DAVE CLEAVELAND and his son, Cody, photograph the USS Zumwalt as it passes Fort Popham in Phippsburg at the mouth of the Kennebec River on Monday. The new destroyer, which was built at Bath Iron Works, is undergoing final builder trials before the ship is presented to the Navy for inspection.

DAVE CLEAVELAND and his son, Cody, photograph the USS Zumwalt as it passes Fort Popham in Phippsburg at the mouth of the Kennebec River on Monday. The new destroyer, which was built at Bath Iron Works, is undergoing final builder trials before the ship is presented to the Navy for inspection.

BATH

The USS Zumwalt, the nation’s largest and most expensive destroyer, departed Bath Iron Works for builder’s trials on Monday morning.

“The Navy and the shipbuilder continue to execute trials for this first-of-class ship with extreme rigor as the Zumwalt prepares to transition to the fleet,” Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Hayley Sims said in an email to The Times Record.

The trials are expected to last just over 48 hours, and is one of two official tests required by the Navy, according to an internal BIW communication release.

During the trials, many of the ship’s key systems and technologies will be demonstrated, including the vessel’s Advanced Induction Motor, Integrated Propulsion System, boat handling and auxiliary systems, Sims said.

“In addition to systems testing, the Navy-Industry team will be conducting numerous operational demonstrations in preparation for Acceptance Trials in April, as well as crew familiarization and counterpart training in support of crew certification, sail away milestones and commissioning (on) Oct. 15, 2016,” she said.

Sims also noted that delivery of the ship is still slated for this spring.

During the “acceptance trials,” the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey will conduct a dockside and at-sea inspection to determine whether the vessel’s delivery will be accepted by the government, according to the release.

Earlier in December, the vessel had departed the shipyard for trials, and the ship had also undergone a series of “fast cruises” in the fall.

Rear Adm. Peter Fanta, director of surface warfare, said he likes what he has heard from the ship’s commanding officer during the first trials in December, according to a report from The Associated Press.

“He was extremely impressed with the stability of the ship, particularly in hard turns, particularly in its sea-keeping ability,” he told The AP.

The 600-foot ship is unlike anything ever built for the Navy. It features an angular shape to deflect enemy radar, a wave-piercing “tumblehome” hull, composite deckhouse, electric propulsion and new guns. Automation allows it to operate with a smaller crew than existing destroyers.

But those innovations come at a high cost. The Zumwalt, the first of three ships in the class, will cost at least $4.4 billion.

The price ballooned to the point some in the Navy tried to kill the program. Instead, the program originally envisioned for 32 ships was truncated.

The ship, which will be based in San Diego, stands to play a role in the Obama administration’s “rebalance” of resources to Asia and the Pacific, where China is flexing its military muscle in the South China Sea. But Fanta said he’ll want a full assessment of capabilities before determining exactly how the ship will be used.

More than 200 Bath Iron Works employees and Navy personnel are participating in the builder trials to prepare the ship for delivery to the Navy. The ship is due to be commissioned into service in October.

After the Navy takes delivery, there will be even more assessments, including rough-weather tests to determine the performance of the unusual hull that gives the ship a pyramid shape.

“We go to find the most miserable places in the ocean and drive at various sea stages,” Fanta said.

The Navy believes it knows how the ship will perform, but it won’t know for sure until all tests are completed, he said.

The departure of the warship in the midst of a snowstorm on Monday marks the second time the ship has gone to sea.

The “alpha” trials in December, which gave engineers their first opportunity to test systems at sea, were deemed a success even though repairs were needed on one of the ship’s 12 motor drives.

Two other ships in the Zumwalt-class destroyer program are also in the process of being built at the Bath shipyard, including Michael Monsoor and Lyndon B. Johnson. The christening of the Michael Monsoor will take place on June 18.

BIW spokesman Matt Wickenheiser was unavailable for comment on Monday.

DANEEM KIM reported for The Times Record. David Sharp reported for The Associated Press.


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