Pics Of USS Zumwalt While Replenishing At Sea Show Yet Another Non-Stealthy Antenna
The stealth destroyer's capabilities have been progressively diluted after the Navy slashed the type's production run.
The Navy's controversial stealth destroyer, USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000), continues on its path toward entering operational service, albeit in a watered-down state. At the same time, the second of three planned Zumwalt class ships, USS Michael Mansoor (DDG-1001), is also making progress towards being commissioned. It even grabbed a quick photo op alongside the Royal Navy's supercarrier HMS Queen Elizabeth as it sailed off the eastern seaboard while undergoing F-35 shipboard testing. But last time we caught up with Zumwalt, we noted how the ship's stealthiness has been degraded by bolt-on systems, many of which are a result of the never-ending cost-saving initiatives that have plagued the Zumwalt program since its future fleet size began to shrink drastically. Now we have new detailed photos of these modifications and the first ones that we know showing the ship executing an underway replenishment operation.
In the photo below, you see in detail the mast and a number of aerials installed atop the ship's composite deckhouse and satcom antenna systems that have been bolted onto its sides. Maybe most concerning is that large high-frequency vertical antenna that is bolted on the smallest sponson. It probably has the ability to pivot down into a horizontal position as well. One can only guess as to how much such a non-low observable feature impacts the ship's greater radar cross-section.
When we recently wrote about these alterations, which we said we have said were coming for years, after the ship first reemerged for ongoing trials after getting many of its combat systems fitted, the large vertical antenna array wasn't installed.
Also visible is a relatively small set of upper and lower sliding doors that are used for underway replenishments like this one being conducted alongside USNS Yukon (T-AO202). We also get a good look at the various serpentine apertures and duct systems built into Zumwalt's deckhouse. From what I understand, these are largely used for cooling. The largest ones pull cool air in and mix it with the Zumwalt's exhaust that exists out of a two-dimensional funnel on the top side of the deckhouse. This helps lower the ship's infrared signature, a near-universal weakness that makes combat ships vulnerable to detection by everything from satellites to high-flying drones to maritime patrol aircraft and even other ships.
It's also worth noting that Zumwalt has no radar apertures on the port or starboard sides of her deckhouse. There appears to be some for electro-optical, advanced data-link, and electronic surveillance and electronic warfare systems, but her SPY-3 radar system, which was drastically downgraded as part of the aforementioned cost-saving initiatives, uses three arrays, two on the angled front facets of her deckhouse and one at the back.
The shot below gives us a view of how tiny the opening is on Zumwalt for underway replenishments as well as some of her other features. These include the cupola for the 30mm Bushmaster cannons—downgraded from the far more capable 57mm gun systems—set above her rear hangar bay. Also, the Mk57 vertical launch system doors that line her flight deck appears to be open. Finally, we see her rear deckhouse angled surface, which has quite a few systems embedded flush into it. The SPY-3 radar array can be seen up the structure's upper left area, which is pretty tiny looking actually!
Finally, below is another view of the ship taken from what appear to be Yukon's bridge wings. Zumwalt is still an impressive and outright otherworldly looking machine. Sadly, her Advanced Gun Systems that take up her forward third are useless as they have no ammo, an issue we have dived into at considerable depth. But maybe what's most visible here is Zumwalt's tumblehome bow that produced amazingly little way judging by this photo.
Hopefully, now that she has been outfitted with her combat systems, the Navy will start really giving us a better look at this ship, including some photos or video of her one-of-a-kind mission center.
A huge thanks to master naval reporter Chris Cavas for finding these awesome photos, make sure you follow him on Twitter, he is an incredible resource for anything that floats and fights!
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com