Remember The Hunt for the Red October, that terrific movie from the 1990s starring Alec Baldwin and Sean Connery running around on submarines? The Red October was this new Soviet super sub that was virtually undetectable by radar and rigged up with all the scariest weapons the Communists could get their hands on. The bad news is that an above water equivalent of that ship is almost finished being built. The good news is that it’s the Americans who are building it.
Check out the new Zumwalt class destroyer, a.k.a. the DDG-1000. Due to roll out of dry dock at Bath Iron Works in Maine next year, this thing is the future of the U.S. Navy. It’s nearly twice as large as the other ships in the destroyer class but barely leaves a wake. It also barely rocks with the motion of the ocean. This is key for radar detection since it’s a ship’s wake and rocking that tips off enemy radar. According to Popular Science, the Zumwalt “on radar it looks like a fishing boat and slices through the water like a 600-foot harpoon.”
Then you’ve got the weapons. The Zumwalt is designed to be a shallow water, land attacking ship with 21st-century amenities. It can float in just 30-feet of water giving it the ability to float close to shore and fire missiles inland. Not that it really needs to get all that close. The ships dual 155-millimeter guns can hit targets up to 72 miles away, and they don’t even need sailors to reload them. It’s all done by a computer in the command center that also controls where the shells land. Since they’re GPS-powered and can change trajectory midair, the video gaming gunners have a lot more control than they did over the old rail guns. Also in the arsenal are SM-2 antiaircraft missiles, surface-targeting Tomahawks and ASROC antisubmarine torpedoes.
These ships don’t come cheap. The Navy originally hoped to build 32 of them — a proper fleet — with $9.6 billion in research and development budget, but as costs started piling up, they had to cut the order to 24 and then to seven and then to three. At the end of the day, each of the three ships will cost close to $4 billion. That’s a small price to pay for awesome, though.