US Navy’s Futuristic Destroyer Is Too Stealthy

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The US Navy’s brand new futuristic destroyer has one little problem: it’s too quiet. The Navy’s new Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyer is so quiet that during normal operations it will be sailing equipped with giant reflectors – reflective cylinders – set up so others can see it.

This is often a necessary precaution during peacetime for advanced craft. But to demonstrate why it’s paramount for safety, Defence Tech reports on a lobsterman in Maine who was startled to find out that the 12-to-15m vessel he spotted on his radar was actually a 186m warship when it came upon him. And that’s with the reflectors in action.

“It’s pretty mammoth when it’s that close to you,” he said.

Zumwalt-class ships are already pretty stealthy. They’re about 50 times more difficult to detect on radar than other destroyers, but it will be significantly stealther when it will be loaded with testing equipment designed to make it even more covert, said Zumwalt programme manager Capt James Downey said.

The reflectors to be used aboard the Zumwalt will look like giant metal cylinders, but that’s not the only kind of equipment used to improve a craft’s visibility (both visual and radar). During peacetime operations it is almost standard practice for stealthy or small vessels to use some sort of visibility increasing apparatus.

The practice serves two purposes. It improves safety dramatically – after all, it’s much easier to hit something when you don’t know it’s there. But another reason is that sometimes you don’t want your enemies to know quite how stealthy you can really be.