Thursday, October 31, 2013

"More power, Scotty"

Meet the USS Zumwalt DD-1000, a new multi-task fighting ship design that in its description sounds more like the 23rd century USS Enterprise than a common Navy destroyer. Impossibly sleek with improbable angles that are fundamental to its design, it doesn't exactly sail, more accurately it flies through the water, capable of cutting through the waves and making high speed turns in such a way so as to not leave a detectable wake.

She has a totally integrated electric drive system, all of the considerable power its turbines produce can go to any system on the ship as directed by Her skipper. This includes such Sci-Fi favorites as Rail Guns capable of throwing a projectile into space, high energy particle lasers able to take out missiles, or high energy radar capable of overwhelming enemy 'scanners'.

The USS Zumwalt's first CO lends a bit of futuristic flare to the story of this 'Next
Generation' warship as he is none other than Capt James Kirk USN. From his list of accomplishments as an officer at an young age for his rank, he's likely on the fast track to Admiral's stars or maybe going war with the Klingons.

Th DD-X class has actually been designated by the Navy to fulfill the Congressionally mandated landing force artillery support role that was previously filled by the Iowa Class Battleships. In theory this ship can throw high speed projectiles hundreds of miles with pinpoint accuracy and collect instant integrated intelligence confirmation of the effect, while at the same time land troops in shallow water. This is a relatively large ship, but going against Navy tradition it has a small crew dependent on high tech automated systems.

However this Bush era project has its critics. Rumors that the Zumwalt's carbon fiber hull plating has a habit of coming apart at the seams have been denied by the contractors. The really high tech weapons that are supposed to justify the obscene cost of this weapons system have yet to be demonstrated to actually work, and aren't yet even scheduled to be installed. It's totally integrated power systems could lead to a totally integrated failure of the ship in combat. Modular 'combat support' packages, 'imagine those giant Chinese container ships', the already configured systems that are supposed make the ship capable of serving multiple roles take so long to swap out, that any high speed Navy ship could sail far faster from the US already equipped for mission at a lower cost.

This will either be the most revolutionary ship since the Ironclads of the Civil War, or just variations on earlier boondoggles like 50s era Nuclear Reactor powered bomber, MacNamara's F-111 do everything but really nothing fighter plane, or Reagan's Star Wars Missile Defense system that turned out to be just a trillion dollar money drain. Did I mention that Dick Cheney was involved in letting the contracts?

Twitter @BruceEnberg - where it's already the 23rd century. One to beam up.