Navy Launches Next-Generation Stealth Destroyer
Whatever your thoughts on the American military, it's safe to say that from a techie's perspective, they consistently make some really cool stuff. This week the U.S. is launching the first of its modern stealth destroyers.
Coming in at over 600 feet long and 14,500 tons, the ship is massive for a destroyer -- but as far as radar's concerned, it's little more than a fishing dingy. That small radar cross-section is due in large part to its harsh angle and specialized paint that the U.S. military has been using for some time in other stealth projects like the F-117 Nighthawk.
The USS Zumwalt is the first in the Zumwalt class. All of the ships in the class will be capable of multi-role support including anti-air defense and guided missile ground attack. Among other features, the ships use an integrated power system -- meaning that propulsion and the rest of the ship's functions are all tied into the same distribution. It's an interesting system, and it also serves the ship's main focus of being almost undetectable. In the same way that electric cars are spectacularly quiet, the Zumwalt's electric motors dramatically reduce the chances of its detection via sonar. Additionally, the ship uses specialized cooling systems which cut down on the heat signature. Almost makes it sound like the SSV Normandy.
All in all, the new boat really is something of a technological marvel, but that didn't come without a cost. Due to budget cuts, there were originally 32 ships of the class planned, but over time, that's been cut down to just three, causing a huge increase in the cost-per-ship, especially when research and development is taken into account. Then again, the new power system was designed to support potential expansion for free-electron lasers and rail guns, and this sentence might be the most awesome thing I'll ever write.