As someone interested in the cutting edge, one of the best things about Road Trip 2010 has been getting a rare look at the U.S. Navy’s next-generation aircraft carrier and the world’s most advanced submarine.
But that wasn’t enough for me. I also had to see where the Navy is going with destroyers, and that’s why my visit to Raytheon’s Seapower Capability Center here was such a good investment of time: I got a chance for a lengthy discussion on the next-generation, Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer, which the Navy expects to be a standard bearer for the next 50 years.
In part, getting a briefing on the DDG 1000, as the new ship is known, was a perfect closing of two Road Trip circles. First, because its radar system, as well as some others it is using, will be the same as that of the Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier, which I had seen being built at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding in Newport News, Va.
At the same time, when I visited NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va., I was escorted past a training site being used to school Naval personnel on the DDG 1000’s dual band radar. I didn’t even know then that the DDG would end up playing a more substantial role in Road Trip.
While the Zumwalt-class destroyer has been in the works for several years, its development comes at an opportune time, suggested my host for the day, Tom Laliberty, a director of integrated combat systems for Raytheon, which is leading the development of the technical systems of the vessel. That’s because, he said, President Obama has announced a shift from land-based ballistic missile defense to sea-based systems, largely as a result of the difficulties of coordinating with partner nations.