On board the USS Zumwalt, the Navy's brand new, $4 billion battleship

Navy's new battleship
Navy's new battleship 02:19

ABOARD THE USS ZUMWALT -- There has never been a Navy destroyer like this -- never one that looked like this and never one that cost so much.

The look is easy to explain; The ship is designed to be stealthy. All of its sharp angles are meant to deflect radar beams sent out by anyone trying to find it.

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The USS Zumwalt CBS News

“The ship has a radar cross section one-fiftieth of its previous classes of destroyers,” said its captain, James Kirk.

Kirk took CBS News aboard the USS Zumwalt on its journey from Norfolk, Virginia up the Chesapeake Bay to Baltimore, where on Saturday it will be commissioned as a ship of the line.

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Capt. James Kirk CBS News

It is chock full of new technologies, which allow the 600-foot vessel to be manned by just 147 sailors.

“Previous class of destroyers have about 300 sailors, so we have about half the number of sailors running a ship that’s one and a half times the size,” Kirk said.

Among the new technologies are automated gun mounts. Gun barrels are hidden from sight to be stealthy, but can hurl a satellite-guided shell more than 60 miles.

The Zumwalt has a huge amount of space for a Navy warship, which allows the crew to bring the ammunition in on a forklift, and an elevator takes the ammunition down to the magazine and the rounds are then automatically loaded into the gun.

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The Zumwalt is a battleship for the 21st century, designed to strike targets in a country like North Korea, according to Ron O’Rourke of the Congressional Research Service.

“With their guns, they could reach in from either side of the peninsula, pretty far in, to cover a large portion of the territory of the peninsula,” O’Rourke said.

But the new technologies kept driving the cost up, and the number of ships the Navy could afford down from 32 to just three. That explains why the Zumwalt alone cost an astronomical $4 billion. It’s now up to the ship’s crew to make the Navy’s newest destroyer pay off.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.