The first Zumwalt-class destroyer, the USS Zumwalt, left Bath Iron Works in December 2015. The hull was completed, but the ship needed to be outfitted with defense software, provided by Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems, once it reached its homeport in San Diego. Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press 

BATH — The Bath-built USS Zumwalt, the first of three Zumwalt-class warships, was officially finished and presented to the U.S. Navy at its San Diego homeport late last week.

The highly advanced destroyer, designed and constructed by Bath Iron Works, will enter the next phase of at-sea testing before it can join the fleet, the Navy announced April 24.

BIW delivered the ship to San Diego in May 2016, and the Navy assumed ownership, but the Zumwalt wasn’t delivered with full combat capability.

Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems still needed to install the ship’s defense software and weapons, which was considered the second phase of the delivery process. With those combat systems and defense software installed, the ship must undergo more at-sea testing.

“Every day the ship is at sea, the officers and crew learn more about her capability, and can immediately inform the continued development of tactics, techniques, and procedures to not only integrate Zumwalt into the fleet, but to advance the Navy’s understanding of operations with a stealth destroyer,” said Capt. Andrew Carlson, the Zumwalt’s commanding officer. “After sailing over 9,000 miles and 100 days at sea in 2019, we are absolutely looking forward to more aggressive at-sea testing and validation of the combat systems leading to the achievement of initial operational capability.”

Both the ship and its class are named for Adm. Elmo “Bud” Zumwalt, who not only served as Chief of Naval Operations from 1970 to 1974, but also fought in three wars during his 37-year career: World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. He earned a Bronze Star with Valor for his actions during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. He died in 2000 from cancer caused by asbestos, which he was exposed to during his naval career.

The Zumwalt is more expensive and advanced than the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, which BIW typically makes for the Navy. The more than $4 billion ship, with a crew of 175, features a sleek, wave-piercing tumblehome design, making the 610-foot destroyer appear much smaller on radar than it actually is. It features an electric propulsion system and new types of weapons.

“We congratulate the US Navy on taking delivery of USS Zumwalt, DDG 1000, the most advanced surface combatant in the US Navy,” said David Hench, BIW spokesman. “At Bath Iron Works, we are proud of our role building such an innovative platform. With more than a dozen cutting edge systems incorporated into its cutting edge hull design, Zumwalt is an impressive example of the capabilities of our engineers, designers, supply chain personnel and production teams.”

While the completion of the inaugural Zumwalt is a long-awaited achievement for the Navy, the Zumwalt class has had a tumultuous history.

In the early 2000s, the Navy proposed building 32 highly advanced stealth destroyers at BIW, giving the shipyard’s workforce hope for years of work to come. But as the years wore on, the number of ships ordered was slashed repeatedly. Ultimately, the Navy ordered just three Zumwalt-class destroyers, the last of which, the future USS Lyndon B. Johnson, is under construction the Bath shipyard.

The Zumwalts are a far cry from the $1.8 billion Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, which BIW has produced 37 of since the 1990s.

Following this setback, the Navy pivoted away from the highly advanced ship design and began calling for 20 frigates. A 2019 report by the Congressional Research Service outlines frigates are generally intended to operate in lower-risk settings compared to cruisers and destroyers. For this reason, they are smaller and equipped with fewer weapons and less-advanced radars.

The Zumwalt’s sister ship, the USS Michael Monsoor, is based in San Diego and is undergoing combat systems activation.

“Even as we are completing work on Lyndon B. Johnson – the final ship in the class – lessons learned through that program are being incorporated into new [Arleigh Burke-class destroyer] designs now under construction,” Hench said.

The USS Zumwalt also experienced multiple mechanical breakdowns while undergoing testing. In November 2016 the ship needed to be towed through the Panama Canal when it lost propulsion. The ship suffered “minor cosmetic damage” when the ship made contact with the canal walls.


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