New high-tech destroyer turns heads in Pearl Harbor
A striking and controversial Navy destroyer pulled into Pearl Harbor for the first time Tuesday, turning heads for its sheer size (610 feet long), stealth features and unorthodox wave-piercing “tumblehome” hull on its first operational sail from San Diego.
The USS Zumwalt’s appearance is part testing, part public relations and part presence in the Pacific where its abundance of technology — allowing a smaller crew of between 175 to 200 to operate the massive ship — is expected to dictate the future for the Navy in the “great power” competition with China and Russia.
“It’s our first visit to Hawaii,” said commanding officer Capt. Andrew Carlson. “As we all know, Pearl Harbor has a rich naval history. We are honored to sail Zumwalt through these historic waters for the first time.”
Carlson also noted that Hawaii is a “critical training and testing area for the Navy.” Asked at a ship-side news conference whether the Zumwalt will train at the Pacific Missile Range Facility off Kauai, the ship’s captain said, “We don’t normally disclose where we are going.”
“I can say we’ll be in the Hawaiian Operations Area for a little bit and then just working around the Pacific,” he said.
The Zumwalt, also known as DDG-1000, is part of a program initiated in the early 1990s that envisioned a high-tech replacement for old Iowa-class battleships capable of pounding enemy forces on land from nearshore waters using 155-mm projectiles.
However, with rising costs and the face of warfare changing from lower-tech land threats to missile-based competition with China and Russia, the number of Zumwalts was trimmed to three from 32, with the decision made to restart production of the still highly capable Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.
Zumwalts are 100 feet longer and 13 feet wider than the precursor destroyer.
By 2008 the Navy said the future destroyer-operating environment called for open-ocean anti-submarine warfare and countering anti-ship cruise missiles and ballistic missiles.
The Zumwalt’s twin 155-mm guns — a key feature of the ship — were sidelined when it was determined the long-range land-attack projectiles they were designed to fire would cost at least $800,000 apiece, according to the Congressional Research Service.
The Zumwalts were designed to carry 600 of the rocket-assisted munitions, with the guns capable of firing 16 rounds per minute.
The Navy now is looking at possible alternative — and more affordable — replacements including a hypervelocity projectile, Naval Institute News reported.
The approximately $4.5 billion Zumwalts still pack a wallop with 80 vertical launch cells for Tomahawk and Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles, Standard Missiles and anti-submarine rockets.
“I think in a high-end fight she’ll do very well,” Carlson said.
But it may be some time before any Zumwalts are placed in a real-world rotation. The U.S. Government Accountability Office said DDG-1000 wouldn’t be ready to deploy until 2021.
Carlson said the ship is in the first phase of delivery with installational and operational testing still underway.
The unique destroyer departed San Diego on March 8 and stopped in Esquimalt, British Columbia, on March 11, the Navy said.
Zumwalt arrived in Ketchikan, Alaska, on March 23 before making the long journey to Pearl Harbor on what so far is its farthest foray west into the Pacific.
About 150 crew are aboard. The ship is minus two helicopters because those operations are not yet certified, officials said. The 155-mm guns haven’t been fired, but the Zumwalt is going through that certification, crew said.
From the shore, the ship drew stares because of its size, shape and stealth-tile covering. Head-on, the Zumwalt looked like a triangle sailing through Pearl Harbor.
“Just about everything on it is internal, like nothing’s really protruding outside of it,” noticed Lt. Todd Weeks, 35, who’s with Destroyer Squadron 31 at Pearl Harbor. Normally, “you see antennas all over the place,” he said.
Carlson agrees the ship’s tumblehome hull shape with a wide base is very different.
“It’s really a return to an earlier design over a 100 years or so ago,” he said, “but she sea-keeps very well. She’s very stiff compared to some of the other ships. You don’t spend as much time rolling back and forth. Once you lean over, you kind of come back (quickly).”
Senior Chief Tim Deck, 40, who’s been with the Zumwalt for 5-1/2 years, said on other ship classes “the way things are done — it’s been written.”
“There’s a lot of experience and a method about doing things,” he said. “Onboard Zumwalt the entire ship is new from the keel up. So we have to put aside things that we’ve learned from other classes and start learning (anew) on Zumwalt.”
MAKING AN IMPRESSION
The distinctive USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000), pictured arriving above, turned heads Tuesday on its first visit to Hawaii.
>> Cost: $4.5 billion
>> Length: 610 feet long versus about 510-foot length for traditional Arleigh Burke destroyers
>> Design features: Stealth design reduces radar cross section to that of a small fishing boat; wave-piercing “tumblehome” hull gives the ship a triangular appearance head-on; antennas and other attachments contained within skin of ship
>> Crew: 175 to 200 compared with 330 for Arleigh Burke destroyers
>> Weapons: 80 vertical launch cells arrayed around periphery of ship for Tomahawk and Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles, Standard Missiles and anti-submarine rockets; twin 155-mm guns (ammunition still being determined)
>> Ships in the class: USS Zumwalt, San Diego; USS Michael Monsoor, San Diego; USS Lyndon B. Johnson, under construction in Maine