Navy Megadestroyer Zumwalt Makes It Through Round of Rough-Water Trials

Sailors man the rails aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt.
Sailors man the rails aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) as the ship pulls into Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. (U.S. Navy/MC1 Holly L. Herline)

The Navy's new destroyer passed a round of sea trials in which it sailed through two storms off California and Alaska, moving it into the next phase of testing, set to take place this month.

The stealth destroyer Zumwalt passed sea trials that put its unique design to the test in waves up to 20 feet high, Naval Sea Systems Command announced this week. The tests took place during two storms, which officials said exceeded expectations in terms of testing the ship's mettle in heavy seas.

Now, a scale-model replica of Zumwalt will repeat similar conditions in what's known as the Navy's "indoor ocean" -- a massive pool in Bethesda, Maryland, that holds more than 12 million gallons of water and mimics real wave patterns.

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Officials said the new rough-water trials will allow the Navy to troubleshoot any differences "between our model-scale predictions and our full-scale observations." The tests are scheduled to begin in late March.

Zumwalt's real-world sea trials ran from October to November, and were led by engineers from Naval Surface Warfare Centers Maryland and Philadelphia divisions. Defense News first reported the new milestone for the stealth destroyer.

Stephen Minnich, the rough-water trials director, said the Navy chose the time and locations likely to produce the wave conditions needed to complete the trials.

Zumwalt previously ran through calm-water trials off the coast of San Diego.

Engineers then moved north because storms there tend to get more intense, Minnich said in the Navy news release. Off the coast of Ketchikan, Alaska, the destroyer hit the top of what's known as Sea State 6, which produces up to 20-foot-high waves.

"We deployed wave buoys that drifted on the sea surface, which helped us to quantify the seaway in terms of the wave height, period, and direction," he added. "We were completely at the mercy of Mother Nature during the testing, but those devices were critically important to the characterization of what we were seeing in terms of ship motion and structural response and for the situational awareness they provided to support safe execution of the testing."

The Navy has faced criticism over the new destroyer, which was delivered to the service with a working combat system last April -- more than three years after it was commissioned. The Project On Government Oversight, a nonpartisan independent watchdog that investigates waste, called the new destroyers "over-larded, cruiser-sized, titanium canisters."

When the ship was in development, the Navy found the cost for a single round for the 155mm deck gun the new destroyers were supposed to feature would run about $800,000. After determining it would be too expensive to move forward with that mission, the Navy switched the destroyer's primary objective from land attack to offensive surface strike. Modifications needed to make that switch cost about $1 billion.

The service eventually cut its original plans to buy more than two dozen of the new ships down to three.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

Related: Megadestroyer Zumwalt Delivered to the Navy After Years of Setbacks

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