Ship design is as much a study in proportions as anything else, but sometimes the most ridiculous elements lay out of view, below the waterline. Case in point: the gargantuan brass screws on the US Navy's Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers.

It's hard to get any real sense of scale with something this massive, but check out the picture above and notice that the props are almost the same height as the ship's freeboard. The USS Stethem is basically the muscle car of the high-seas, with four General Electric LM2500 gas turbines – a variation of the CF6 turbofan engine used on many wide-body airliners – putting out a combined 108,000 horsepower. Officially, the Arleigh Burke Class can top out at about 30 kts, but reports say its true top speed is somewhere closer to 35 kts, or just over a whopping 40 mph.

This shot of the USS Curtis Wilbur in drydock shows just how much surface area is on each of its variable pitch screws. If they're feathered, each screw acts as a speed brake, a maneuver known as a "crash-back." That allows the 9,000-ton destroyer to go from around 36mph to a dead stop in about 20 seconds. In some circumstances it can result in a pretty decent amount of water coming up over the ship's stern.

So next time you take in the angular lines and imposing presence of the Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer, just remember that one of its most impressive features remains submerged – a pair of ridiculously muscular 17-foot screws.

Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer who maintains the website Foxtrot Alpha for Jalopnik.com You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address Tyler@Jalopnik.com