No one sees the USS Zumalt coming. Thanks to its tumblehome hull and distinct radar signature, the enormous U.S. Navy Destroyer only registers as a 40-50 foot ship on radar.
Lobsterman Lawrence Pye spotted the Zumwalt while fishing off the coast of Maine. Glancing at his radar, he didn’t think much of the medium-sized ‘fishing vessel’ headed his direction. Pye told the Associated Press that when the vessel finally came into view, his small skiff came face-to-face with a 610-foot warship.
“It’s pretty mammoth when it’s that close to you,” Pye said.
But this wasn’t even Zumwalt’s final form. During the encounter with Pye, the Zumwalt was outfitted with large reflective cylinders that makes it easier to spot by other vessels. With the testing equipment installed, the Zumwalt is only 50 times harder to detect than a normal destroyer.
When the U.S. Navy destroyer is commissioned and officially set loose on the seas, it will leave those cylinders at home in order to truly blend in amongst the waves. At that level of stealth, Pye might not have even been aware of the vessel at all.
The vessel has been in development since 2001, but only one Zumwalt-class ship has reached initial operational capacity (IOC). The Navy hopes to one day replace the battleship with stealthy, multi-role destroyers like the Zumwalt.