The U.S. Navy's giant new warship finally sailed out to sea this week to complete its first-ever round of tests and trials in the Atlantic Ocean.
On Monday (Dec. 7), the 610-foot-long (186 meters) destroyer, the USS Zumwalt, made its way from the Bath Iron Works shipyard in Bath, Maine, to the high seas. The massive ship tips the scales at 15,480 tons (that's nearly 31 million lbs., or more than 14 million kilograms) and cost more than $4 billion to design and build, according to a report by The Washington Post.
Over the next few days, the USS Zumwalt — named for Elmo R. "Bud" Zumwalt Jr., a World War II veteran and one of the youngest chiefs of naval operations in U.S. Navy history — will undergo what the Navy called a "multiday underway period," in which the boat's hull will be put to the test, along with its mechanical and electric systems. After taking on the cold waters of the Atlantic, the ship will anchor off Portland, Maine, giving locals a chance to ogle the strange-looking vessel. [7 Technologies That Transformed Warfare]
What makes the USS Zumwalt such a spectacle is its unique design. The top part of the ship looks like a pyramid with its top sliced off, and its bow comes to a narrow point at the end, so it looks like the ship is piercing through the waves. Known as a tumblehome hull design, this pointed shape was selected specifically to make the huge ship stealthier, according to a report by the Portland Press Herald.
Despite its heft, the boat moves through the water with less wake than older warships, and it has the radar footprint of a much smaller fishing vessel, which will make it difficult for enemies to detect, the Portland Press Herald reports. The USS Zumwalt can also operate closer to land than the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer ships that are currently in use by the Navy, while still doing all the things the current destroyers do, as well (such as fight submarines, aircraft and other ships). However, the ship's hull design may not be as stable as the hull designs of its older counterparts when it comes to taking on tough seas, The Washington Post reports.
The Navy's new ship is the first of three Zumwalt-class warships to be completed. Eventually, the futuristic-looking destroyers will be home to sci-fi-worthy weapons. The USS Zumwalt is equipped with a 78-megawatt "powerhouse" that could be used to power advanced weapons systems, such as an electromagnetic railgun or a high-speed laser gun.
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Elizabeth is a former Live Science associate editor and current director of audience development at the Chamber of Commerce. She graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from George Washington University. Elizabeth has traveled throughout the Americas, studying political systems and indigenous cultures and teaching English to students of all ages.