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How the Zumwalt Class Destroyer Works

        Science | Navy

What is the Zumwalt Class Destroyer?

The Zumwalt class destroyer is a key part of the U.S. Navy's 21st Century Surface Combatant (SC-21) Program, initiated by Navy planners in 1991, to conceive of warships capable of delivering next-generation functionality. The SC-21 Program describes a family of ships designed to fight more effectively in littoral operations, which are those conducted close to the shore. At the same time, SC-21 ships will need to function equally well out in the open ocean. The key is versatility, with ships in the SC-21 family able to handle virtually any mission, from wartime missions in land attack and undersea warfare to noncombatant evacuations to presence, escort and diplomatic missions.

The SC-21 family includes a destroyer class and a cruiser class of ships. The destroyer class was originally designated DD 21, and to bring the first ships in the class to life, the Navy introduced a four-phase development process. Two competing teams oversaw the first two phases, which involved system concept design and initial systems design. Bath Iron Works, with Lockheed Martin Corporation as the systems integrator, led the first team. Northrop Grumman Ingalls, with Raytheon Systems Co. as the system integrator, led the other.

Northrop Grumman won the contract to move forward in phase-three design and development, anchoring what would be known as the DD(X) National Team. Raytheon became the National Team's prime mission systems integrator for all electronic and combat systems. Other major subcontractors included Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Boeing and General Dynamics Bath Iron Works.

In November 2005, the DD(X) program received funding approval to enter the fourth and final phase: construction of eight ships. Five months later, the Navy announced that the class and lead ship would carry the designation and hull number DDG 1000 Zumwalt. The first two ships in the class are currently being built, with a targeted delivery date of 2012. When it's commissioned, the DDG 1000 Zumwalt will replace older destroyers of the Spruance class (DD 963 - DD 997) and will complement ships in the Arleigh-Burke class, ushering in a new era of naval warfare.

In 2001, the U.S. Navy suspended the DD 21 program in order to evaluate progress made in the first two phases. The two design teams introduced several innovative concepts and systems never before seen on a modern warship. Unfortunately, the costs to implement these technologies were estimated to be much greater than originally projected. As a result, the Navy reoriented the program to "… focus on technology development and maturation, including robust land-based and sea-based testing of prototype technologies that could be leveraged across multiple ship classes." The Navy also replaced the DD 21 designation with DD(X) to signify the updated vision of the program.