The Zumwalt features a tumblehome hull optimized for stealth, a new propulsion and power distribution system, and a software environment that ties together nearly every system on the ship.
"We've got a builder's sea trial with a notional start of the 7th of December," Sean Stackley, the Navy"s top official for research, acquisition and development, said in an interview with Defense News.
"That is the critical milestone in terms of being able to deliver in the spring. We need a successful trial. We'll learn things from the trial, we always do. First-of-class, we expect to learn a lot."
The roughly 15,700-ton Zumwalt has been under construction since 2008 in Maine at the Bath Iron Works shipyard of General Dynamics. But development and design started even earlier than that.
But the Zumwalt will not be fully operational when it leaves Maine next year. Its mission systems – which include the ship's combat systems, radars and other sensors – will be installed when it reaches its home port of San Diego, Defense News reported.
"This two-phased delivery approach has been in place since the contract was first struck," Stackley said.
The Navy plans to build only three DDG-1000s. It originally planned to build 32 ships, then reduced that number to 12 before settling on three. The service simply was unable to afford the ship's price tag – $4 billion each, not including research and development. Total program costs are near $23 billion.