Despite being saddled with a two-year delay largely due to cost overruns, delays, and technical problems, the next-generation ship is expected to enter service in mid-2024.
According to expert Parth Satam of the EurAsian Times, “the F-22 of warships, the Zumwalt, is revolutionary in many respects, primarily being the world’s full stealth warship, whose Radar Cross Section (RCS) is as small as a small fishing trawler. It achieves this through a combination of radar reflecting surfaces, paint, and electromagnetic emissions.”
He added that the “16,000-ton ship will see finalization of her basic hull, mechanical and electrical systems before heading to the Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding in Mississippi. This is a departure from how Zumwalt and USS Michael Monsoor were completed, where the complete installation and testing of the ship’s air search radar, vertical launch missile cells, combat system, and commissioning took place at Bath. This will make space for the ongoing modernization of the U.S. Navy’s existing Arleigh Burke-class destroyers which are being upgraded with the Flight III version of the Aegis combat system.”
“For one, its trademark, ‘tumblehome’ hull is feared to be unstable with the possibility of tipping over if a wave hits the ship under the right sea conditions, the right angle, and the right speed. The first-of-its-kind IPS has been found to have severe problems with its software, causing several operational issues. The radar-evading structure—stealth no doubt—has been, still been found to be vulnerable to, ironically, lower-frequency S-band radars,” Satam wrote.
“If not an old-school radar system, technologically proficient militaries with sufficiently networked assets, battlefield management systems, sensor fusion, and data sharing can eventually find a roundabout, complicated tricks to detect stealth,” he continued.
Lagging Behind Russia and China
“Most astonishingly, the ship lacks a Close-In Weapons System (CIWS), that can’t protect it from salvos of anti-ship missiles,” he said. “Even the 57 mm Mark-110 cannons that were originally planned on the Zumwalt had only limited CIWS capability, without the reliability of the 20 mm Phalanx Gatling gun or the Rolling Airframe Missile and SeaRAM point Missile Defence Systems. The cannons were dropped from the Zumwalt’s basic design in 2014 to not add to its radar signature!”
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.