On Monday, the Navy launched its newest stealth destroyer, the DDG-1000 USS Zumwalt, into the waters off Maine. Further, although the Zumwalt isn't completely done, it's already a technological marvel of precision and engineering. Even better? General Dynamics (NYSE:GD) subsidiary Bath Iron Works is on time and on budget when it comes to the Zumwalt. Here's what else you need to know.
Setting the standard for future destroyers
The Zumwalt is the first of its kind when it comes to massive stealth destroyers. It has a revolutionary wave-piercing hull, and at 610 feet long, it's 100 feet longer than the next largest destroyer. In addition, the ship was built in such a way that it rides low to the water and is stealthier than any other destroyer. Plus, it's wrapped in a carbon-fiber composite and has a power plant that can produce 78 megawatts of electricity -- meaning it's the perfect platform for next-generation weapons such as the electromagnetic rail gun. Even better? Thanks to its impressive array of technology, It can be crewed with just 158 sailors -- that's about half of what it takes to crew current destroyers.
More importantly, unlike other military acquisitions -- specifically, Lockheed Martin's (NYSE:LMT) "cheaper" Littoral Combat Ship, and Huntington Ingalls Industries' (NYSE:HII) CVN-78 Gerald R. Ford, the Zumwalt is on time and on budget.
Not headed to combat, yet
Bath Iron Works still has to finish construction on the Zumwalt, but it expects to do that, and turn it over to the Navy, sometime next year. Once it does, the Zumwalt will be the most advanced and deadly destroyer the Navy has -- not only is it stealthy, but it was originally envisioned for shore bombardment and features a new gun that fires rocket-propelled warheads up to 100 miles, along with advanced sonar and guided missiles. Unfortunately, the cost was so high the Navy had to scale back its order from more than 20 down to three.
At least that's the order as it stands now. According to a Congressional Service Report, the Navy is looking at version of the DDG-1000 that's equipped with air and missile defense radar, and capable of ballistic missile defense. The report states, "An AMDR-equipped, BMD-capable version of the DDG-1000 could be pursued as either a replacement for the Flight III DDG-51 or a successor to the Flight III DDG-51" and that "such a ship might be more capable in some regards than the Flight III DDG-51."
What to watch
The USS Zumwalt just recently made it out of dry dock, but the Navy is already impressed -- as evidenced by its looking at the possibility of purchasing a version of the DDG-1000 as a replacement for, or successor to, the Flight III DDG-51. This would be great news for Bath Iron Works, and for Raytheon (NYSE:RTN), which is the prime contractor for the DDG-1000's combat system.
Of course, this is all a big "if." Right now the Navy is struggling to pay for the ships it has on order, and sequestration's not making it any easier. But with the success of the Zumwalt, its appeal to the Navy is something to watch.
Fool contributor Katie Spence has no position in any stocks mentioned. Follow her on Twitter: @TMFKSpence. The Motley Fool owns shares of General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.