Futuristic USN vessel visits Victoria

USS Zumwalt arrives in CFB Esquimalt. Photo by Peter Mallett, Lookout

USS Zumwalt arrives in CFB Esquimalt. Photo by Peter Mallett, Lookout

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

The United States Navy’s newest, largest, and most expensive destroyer ever built pulled into Esquimalt Harbour last week as part of its first voyage to a foreign country.

It was hard not to notice the massive 16,000 tonne, futuristic 610-foot-long guided-missile destroyer as it pulled alongside A-Jetty guided by a Queen’s Harbour Master tug on March 11. Despite its stealth-like design intended to thwart enemy detection while at sea, USS Zumwalt was an eye-popping attention grabber.

Commissioned in 2016, it is the lead ship of the Zumwalt-class. It is designed as a multi-mission stealth ship with a focus on land attack.

“The ship you see behind me is one of the newest platforms in the United States Navy and assists in our mission to ensure free and open flow of trade through international waters,” said Commanding Officer, Captain Andrew Carlson. “It is equipped with cutting edge technology in its combat systems, weapons systems and engineering control systems.”

Members of the media were welcomed onboard Zumwalt for a brief tour conducted by Surface Warfare Officer, Lieutenant Briana Wildemann.

The tour began on the massive flight deck capable of landing two medium-sized helicopters and proceeded through the ship’s hangar.

The group then moved down a massive service corridor measuring approximately 15 feet wide dubbed “Broadway”, which included a pictorial tribute to the ship’s namesake, Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., Chief of U.S. Naval Operations during the Vietnam war, and renowned champion of equal rights and inclusion in the USN.

Lt Wildermann noted to the visitors it was a pleasure to serve on board a ship named after a man who championed the cause of racial and gender equity in the U.S. military.

“For me being able to come aboard this vessel every day is an honour because of what Admiral Zumwalt stood for.”

The Bridge and Big Guns

At the bow of the ship visitors got a quick glimpse of the ship’s Advanced Gun Systems (AGS) and its two 30 mm MK 46 guns capable of shooting down long-range missiles; they can reach up to 63-nautical miles. Weaponry on the ship’s fo’c’sle also includes 80 launch cells capable of firing Tactical Tomahawk and Sea Sparrow missiles, and two 155-mm guns equipped with 920-round magazines.

The tour concluded on the bridge where Lt Wildemann showed off the ship’s high-tech control centre with its wheel-less helm. The ship’s steering is guided by four computer touch screens and a device similar to a computer mouse and a system of small nobs. Eight giant television screens above the vessel’s narrow front windows allow the four-person navigation crew an enhanced panoramic 360-degree view of the ship.

“This ship is the new model that is taking the navy into the future and it’s important to note there are approximately 12 new systems working on one platform,” said Lt Wildemann. “We are looking at what works and also what doesn’t work on board Zumwalt all in an effort to shape ships of the future in the U.S. Navy.”

Zumwalt has a sister ship in operation, USS Michael Monsoor, which was commissioned on Jan. 26 at North Island Naval Station California. The final Zumwalt-class vessel still waiting in the wings is the USS Lyndon B. Johnson which is expected to be commissioned at some point later this year.

High Tech Ship

Some of the vessel’s key features include a state-of-the-art electronic propulsion system, a wave-piercing tumblehome hull, and the latest war-fighting technology and weaponry. 

Perhaps the most intriguing feature is its stealth design that includes its composite superstructure hull that reduces acoustic output and radar detection by opposing forces.

While at sea, it uses a multi-function radar capable of conducting air surveillance on the ocean and over land.

Another big advantage comes its two energy-saving gas turbine Rolls Royce engines that can drive the ship to a maximum speed of 30 knots. Called the Integrated Power System (IPS), the engine provides power to propulsion, ship’s service and combat system loads. The IPS can generate approximately 78 megawatts of power, which is almost as much as a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

HMCS Ottawa was Zumwalt’s host ship for the week, and tours for military members of both ships and cultural exchanges were conducted during the visit.

When asked where the ship is headed next, the Captain said he “wouldn’t be a very good stealth ship captain if he divulged details about our comings and goings.”

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