Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the not-yet-launched Zumwalt-class destroyer he toured here today “represents the cutting edge of our naval capabilities.”
The ship, now known as the Pre-Commissioning Unit, or PCU, Zumwalt, will become the USS Zumwalt, named for former Navy Adm. Elmo Zumwalt. Officials said the ship is about a year away from joining the fleet.
Now littered with large protective crates storing systems not yet installed, the ship is being fitted with new automated systems. The Zumwalt, Navy officials explained, has highly accurate long-range weapons, an impressive power generation capability and a design emphasizing “stealthy” radar-defeating materials and shapes.
The ship will be home ported in San Diego, Hagel noted, and it “represents an important shift … in America’s interests to the Asia-Pacific,” he told a mixed crowd of sailors, government civilians and General Dynamics employees assembled near where the ship is docked.
Hagel thanked General Dynamics and its workforce at Bath Iron Works, which will produce all three of the Zumwalt-class ships planned for production. The secretary called the facility “a magnificent institution that’s been part of the security of this country for 130 years.”
The secretary also spoke to a number of sailors and defense civilians present, who are working to get the ship ready for active duty. Hagel thanked them and their families for their service.
Sharon E. Burke, assistant secretary of defense for operational energy plans and programs, accompanied Hagel’s delegation on the ship tour. Later, she spoke to reporters while en route to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Hagel landed later in the day for an international security forum that starts tomorrow.
Burke said that the ship’s power generation capacity — 78 megawatts, impressed her. One megawatt of power can power about 1,000 American homes.
The massive amount of available power makes the ship expandable for future weapon systems such as rail guns, which “take a lot of pulse power,” Burke noted.
“Also, you’re running a lot of very sophisticated systems on that ship,” she said. “It gives them a lot of room to be able to run all those systems.”
The ship can generate 78 megawatts of power, and can channel it to propulsion, shipboard use and weapons systems. Officials said the guided missile destroyer is the first Navy ship to be fully electrical, and it was designed to use automated systems as much as possible to decrease the number of sailors needed as crew.
For example, officials said, automatic systems route, store and load the 300 rounds of 24-pound ammunition each of the ship’s two 155mm guns can fire. The guns have, in testing, successfully fired at a rate of 10 rounds a minute and with 20- to 40-inch accuracy at a range of more than 60 nautical miles, officials noted.