Thousands at Bath Iron Works cheer christening of ‘most advanced Navy ship in the world’
BATH — A crowd estimated at nearly 6,000 cheered as the lead ship of a new class of U.S. Navy destroyers – one that speakers said will be the most advanced in the world – was christened April 12 at Bath Iron Works.
“This ship is a modern marvel,” Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said. “She will support our allies, assist those in need, and deter and defeat, if necessary, any adversary.
He said the increase in ships is so the Navy will continue to be at the right place not just at the right time, but all the time.
The two-hour ceremony was marked by speeches from Navy officials, Maine elected officials, and the children of the man for whom the class of ships is named: former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo Russell “Bud” Zumwalt Jr.
The USS Zumwalt DDG 1000 is a $4 billion guided missile destroyer, designed to provide missile and gun support for troops ashore, boasts advanced technology and the ability to accommodate advanced air missiles, rail guns and lasers.
Mabus said American technology and innovation has always led the world. He said, however, that the heart of the Navy has always been the skill, dedication, and courage of the men and women in the Navy.
Speakers also lauded the legacy of the ship’s namesake.
“She is a living manifestation of the courage of he whose name she bears,” U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said. “And finally, she is a statement of confidence; confidence in her builders – in every weld, every wire, every line of her bow, and confidence as well in those who will take her from us on their way to the deep waters of a dangerous world.”
“We pray she will never see war, or smell the acrid smoke of battle; that her capacity and awful capabilities will instead deter enemies, and her greatest victories will be those battles thus never fought,” King said.
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the ships such as the Zumwalt class will carry out the crucial mission of the Navy at a time of reduced budgets.
Mabus pointed out when he first served in the Navy on a similar-sized ship there was a crew of 1,000. The Zumwalt DDG 1000 will have a crew of 158.
Retired Lt. Col. James Zumwalt, son of the late Admiral Zumwalt, recalled being at a christening ceremony at Bath Iron Works in 1958 as a 10-year-old when his father was going to be assuming command of the U.S.S. Dewey.
He said every ship has a soul and its commander’s responsibility is to shape that soul. The Zumwalt DDG 1000 will be commanded by Navy Capt. James Kirk. Zumwalt said that he met Kirk, and has a lot of faith in him.
His daughters Mouzetta Zumwalt-Weathers and Ann Zumwalt broke the ceremonial bottles over the bow of the ship.
BIW, the state’s largest private employer, employs 5,400 workers. BIW was awarded the contract for the Zumwalt class destroyer in February 2008. Two more are in the works at the shipyard.
The Zumwalt's home port has yet to be announced. The destroyer is expected to be in operation in 2016.