The signing of the documents signifying the delivery of the Zumwalt (DDG 1000) deckhouse (seen in background) to the US Navy.
The signing of the documents signifying the delivery of the Zumwalt (DDG 1000) deckhouse (seen in background) to the US Navy.

The 900-ton carbon composite deckhouse houses the ship's bridge, radars, antennas and intake/exhaust systems and is designed to provide a significantly smaller radar cross-section than any other ship in today's fleet.

Ingalls is building the composite deckhouse and hangar for the DDG 1000 class at the company's Composite Center of Excellence in Gulfport, Mississippi, USA. This world-class composite manufacturing facility is capable of building large-scale composite structures for the marine industry. Specialising in vacuum-assisted resin transfer moulding (RTM) for low-cost, large-scale component infusions, the centre has more than 18 000 ft2 of flat panel moulds. It is also home to the world's largest numerically controlled five-axis saw capable of sawing, drilling and milling very large composite components to highly accurate tolerances.

Made almost exclusively using cored composite construction processes, the Zuwalt deckhouse and hangar take full advantage of the properties of carbon fibre materials and balsa wood cores. When cured, the composite structure is as strong as steel but requires little maintenance and is very lightweight. These attributes reduce maintenance cost over the life span of the ship due to its corrosion resistance in the marine environment and allow for improved hull stability, more payload and increased ship speeds.

"Building composite ship structures takes a very unique skill-set and work ethic, and the men and women in Gulfport have done an outstanding job," says said DDG 1000 Program Manager Steve Sloan.

"This is one of the largest carbon composite structures ever built, and we are delivering a fine product with the utmost quality."

The deckhouse structure will be integrated to join the other eight of nine 'ultra units' making up DDG 1000. Steel base plates that are bolted to the composite structure will be welded to the steel hull of DDG 1000. Ingalls delivered the composite hangar and the aft peripheral vertical launch system units for DDG 1000 and has begun work on the composite components for DDG 1001.

The DDG 1000 Zumwalt-class destroyer is the US Navy's next-generation guided-missile destroyer.