The skipper of the stealthy Zumwalt is Navy Capt. James Kirk, and yes, he's used to the jokes about the name he shares with the TV starship commander played by actor William Shatner.
Kirk takes it in stride.
"I don't take any offense," he told The Associated Press in an interview. "If it's a helpful moniker that brings attention to help us to do what we need to do to get the ship into the fleet and into combat operations, then that's fine."
While it's no starship, the technology-laden Zumwalt taking shape at Maine's Bath Iron Works is unlike any other U.S. warship.
The Navy's largest destroyer will feature a composite deckhouse with hidden
radar and sensors and an angular shape that minimizes its radar signature. Its unusual wave-piercing hull will reduce the ship's wake.
It's the first U.S. surface warship to use electric propulsion, and its
power plant is capable of producing enough electricity to light up a
small city and to power future weapons like the electromagnetic rail
Inside, it's just as unique. The number of sailors needed to
stand watch will be reduced through the use of cameras and video
monitors that show what's going on outside. The bridge will indeed look
like something from "Star Trek" with two chairs surrounded by nearly 360
degrees of video monitors.
A handful of reporters accompanying Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday got a first look at the ship's interior while it's under construction. It's due to be christened in
The 610-foot-long ship has the highest level of automation on a U.S. surface warship, with systems in place to combat flooding and to put out fires, among other things. Because of automation and technology, the number of sailors needed to run it will be nearly
half the current Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.
All this whiz-bam technology comes at a price that sailors couldn't have imagined in the
1960s, when the first episodes of "Star Trek" aired on television. The first-in-class Zumwalt will cost northward of $3.5 billion, a price tag so high that the Navy was forced to reduce the number of ships in the series to just three.
The "Star Trek" comparisons were inevitable even before "Star Trek" actor George Takei used his popular Facebook page to point out the similarities of Kirk's name.
Kirk, a Bethesda, Md., native and 1990 Naval Academy graduate, said the jokes
about his name began early in his career, with colleagues telling him
that they couldn't wait for him to reach the rank of captain.
The Navy skipper points out that his name is actually James A. Kirk, while
the fictional Starship Enterprise captain was James "Jim" T. Kirk. But
that didn't stop him from earning the call sign "Tiberius" — the
fictional Kirk's middle name — while working with an aircraft carrier
strike group. That was later shortened to just "T."
While he doesn't mind the Starfleet jokes, Kirk said that people sometimes focus
too much on the technology incorporated in the futuristic-looking
"Yes, we're going to talk about all of the wonderful technology, but it still requires the sailors who are going to bring her to life," he said.