Reports of the USS Zumwalt's christening being delayed until next spring have been greatly exaggerated. In a surprise move, the US Navy instead launched the next-generation destroyer from its berth in Bath, Maine early this morning.

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"This is the largest ship Bath Iron Works has ever constructed and the Navy's largest destroyer. The launch was unprecedented in both its size and complexity," said Capt. Jim Downey, the Zumwalt-class program manager for the Navy's Program Executive Office, Ships in a press release disseminated this morning. "Due to meticulous planning and execution, the operation went very smoothly. I'm extremely pleased with the results and applaud the combined efforts of the Navy-industry team."

The ship is expected to reach operational capacity—that is, acquire a full crew compliment, teach them the ins and outs of the vessel, and prepare them for combat operations—by early 2016.

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And given that the Zumwalt can produce power on the magnitude of 78 MW, there's a solid chance that this littoral Destroyer could also play test bed to the Navy's top secret railgun prototype system—capable of firing a projectile at seven times the speed of sound—which has been undergoing feverish development over the past few years. [BI]

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