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August 28, 2021

BIW sends third and last Zumwalt-class Navy destroyer to sea trials

Courtesy / BIW The future USS Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG 1002) passed by Fort Popham on Friday as the destroyer made its way to sea trials.

Resembling perhaps a spaceship more than a Navy ship, Bath Iron Works’ final Zumwalt-class destroyer went to sea Friday.

The future USS Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG 1002) slipped down the Kennebec River from the Bath yard, past Fort Popham, and into the Gulf of Maine for a series of sea trials.

Also called builders trials, the open-water tests allow a shipbuilder’s customer — in this case the U.S. Navy — to see how a new vessel performs. The DDG 1002 trials began on the birthday of the ship’s namesake, the 36th U.S. president, and are expected to last several days.

BIW laid the keel for the 610-foot-long guided missile warship in 2017, and it was christened in 2019. After it is fully tested, commissioned and outfitted, DDG 1002 will operate out of San Diego as home port.

The ship will join just two others like it, both Bath-built. The Zumwalt-class destroyers, named for former Navy Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, are multipurpose stealth vessels, with an inward-sloping, “tumblehome” hull and flat, angled surfaces designed to evade radar detection.

The Department of Defense originally planned 32 of the high-tech ships when they were planned almost 20 years ago. But over the years, budget constraints and changes in naval strategy reduced the number to three.

At roughly $4.2 billion apiece, the Zumwalt destroyers are more than twice as expensive as the Navy’s slightly smaller DDG 51, or Arleigh Burke-class, destroyers, which have been the staple of BIW’s shipbuilding since the 1980s.

“The sea trials of Lyndon B. Johnson and its delivery are important milestones in their own right, but also represent a pending shift for the BIW workforce to focusing exclusively on building DDG 51s, the most versatile surface combatant in the U.S. Navy,” BIW spokesman David Hench told Mainebiz on Monday.

The most recent Burke destroyer to leave Bath was the USS Daniel Inouye (DDG 118). It conducted sea trials in December and is expected to “sail away” to its commissioning and active duty this fall, Hench said.

BIW currently has six other Burke-class ships under construction. A pending federal budget bill authorizes $3.7 billion for the procurement of two more, which BIW can compete to build.

There are currently over 60 Burke-class destroyers in service, and BIW has produced 37 of them, including the first one in 1989.

The company is owned by General Dynamics Corp. (NYSE: GD), a Reston, Va.-based defense contractor, and employs 6,500 people.

Courtesy / BIW
BIW workers observe as DDG 1002 prepares for sea trials.

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