Navy’s Futuristic Destroyer is Apparently Too Stealthy

The USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) is currently conducting at-sea tests and trials in the Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of General Dynamics Bath Iron Works/Released)The USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) is currently conducting at-sea tests and trials in the Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of General Dynamics Bath Iron Works/Released)

When it comes to naval destroyers, there’s apparently such a thing as being too stealthy.

The U.S. Navy’s new Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyer (DDG 1000) is so covert that during normal peacetime operations its crew plan to sail with giant reflectors — reflective cylinders hoisted in the air — to ensure other ships can see it.

A lobsterman in Maine, Lawrence Pye, told The Associated Press that during a recent outing his radar indicated a 40- or 50-foot fishing vessel was approaching. It turned out to be the hulking 610-foot warship.

“It’s pretty mammoth when it’s that close to you,” Pye told the news service.

The Zumwalt already is 50 times more difficult to detect on radar than other destroyers in the fleet. But it will be even stealthier after the testing equipment loaded onto the ship for trials is removed, Zumwalt program manager Capt. James Downey said.

The reflective material that will be used aboard the Zumwalt will look like metal cylinders. Other vessels have also used the material during difficult navigation conditions, such as in heavy fog or busy ship lanes.

Pye was not the first Maine mariner to encounter the Zumwalt while it was out on sea trials. In December, the ship actually answered the distress call of a fisherman who had a heart attack.

When the Coast Guard rescue helicopter concluded it would be too dangerous to try and hoist the fishermen, Dale Sparrow, from the deck of his ship, a crew in a small boat from the Zumwalt came to the man’s rescue and transferred him to the destroyer’s deck. From there, the Coast Guard crew from Air Station Cape Cod hoisted him and transported him the shore, where he was rushed to the Maine Medical Center.

After the ordeal, Sparrow was listed in stable condition, according to an article in the Portland Press Herald.

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Bryant Jordan
Bryant Jordan is a reporter for Military.com. He can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BryantJordan.