By the end of the decade, 60 percent of U.S. naval forces will be stationed in the Pacific—a historic high that reflects Asia’s increasing strategic importance to the United States, as well as concerns over China flexing its power in the region.
The expanded U.S. presence will include the Navy’s next-generation warship, the DDG-1000 Zumwalt class destroyer, named after the former chief of naval operations Adm. Elmo Zumwalt Jr. The first of these 600-foot, 15,000-ton vessels is being built by General Dynamics in Maine at the Bath Iron Works, which had to construct a $40 million facility to accommodate the project.
The new destroyer was designed to operate both in the open ocean and in shallow, offshore waters. And it incorporates several stealth features, including: a wave-piercing hull that leaves almost no wake; an exhaust suppressor to reduce the vessel’s infrared (heat) signature; and an exterior that slopes inward at a steep angle, creating a radar signature said to be no larger than a fishing boat’s.
Escalating research and development expenses compelled the Navy to scale back its initial plan for 32 ships to 3 (each of which now costs more than $7 billion). The first of the new vessels, the USS Zumwalt, will be christened in 2013.