WASHINGTON — Capt. James Kirk just got the keys to the baddest ship in the fleet — U.S. Navy’s fleet, not Starfleet.
The ship is the future USS Zumwalt, the first of the Navy’s newest class of destroyers, and contractor General Dynamics turned it over to the Navy on Friday at Bath Iron Works in Maine.
The ship will be commissioned — and officially become the USS Zumwalt — on October 15 in Baltimore. Until then, Capt. Kirk (U.S. Navy, not United Federation of Planets) and his crew will test the ship’s array of futuristic systems.
“Zumwalt’s crew has diligently trained for months in preparation of this day and they are ready and excited to take charge of this ship on behalf of the U.S. Navy,” Kirk said in a Navy press release. “These are 143 of our nation’s finest men and women who continue to honor Admiral Zumwalt’s namesake with their dedication to bringing this ship to life.”
The 610-foot, 15,700-ton warship “is a stealthy ship with a minimal radar signature and an intrinsically quiet tumblehome hull form and wave-piercing bow,” General Dynamics says.
The ship can generate 78 megawatts of power making it “suitable for deployment of directed energy beam weapons and the electromagnetic railgun, both of which are under intensive development,” General Dynamics said in a statement.
“This impressive ship incorporates a new design alongside the integration of sophisticated new technologies that will lead the Navy into the next generation of capabilities,” said the Navy’s program manager for the Zumwalt class of destroyers, Rear Adm. (select) Jim Downey.
For now, the future Zumwalt will be equipped with guns that can fire projectiles up to 63 miles and cells for 80 Tomahawk, Sea Sparrow and Standard missiles along with anti-submarine rockets.
Two more Zumwalt-class ships, the future Michael Monsoor and Lyndon B. Johnson, are under construction in Maine. Cost of the three ships is expected to total about $22.5 billion.
The high price tag per ship stems from the fact that the Navy will now only build three of the Zumwalt class, down from 32 originally envisioned. That means the Pentagon can’t spread research and development costs out over a large fleet.
As numbers have dwindled, many defense analysts question the long-term value of the Zumwalt. The Navy is now focusing on an updated version of the current — and more conventional — Arleigh–Burke class destroyers.
The program isn’t impressing at least one Russian commentator, retired Col. Viktor Baranets, who told state-run Radio Sputnik: “One U.S. nuclear submarine, the newest in the fleet, costs about $2.2 billion. In other words, they used the budget for two nuclear subs to build one Zumwalt. What can be said? Americans love grandiose projects which sometimes go beyond the scope of reason.”