When it comes to San Diego, no “Best Of” issue would be complete that did not include our remarkable armed forces, from Camp Pendleton to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar to Naval Air Station North Island — home to many of the greatest warships in the world. Among those is the USS Zumwalt, the lead ship in the Navy’s latest generation of guided missile destroyers, and one of its most futuristic in appearance.
Described in All Hands, the magazine of the U.S. Navy, as “the largest and most technologically advanced surface combatant in the world,” the Zumwalt and her two sister ships, currently under construction, employ what is known as a “tumblehome hull.” The bow of the ship is angled outward instead of inward, a design briefly used in the 1900s. Featuring the latest in stealth innovation, the 610-foot Zumwalt has the radar profile of a fishing boat less than half its size.
Just as important as its looks, where previous ships of the destroyer class were designed specifically for deep-water operations involving anti-air, anti-surface, and antisubmarine combat, the Zumwalt can be used to support ground forces in land attacks as well. Living up to its motto Pax Proter Vim, which is Latin for “Peace through Power,” the ship is equipped with two Advanced Gun Systems (AGS) that fire projectiles with a range of up to 100 nautical miles.
Named after Admiral Elmo Russell Zumwalt, Jr., the youngest man ever to serve as the Chief of Naval Operations and credited by some as creating the modern Navy, Zumwalt played a major role during Vietnam. He had great concern for his sailors and worked to reform the Navy’s personnel policies to improve enlisted life and ease racial tensions.
The ship, which was commissioned in Baltimore three years ago this month, has been on patrol in the Pacific for the past two years, including stops in Ketchikan, Alaska, and Pearl Harbor, marking the first of the Zumwalt class to visit Hawaii.
Despite its unusual appearance, it is a shape we in San Diego are likely to become accustomed to in the coming years. According to the Navy’s executive officer for ships, Rear Adm. William Galinis, going forward, warships are probably going to look a lot more like a Zumwalt class than previous destroyers.
The ship is currently commanded by Captain Andrew Carlson, but in keeping with its look to the future, its first commanding officer was James Kirk — though it was James A. Kirk and not James T. Kirk of Star Trek fame.