The Invisible Warship

The Navy´s next destroyer is two football fields long, but on radar it looks like a fishing boat

For a closer look, click 'View Photos' at left to launch the photo gallery

It will be almost silent, nearly invisible to enemy radar-and capable of dropping six powerful missiles simultaneously on a single target up to 95 miles away. But the most important feature of the DDG1000 Zumwalt, the Navy's first new destroyer in 30years, could be its versatility. The 600-foot-long ship will be just as comfortable in the deep ocean as in the mine-infested shallows of the Persian Gulf.

Yesterday´s big boats were designed for open-water standoffs, not hostile coastlines. They show up like giant bull´s-eyes on land-based radar installations. And the ships lack sufficient sensor systems to dodge the waterborne mines common to enemy harbors.

That´s not going to cut it for the fleet of the future. Captain Jim Syring, the DDG1000´s program manager, says the need for littoral dominance is obvious if you consider the shallow waters near potential conflict regions: "All you've got to do is look at the areas of interest: the Persian Gulf, the Sea of Japan, the Korean Peninsula."

Whether it's dropping off a SEAL team or launching missiles inland, the Zumwalt is going to have to slip in unnoticed. It will be quiet-the diesel engine´s noise will be stifled by an inch-thick rubber coating that Syring likens to elephant skin-and stealthy. The spinning dishes and antennas common to today´s ships easily register on enemy radar, so the DDG1000 will instead feature communications hardware that lies flat, embedded in the skin of the deckhouse. This sleek design, combined with a hull that slopes inward from sea level up, rather than outward like most ships, will scatter the energy from an enemy´s radar. According to Syring, on scanners the Zumwalt will look like a fishing boat.

Though hard to find, the DDG1000 will announce its presence with a bang. The Advanced Gun System will be able to fire 600 GPS-guided Long Range Land Attack Projectiles in only 30 minutes-or plant six of them in the same spot at the same time. Staggered around the ship´s perimeter, 80 launchers packed with Tomahawks and other missiles will provide additional power.

For added protection, a new dual-band radar system that searches both the sky and the sea surface will be able to locate something as small as a terrorist speeding in on a Jet Ski, and the ship´s bulbous front protrusion sports a super-sensitive sonar array for identifying underwater minefields. All that´s left now is to start cutting metal. Construction on the first of seven ships is expected to start early next year, with a planned delivery date of 2012.

DDG1000 Zumwalt
Purpose: Multi-mission destroyer designed for shallow-water dominance

Manufacturer: Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics

Dimensions [feet]: 600 (length);
80.7 (beam); 27.6 (draft)

Weapons: Two 155-millimeter Advanced Gun System launchers;
80 Advanced Vertical Launch System cells; two 57-millimeter close-range guns

Cost: $2.3 billion

by John MacNeill

John MacNeill

by John MacNeill

John MacNeill

by John MacNeill

John MacNeill

by John MacNeill

John MacNeill

by John MacNeill

The stern deck of the ship is a landing pad for helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles and other aircraft.John MacNeill

by John MacNeill

The spinning dishes and antennas common to today´s ships easily register on enemy radar, so the DDG1000 will instead feature communications hardware that lies flat, embedded in the skin of the deckhouse. This sleek design, combined with a hull that slopes inward from sea level up, rather than outward like most ships, will scatter the energy from an enemy´s radar, making the Zumwalt appear as tiny as a fishing boat on radar scanners.John MacNeill

by John MacNeill

The two massive guns fold down and tuck away for stealthJohn MacNeill

by John MacNeill

The front part of the bow contains a formidable sonar array for sniffing out mines and enemy subs.John MacNeill

by John MacNeill

John MacNeill