The U.S. Navy’s New Zumwalt Destroyer is so stealthy it has to use special reflectors to make friendlies aware of its presence
The U.S. Navy’s new Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyer (DDG 1000) is so stealthy that the military branch has decided to outfit the ship with giant reflectors so that it will be visible to other ships in times of fog or heavy ship traffic.
The Navy destroyer is designed to look like a much smaller vessel on radar, and it lived up to its billing during recent builder trials.
Lawrence Pye, a lobsterman, told The Associated Press that during a recent outing, the 610-foot ship on his radar screen looked like a 40- to 50-foot fishing boat. He watched as the behemoth came within a half-mile while returning to shipbuilder Bath Iron Works.
“It’s pretty mammoth when it’s that close to you,” Pye told the news service.
Zumwalt program manager Capt. James Downey said that despite its size, the warship is 50 times harder to detect than current destroyers. Thanks to its angular shape and other design features, its stealth could better even more once the testing equipment loaded onto the ship for trials is removed.
The Navy tested Zumwalt’s radar signature with and without reflective material hoisted on its halyard during sea trials last month. The target was to get a better idea of exactly how stealthy the ship really is, Downey said from Washington, D.C.
The reflective material that will be used aboard the Zumwalt will look like metal cylinders. Other vessels have also used the material during difficult navigation conditions, such as in heavy fog or busy ship lanes.
The possibility of a collision is remote. The Zumwalt has sophisticated radar to notice vessels from miles away, allowing plenty of time for evasive action.
However, the civilian mariners are worrying that they might not see it during bad weather or at night, and the reflective material could save them from being alarmed.
The destroyer is unlike anything ever built for the Navy.
It features a wave-piercing “tumblehome” hull, composite deckhouse, electric propulsion and new guns besides having a shape designed to deflect enemy radar.
Before being delivered to the Navy, more tests are expected to be conducted when the ship returns to sea later this month for final trials. The warship is due to be commissioned in October in Baltimore, and will undergo more testing before becoming fully operational in 2018.
Other cutting edge technologies on the Zumwalt include a composite deckhouse, a nearly silent electric propulsion system, and an advanced gun system with 155 mm guns, long range land attack projectiles, and the possible addition of a railgun.