What If All Future American Warships Looked Like the Stealthy Zumwalt?

David Axe

Key point: The Navy is thinking about what it needs for the next big war. Among the technologies being considered are making more of its ships stealthy.

The U.S. Navy’s next big warship could look a lot like its current DDG-1000 Zumwalt class of stealthy destroyers, Rear Adm. William Galinis, the Navy’s program executive officer for ships, said at a June 19, 2019 symposium.

By contrast, the new ship probably won’t look like the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke class, currently the mainstay of the 290-ship U.S. fleet, Galinis said. The Navy is still studying how many of the new large surface combatants it should try to acquire in coming decades.

Ben Werner reported Galinis’s comments at the news website of the U.S. Naval Institute.

“The signature aspect of it, what does that do to the shaping of deckhouse hull form,” Galinis mused. “I will tell you, not to predispose anything, but I think in the end, you know, it’s probably going to look a lot more like a DDG-1000 than a DDG-51 if I had to say so. But there’s still a lot of work to kind of go do in that area.”

The Burke class is conventional in layout. The $2-billion vessels are heavily armed with as many as 96 missile cells apiece. The Navy is pleased with the condition of its 66 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and plans to keep all of them in service for 45 years, decommissioning the oldest vessel no earlier than 2036.

Another 22 of the 9,000-ton Burkes are under construction or funded, including the first examples of the Flight III version, which adds a powerful new radar.

The $4-billion Zumwalts, by contrast, are novel and niche vessels. The Navy possesses three of the 16,000-ton vessels and plans to deploy them for experiments as well as for front-line operations. Each packs 80 missile cells in a stealthy, downward-sloping hull.

The new large surface combatant would first replace the fleet’s 22 1980s-vintage Ticonderoga-class cruisers, each of which carries 122 missiles in a 9,000-ton displacement hull.

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