WASHINGTON: To boldly go in a revolutionary ship where no one has commanded before. Why the clumsy Star Trek reference? Because the Navy’s newest, stealthy, most radical ship, the USS Zumwalt, will be commanded by the fabulously named Capt. James A. Kirk. The Navy couldn’t make something like this up, could they?
The Zumwalt, launched in October of 2013, contains a plethora of new weapons, a radical power plant and a controversial new hull design designed to reduce its radar signature. And it really is commanded by Capt. James A. Kirk. As aficionados of the original Star Trek series know, the full name of the USS Enterprise’s commander was James Tiberius Kirk, so there should be no mistaking the two men.
How important is the first of the three Zumwalt-class ships to the US Navy?
One of the country’s top defense lawmakers, Rep. Randy Forbes, tells us the Zumwalt and her sister ships “are poised to define surface ship design for years to come. It is game-changing technologies like those found on the Zumwalt-class that will enable the Navy’s future dominance in the decades ahead.”
What makes the ship so powerful a tool? Polmar says “the ship is the perfect platform for deployment of rail guns and laser weapons because of her electric-oriented power plant.” That advanced power plant provides much more power — up to 78 megawatts of power, enough to power about 47,000 American homes — that can be used by weapons than existing non-nuclear ships. While it was originally designed to provide land attack support (think a high-tech battleship), that role has been supplemented. Missile defense now features more prominently. Polmar’s assessment needs to be taken seriously. He has advised three Navy Secretaries, two Chiefs of Naval Operations and has 50 books — mostly on the Navy — to his credit.