch System, the tubes are integrated with the hull around the ship’s periphery in order to ensure that weapons can keep firing in the event of damage.  Instead of having all of the launch tubes in succession or near one another, the DDG 1000 has spread them out in order to mitigate risk in the event attack, developers said.

In total, there are 80 launch tubes built into the hull of the DDG 1000; the Peripheral Vertical Launch System involves a collaborative effort between Raytheon and BAE Systems.

Also, the launchers are especially designed with software such that it can accommodate a wide range of weapons; the launchers can house one SM-2, SM-3 or SM-6, ASROCs and up to four ESSMs due to the missile’s smaller diameter, Knudson added.

 “It has a common launcher to you can change the adapter or computer function which connects the ship to the missile,” he said.

The ship also has a 155mm long range, precision-capable gun called the Advanced Gun System made by BAE Systems. The weapon can, among other things, fire a munition called the Long-Range Land Attack Projectile which can strike target at ranges out to 64 nautical miles.

BAE Systems

Most deck mounted 5-inch guns currently on Navy ships are limited to firing roughly 8-to-10 miles at targets within the horizon or what’s called line of sight. The Advanced Gun System, however, fires GPS-guided precision 155m rounds beyond-the-horizon at targets more than three times that distance.

New Sonar, Power Systems, Radar Technology

The DDG 1000 is unique in that it uses what’s called a dual-band sonar system; this includes both medium and high frequency sonar designed to detect both submarines as well as mines and incoming enemy fire. Most ships have only longer-range, lower frequency medium frequency sonar which provides an ability to detect submarines at long distances. Higher frequency brings a much more precise degree of detection, Knudson explained.

Sonar works by sending out an acoustic "ping" and then analyzing the return signal to process information through a receiver designed to help determine the shape, distance,  speed and dimensions of an object or threat. 

“High frequency is better for detecting small objects. If you are only going after submarines, then medium frequency would be sufficient. You are going to find the submarine -- then you would be able to fire one of the vertically launched ASROCs to engage that target,” Knudson said. “What makes this unique is that high-frequency enable mine detection and mine avoidance,” he added.

It makes sense that the DDG 1000 would be engineered 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 is engineered with a more shallow-draft to better enable it to operate in shallower waters than most deep-water ships.

“It has a dome that is transparent to those acoustic waves. The acoustic signal detects sea life and submarines and then sends the signal back to the receiver which processes the information. Inside the bulb, ceramic tiles transmit the acoustic wave out through the water,” Knudson said.

The DDG 1000 is built with what’s called a total ship computing environment, meaning software and blade servers 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, Raytheon officials said.

The blade servers run seven million lines of code, officials explained.

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 78 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 rail guns. The ship’s electric drive uses two main turbine generations with two auxiliary turbine generators which power up two 35-megawatt advanced induction motors, Knudson explained.

 “The induction motors drive the propellers,” Knudson added.

The speed of the propellers is run through the total computing environment as part of the ship’s controls.

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, Raytheon officials added.  The volume search capability, which can be added through software upgrades, enables the radar to detect a wider range of missile flight profiles, he added.

The ship will employ active and passive sensors along with its Multi-Function Radar capable of conducting area air surveillance, including over-land, throughout the extremely difficult and cluttered sea-land interface, Navy officials said.

As the first Zumwalt-class destroyer is delivered to the Navy, construction of the second is already underway at Bath Iron Works, Portland, Maine. The DDG 1001, the Michael Monsoor, is already more than 75-percent complete and fabrication of DDG 1002, the future Lyndon B. Johnson, is already underway, Navy officials said. 

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