General Dynamics lays keel of first Zumwalt class destroyer


General Dynamics Bath Iron Works has laid down the keel of DDG 1000, the first ship in the planned three-ship Zumwalt class of guided missile destroyers. The keel unit is the 4,000-ton, heavily outfitted mid-forebody section of the ship.

The keel block was laid down on Thursday. A special steel plate containing the initials of Admiral Zumwalt’s four children, daughters and ship co-sponsors Ann Zumwalt and Mouzetta Zumwalt-Weathers, Lt Col James G. Zumwalt, USMC (Ret.), and Elmo Zumwalt III, now deceased, was prepared for the ceremony. The Zumwalts authenticated the laying of the keel by striking welding arcs onto the steel plate.

Jeff Geiger, Bath Iron Works president, said, “We were pleased to have members of the Zumwalt family and distinguished Navy representatives with us to commemorate this important milestone in the construction of this ship.”

The ship is named for Admiral Elmo Zumwalt (1920-2000), regarded as the father of the modern US Navy. He served with distinction on destroyers during WWII in the Pacific and later oversaw littoral operations during the Vietnam War. In 1970, he was named the youngest-ever chief of naval operations. He applied his vast knowledge of sailors and ships to modernise the US Navy, introducing major policy changes to boost morale and create greater efficiency while also conducting a campaign against racism and sexism throughout the fleet.

The DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class destroyer is the US Navy’s next-generation, guided-missile naval destroyer. The ship will feature a low radar profile, an integrated power system and a total ship computing environment infrastructure.

DDG-1000 – the future USS Zumwalt – is over 50 percent complete and is scheduled to be delivered in 2014. In September the US Navy awarded General Dynamics Bath Iron Works a US$1.8 billion contract for the construction of DDG 1001 and DDG 1002, the next two ships in the programme. DDG 1001 is scheduled to be delivered in December 2015 and DDG 1002 is scheduled to be delivered in February 2018.

The multi-role class is designed for surface warfare, air defence and naval fire support. Its mooted weapons fit includes 20 Mk57 vertical launch system (VLS) modules, with a total of 80 launch cells for Raytheon RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSM) (four per cell) or Tactical Tomahawk (one per cell) and Vertical Launch Anti-Submarine Rocket (ASROC, one per cell). Gun armament includes two 155mm Advanced Gun Systems with a range of 154km and a magazine of up to 750 rounds. The barrel is to be water cooled to prevent over-heating and allows a rate of fire of 10 rounds per minute per gun. This is to be supplemented with two Mk110 57mm guns. Aircraft carried are to include one H-60-class medium helicopter and three MQ-8 Fire Scout VT-UAVs.

The stealthy class will displace some 14 798 tons and boast a length of 180m, a beam of 24.6m and a draft of 8.4m. In a clear departure from its predecessors, the class boasts a “tumblehome” hull form common a century ago. “Originally put forth in modern steel battleship designs by the French shipyard Forges et Chantiers de la Mediterranee in La Seyne in Toulon, French naval architects believed that tumblehome, in which the beam of the vessel narrowed from the water-line to the upper deck, would create better freeboard, greater seaworthiness, and, as Russian battleships were to find, would be ideal for navigating through narrow constraints (canals). On the down side, the tumblehome battleships experienced stability problems, especially in high speed turns or losses in watertight integrity,” The tumblehome design is being reintroduced to reduce the radar return of the hull, with a bow designed to cut through waves rather than ride over them.

A single composite material deckhouse also contributes to a low radar return. Therefore, despite being 40% larger than an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer the radar signature is more akin to a fishing boat and sound levels are compared to the Los Angeles-class submarine.