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Warrior Video Above: USS Zumwalt Commander Capt. Carlson Describes Riding the Stealthy Ship in Stormy Seas

By Kris Osborn

(Washington, D.C.) When faced with high winds, up to 20-foot waves and dangerously rough seas -- which Navy ships can survive? … and continue to wage war on the open sea?

Would the new stealthy USS Zumwalt destroyer capsize or suffer extreme damage if its wave-piercing Tumblehome hull were subject to massively dangerous stormy sea conditions?

Such questions, often put to the test with new ships during “sea-trials,” were of particular relevance with the Zumwalt, as it is a first-in-class high-tech warship built with a sleek, more linear, stealthy hull. There have been persistent questions as to whether the ship might have stability problems in dangerous sea states, given that it does not have a standard “flare” shaped ship hull used by most destroyers and carriers. Rather, it has a thinner, sharper, smaller wave-piercing hull intended to increase stealth, maneuverability and speed.

The answer, according to the Commanding Officer of the USS Zumwalt Capt. Andrew Carlson, is that the ship has remarkable, if even somewhat surprising, stability.

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“We took advantage of a Gulf of Alaska storm which reached Sea State 6 conditions. We were able to drive around in that at full power,” (Sea State 6: A world Meteorological Organization Standard specifying 13 - to 20 foot waves and rough seas). I had some hesitations and I knew the ship rode differently, but I would rather ride this ship in heavy seas,” Carlson said recently during a presentation at the Surface Navy Association Symposium, Arlington.

Carlson explained that, while the rough seas were as always nerve-racking, the ship seemed to “come back” from a roll caused by extremely rough seas. He said that during the heavy storm, “green water waves were coming up on the bow.”

“You get used to the roll period. It is short. If you are working on top on a cruiser in rough seas, you wonder if you are going to come back (roll back flat in rough seas). With Zumwalt, we don’t experience that. You get used to finer oscillations,” Carlson said.

Carlson, who said the Navy still has work to do assessing and preparing the ship for war, said “these sorts of lessons quiet the anxiety.”


Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army - Acquisition, Logistics& Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

--- Kris Osborn, Managing Editor ofWARRIORMAVEN (CLICK HERE) can be reached