Sceptics line up broadside on $3bn super-stealth US destroyer

A SUPER-STEALTHY warship that could underpin the US navy’s China strategy will be able to sneak up on coastlines virtually undetected and pound targets with electromagnetic “railguns” right out of a sci-fi movie.

However, at more than $3 billion (£1.95bn) each, critics say the DDG-1000 destroyer sucks away funds that could be better used to bolster a thinly stretched US conventional fleet.

One outspoken admiral in China has scoffed that all it would take to sink the hi-tech American ship is an armada of explosive-laden fishing boats.

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With the first of the new ships set to be delivered in 2014, the stealth destroyer is being heavily promoted by the Pentagon as the most advanced destroyer in history – a silver bullet of stealth.

It has been called a perfect fit for what Washington now considers the most strategically important region in the world – Asia and the Pacific.

The DDG-1000 and other Zumwalt class ships feature a wave-piercing hull that leaves almost no wake, electric drive propulsion and advanced sonar and missiles. They are longer and heavier than existing destroyers – but will have half the crew because of automated systems and appear to be little more than a small fishing boat on radar.

Down the road, the ship is to be equipped with an electromagnetic railgun, which uses a magnetic field and electric current to fire a projectile at several times the speed of sound.

However, the sceptics are not impressed by the technology.

“Whether the navy can afford to buy many DDG-1000s must be balanced against the need for over 300 surface ships to fulfil the various missions that confront it,” said Dean Cheng, a China expert with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research institute in Washington DC.

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