Among the high-tech features included on the USS Zumwalt—cannons that fire rocket-propelled, GPS-guided rounds and stealth design that gives the 610-foot ship the radar signature of a small fishing vessel—there’s also a computer intelligence capable of preparing the ship for battle and engaging enemy targets on its own. Think of it as a gigantic floating drone: “Most UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] are a few million dollars,” says Wade Knudson, who heads the Zumwalt project for Raytheon (RTN), which made most of the ship’s computer systems. “This is a $5 billion UAV.”
Unlike aerial drones, however, the Zumwalt will still have a human crew and it will know how to anticipate their needs. If the ship’s smoke alarms and cameras detect a fire, the ship will turn on the sprinklers and seal off the area. When the fire is out, the ship knows to drain the water so the crew can investigate. All of this automation means the ship will carry a crew of just over 150—half of what would normally be required on a ship of this size. In a pinch, it can be manned by a crew of 40.
William Shatner sends a letter to Captain James Kirk
So the captain of the Navy’s new ship – the USS Zumwalt – is named James A. Kirk. This USS Zumwalt is now the Navy’s largest destroyer but, interestingly, its design and “futuristic lines” means that it shows up on enemy radar as a small fishing boat.
Shatner sent a letter to the captain upon the ship’s christening which reads as follows:
“Unfortunately I can’t be with you when your vessel is commissioned and obviously your captain, Captain Kirk, is dear to my heart. So forgive me for not attending, my schedule won’t allow me, but know that you are in our thoughts — Mr. & Mrs. Shatner — and that we bless you and hope that you have a safe journey wherever your ship takes you.”