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New Navy stealth destroyer rescues Maine fisherman

The USS Zumwalt is the first ship of a new class of high-tech, stealth destroyers.

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The USS Zumwalt is guided by tugboats as it passes Spring Point Light, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015, off South Portland, Maine. The warship is the first in a class of futuristic destroyers that will have an angular but low external profile to maximize stealth on the outside, and next-generation power systems to enable the ship to run energy-demanding future weapons and sensor systems on the inside. The ship is on a weeklong test of its onboard systems, according to the Navy.

(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

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The U.S. Navy's new stealth destroyer, the future USS Zumwalt, assisted in the rescue of a fisherman who had a medical emergency early Saturday off the Maine coast, officials said.

The 600-foot, 15,000-ton Zumwalt — the largest destroyer ever built for the Navy — was out for sea trials when Coast Guard officials received a distress call from the fishing boat Danny Boy around 3 a.m. The distress call said the Danny Boy's captain was suffering from chest pains about 40 miles southeast of Portland, according to officials.

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A Jayhawk helicopter responded from Air Station Cape Cod, but the crew determined it would be too dangerous to hoist the fisherman up due to the configuration of the fishing boat's deck.

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A crew and small boat from the Zumwalt transferred the man to the destroyer's deck, officials said. The helicopter crew then hoisted the patient on board and transported him to shore, where he was taken to a hospital.

"Our main concern with this type of medical emergency is to recover the patient safely and transport them to a higher level care as quickly as possible," said Lt. David Bourbeau, public affairs officer at Sector Northern New England. "Fortunately the Zumwalt was operating in the area and was able to provide valuable assistance."

The Zumwalt left Bath Iron Works for sea trials on Monday.

Bath Iron Works will be testing the ship's performance and making tweaks this winter. The goal is to deliver it to the Navy sometime next year.

The Zumwalt is the Navy’s first surface warship to feature all-electric propulsion, which is powered by two gas turbines capable of generating 78 megawatts – enough electricity to light 780,000 100-watt light bulbs. That’s sufficient to handle the ship’s propulsion, weaponry and other electricity needs.

Built by Bath Iron Works at a cost of $4.3 billion, the Zumwalt is the first ship of a new class of high-tech destroyers. Its deckhouse is entirely enclosed atop the angular ship, which sits low in the water, like the iron-hulled steamship the USS Monitor, the first ironclad warship commissioned by the Union Navy, the Portland Press Herald reported when the ship pulled into Portland for supplies Thursday.

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“I call it the ghost ship,” said Ernest Bowie, 79, a retired BIW electrician who lives in Portland, as he joined the small crowd near the terminal. “It’s a weird-looking thing.

Wired magazine recently reported that the Zumwait stealth design and cost may mean only 2 or 3 of the ship's class may be built (instead of the original 32. How well the ship might perform in high seas is a concern that's been raised. 

That stealth may come at the cost of safety, though: Eight current and former Navy officers have publicly doubted the ship’s stability, according to Defense News. And a 2007 report, “Dynamic Stability of Flared and Tumblehome Hull Forms in Waves”, presented at the 9th International Ship Stability Workshop in Germany, concluded that “Increasing wave heights … lead to drastic reductions in the stability of the tumblehome topside hull form.” Meanwhile, “even in steep waves, with large initial heel angles and roll rates, the flared topside had very few instance of capsize.”