NEW YORK — In appearance, it hearkens back to the Civil War ironclad Monitor, but the Navy's newest class of destroyer represents a revolution in modern warship design.
Named for Adm. Elmo M. Zumwalt, chief of naval operations in the Vietnam War, the new warship was announced Tuesday by President Clinton.
The Navy hopes the Zumwalt-class destroyer, also known as DD-21, will cost less than today's ships, be operated by a crew one-third the size and accurately fire shells three times as far.
Two companies, General Dynamics and Litton Industries, are in a Navy-sponsored competition to design and build 32 of the ships, with the first three to be delivered in 2010.
Artists' renderings of the Zumwalt show a low, flat, sharply pointed hull with a pyramid-shaped superstructure near the stern. The deck is empty but for two guns and a missile launcher. The low silhouette appears to be part of a radar-thwarting "stealth" concept.
The ship features an all-electric propulsion system, two 155-millimeter guns that can hit a tennis court 60 miles away with a 250-pound shell, and an operating system that cuts crew size from 320 on a conventional destroyer to about 95.