Watch The Deckhouse Of The Most Futuristic Ship Drop Into Place

No matter which way you slice it, the new Zumwalt-class destroyer is one of the most futuristic ships in the world. That sort of futurism isn't limited to its operations on water. It starts even while it's being built, as they basically snap the whole thing into place like Lego bricks.

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The USS Michael Monsoor, named after a US Navy SEAL killed during the Iraq War when he jumped on a grenade to save his teammates and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, is currently under construction at Bath Iron Works in Maine. Modern warships aren't entirely built from the keel up, as in traditional shipbuilding. Instead, huge sections of the ship are fabricated in blocks on land, and then attached together.

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That's basically what you're seeing here. In the Michael Monsoor's case, the deckhouse, as the big sticking-up bit is known, was manufactured in Mississippi, then placed on a barge and shipped up to Maine for final assembly, where it was placed on top of the rest of the hull.

The deckhouse of the ship itself isn't made out of super-hardened steel, as you would find on a destroyer of old, but rather a carbon fiber-balsawood (yes, balsawood, the same as you find on model airplanes) composite. Carbon fiber itself is incredibly strong, and by using it in the deckhouse up top, it saves a ton of weight and lowers the center of mass in the tumblehome hull design. The carbon fiber-balsa combination also resists corrosion and adds to the boat's already considerable stealthiness, which are two huge factors in building a ship of the future.

Despite the lightweight construction, the deckhouse still weighs about 1000 tons, making this an incredibly impressive lifting job in its own right. But once everything was in place and the deckhouse was up in the air, the only thing left to do was slide the rest of the 610-foot-long ship underneath it. And then, you know, install all the radars, antennas, and everything else that goes inside it, and integrate it all together.

But from the sounds that the Navy is making, it appears as if it's all going well. Expect to see the USS Michael Monsoor in commission in 2016.

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Update: We've changed the headline to reflect a slight wording issue. In Navy terms, the "head" is the toilet. The deckhouse is not a giant toilet, despite our wildest dreams.

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DISCUSSION

The balsa is probably sandwiched between carbon fiber (and maybe other composites) sheets to increase its strength to weight ratio. Never done it with balsa before, but I've seen and done similar techniques for aircraft. It is amazingly strong for the weight.

What I don't see is how it will be protected from weapons fire. A strong structure is not the same as armor, and it looks like there will be a lot of sensitive equipment inside (not to mention sailors) that needs protecting. Any info on this?