The US Navy's newest and arguably most important destroyer could be ready to hit the seas in just a few weeks. According to one high-ranking Navy official, the revolutionary USS Zumwalt is just about ready to set sail.
Strictly speaking, the Zumwalt has been in the water for some time, but hasn't done much more than bob about alongside the pier. This test would see it put to sea for the very first time. Sean Stackley, the Navy's research, acquisition and development boss, told Defense News, "We're at the stage of construction where there is very little production going on. The ship is built."
According to DN, the Zumwalt conducted a four-day simulated cruise at the alongside the docks at General Dynamic's Bath Iron Works in Maine.
"We did everything from rolling the shafts, bringing up and down systems, testing failure modes, testing watch station effectiveness," Stackley told DN. "You're limited in terms of radiation – radiating things while next to the pier. But we did everything that we could next to the pier prior to getting underway."
The next step in the destroyer's development will be a builder's sea trial estimated to start December 7.
"That is the critical milestone in terms of being able to deliver in the spring. We need a successful trial. We'll learn things from the trial, we always do. First-of-class, we expect to learn a lot," Stackley told DN. "We'll come back off the trial, we'll generate trial cards that identify deficiencies – it could be in terms of hardware, it could be in terms of software. But we take the full sea trial and schedule of test events, grade ourselves, bring the ship back, we correct the deficiencies, and then we get underway."
The results of these initial at-sea trials will inform the Zumwalt's estimated spring 2016 delivery date. The new destroyer is significantly more advanced than the current fleet of Arleigh Burke-class ships that serve as the Navy's backbone.
"Everything is new," Stackley told DN. "From the propulsion plant, the power distribution – the whole integrated power system – the extraordinarily unique features of the hull form that provide the degree of stealth and survivability, the radar system, the degree of automation that's incorporated into the ship to enable the reduced-size crew – it's all new."