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Zumwalt-class Navy ship: Next-gen destroyer is a high-tech marvel (pictures)

The US Navy has christened the first of three cutting-edge Zumwalt-class destroyers. But the next two may have weaponry straight out of science fiction.

James Martin
James Martin is the Managing Editor of Photography at CNET. His photos capture technology's impact on society - from the widening wealth gap in San Francisco, to the European refugee crisis and Rwanda's efforts to improve health care. From the technology pioneers of Google and Facebook, photographing Apple's Steve Jobs and Tim Cook, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Sundar Pichai, to the most groundbreaking launches at Apple and NASA, his is a dream job for any documentary photography and journalist with a love for technology. Exhibited widely, syndicated and reprinted thousands of times over the years, James follows the people and places behind the technology changing our world, bringing their stories and ideas to life.
James Martin
Zumwalt destroyer
1 of 15 Courtesy: Raytheon Company

You are not ready for the Zumwalts

Bath Iron Works recently christened the first of the US Navy's next-generation Zumwalt-class destroyers, breaking a bottle of sparkling wine across the ship's bow at its Bath, Maine, shipyard.

The DDG 1000 has some seriously mind-blowing capabilities. But the next two ships in its class may have weaponry so futuristic it'll almost double as sci-fi.

The DDG 1000 hull
2 of 15 Corbis

Sleek hull

First, the basics on the DDG 1000, the first of three Zumwalt-class destroyers: The 610-foot-long ship comes equipped with new technologies including radar reflecting angles, a striking inward-sloping tumblehome hull, an all-electric integrated power system, and an advanced gun system.

The DDG 1000
3 of 15 Corbis

The DDG 1000

Efficient and quiet, the design minimizes its radar signature, making it appear smaller than its actual size.

The DDG 1000 interior
4 of 15 Raytheon

Bigger on the inside?

Meanwhile, on the inside: The cutting-edge operating system developed by Raytheon is the first large-scale implementation of the US Navy's open-architecture strategy, designed to bind all Zumwalt onboard systems together.

The Total Ship Computing Environment has a simple, "sailor-centric" interface, says the Navy, allowing for a high degree of automation and a more effective and efficient combat experience.

The DDG 1000
5 of 15 Raytheon

More than just a box

This may look like any other gray box, but the ship's Electronic Modular Enclosures are actually pretty impressive, packing hundreds of computing cabinets into one pre-assembled, ready-to-install unit.

Admiral Elmo Zumwalt Jr.
6 of 15 Corbis

Namesake

The namesake for the ship: the late Admiral Elmo Zumwalt Jr., who, in 1970, at age 49, became the youngest man to serve as the US Navy's top-ranking officer. He was also seen as a champion for an equal-opportunity Navy.

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7 of 15 Courtesy: Raytheon Company

Christening ceremony

The ship's co-sponsors, Ann Zumwalt and Mouzetta Zumwalt-Weathers, daughters of the ship's namesake, broke a bottle of sparkling wine across the ship's bow to introduce it to the world.

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8 of 15 Raytheon

Great guns

The MK57 Vertical Launching System is a state-of-the-art weapon launcher designed to fire missiles for sea, land and air attacks.

Its modular electronic architecture allows Zumwalt destroyers to rapidly switch to new missile systems by minimizing the need to requalify their launchers.

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9 of 15 Raytheon

Serious sonar

The ship also has state-of-the-art tech for detecting underwater threats: The Integrated Undersea Warfare Sonar. It consists of two arrays (high and medium frequencies) in one automated, hull-mounted system.

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10 of 15 Courtesy: Raytheon Company

Advanced weapons

Zumwalt's Advanced Gun System carries two 155mm guns capable of firing long-range projectiles that can strike a target from a distance of 63 nautical miles.

At least one of the Zumwalt-class ships, the third in the series, also has been designed to support the US Navy's coming electromagnetic rail gun, expected to be deployed in 2016.

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11 of 15 Corbis

Future-forward fighting

Railguns have long been a dream for weapons designers, not to mention a staple in sci-fi series such as "Battlestar Galactica."

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12 of 15 Corbis

No explosives necessary

The strength of rail guns is in what they don't use: neither explosives nor propellant. Instead the guns rely on electromagnetic forces that can deliver a very high kinetic energy.

This high-speed video image, taken at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia, shows the test firing of an electronic railgun.

zumwalt-classddg-1000artistsconception.jpg
13 of 15 U.S. Navy/Public domain

The next generation

The USS Michael Monsoor, the second of the three planned ships, is expected to sail in 2016. Monsoor was a Navy SEAL killed during the Iraq War.

Seen in this conceptual image, the ship will have a crew size of 148 and sail at speeds of 30 knots or more.

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14 of 15 U.S. Navy/Public domain

LBJ returns from the grave

The Navy's third and final planned Zumwalt-class ship, the Lyndon B. Johnson, is the vessel most likely to sport a railgun when it launches.

The railgun would likely replace one of the two Advanced Gun Systems usually earmarked for a Zumwalt-class destroyer.

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15 of 15 U.S. Navy/Public domain

Imagined action

With luck, of course, no Zumwalt-class ship will ever have to deploy a weapon. But this conceptual image shows what the DDG-1000 might look like in battle.

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