The U.S. Navy Zumwalt class is the world’s largest destroyer, measuring 190 meters in length and 25 meters in width. The ship was designed with stealth features for use in anti-air, anti-submarine, anti-surface warfare, and littoral military actions. The Navy intended to build 32 of the new destroyers making them the high-tech standard for future naval fleets.
Construction began in 2009. One ship, the USS Zumwalt, is finished, while a second ship, the USS Michael Monsoor, lacks combat equipment, and the third, the USS Lyndon B. Johnson, is still being built. Initial estimates were $1.34 billion per ship for a total project cost of $46 billion for 32 destroyers. However, spiraling costs reached an average of $7 billion for each of the three Zumwalt destroyers in various stages of production, and the project was canceled.
The Zumwalt class destroyers incorporate upgraded features over those found on traditional destroyers and despite the scaled-down endeavor, they have become a testbed for new technologies. The Zumwalt is built with a “tumblehome” hull form giving it enhanced stability in rough seas. The shape and seamless construction add to its stealth characteristic, significantly reducing the destroyer’s radar signature. While traditional destroyer propulsion systems use gas turbines, the Zumwalt combines them with electric propulsion allowing the ship to operate on electric power alone at low speeds.
While the project may not have played out as planned, the Zumwalt is also an ideal platform for testing new weaponry, including the addition of oversized hypersonic missiles, requiring a modification to the current Vertical Launch System.