USS Zumwalt hits the water  (Source: AP)

The US Navy's USS Zumwalt  (Source: Bath Iron Works)
The U.S. Navy is one step closer to receiving the USS Zumwalt

The US Navy's massive 610-foot USS Zumwalt modern-day destroyer launched earlier this week, quietly hitting the water on the Kennebec River in Maine.

Zumwalt is a $4 billion warship featuring a next-generation advanced rocket system, with a 155mm “advanced gun system” capable of launching rocket-propelled warheads more than 100 miles. The ship will have the capability of firing 80 missiles, including cruise missiles and surface-to-air missiles.

“It’s absolutely massive. It’s higher than the tree line on the other side,” said Amy Lent, Maine Maritime Museum Executive Director, in a press statement. “It’s an absolutely huge ship – very imposing. It’s massively dominating the waterfront.”

If needed for rescue or surveillance, Zumwalt can support two Seahawk helicopters – or four unmanned aerial vehicles – with the US Navy showing increased interest in using UAVs.

To operate, a crew of only 130 to 150 is needed, and they will get to enjoy a larger living space, satellite laptops to connect to the Internet, and better food from a modern kitchen.

The USS Zumwalt was originally scheduled to be christened on October 19, but was canceled due to the US federal government shutdown.  Bath Iron Works and the US Navy plan to officially christen the Zumwalt – and the US Navy is scheduled to officially receive the ship in 2015.

The ship designers and electricians admitted there was an initial learning curve they had to overcome to deal with the warship’s angular carbon fiber composite superstructure and custom hull.  The superstructure hides antennas and satellites and deflects radar, while the custom hull cuts through waves faster.

Despite the expected benefits of the Zumwalt, the destroyer does have some critics regarding the scope of its goals.  Some critics say the Navy is trying to implement too many different emerging technologies that haven’t been tested in real-world situations yet.  

Cost is another problem that is often mentioned regarding the DDG-1000 class of destroyers, which is proving expensive.  The Navy originally wanted to spend $9 billion for research and development for the DDG-1000 program - and $20 billion to build and launch seven next-generation ships.  As many as three ships could be cut from the program, so only four DDG-1000 battleships could be developed in the future.

Sources: CNN, US Navy Times, UPI

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