Yes – there really is a Captain James Kirk but he is not a star ship captain. He has just taken command of the US Navy’s newest ship, the USS Zumwalt. While it has a crew of only 147 sailors and is formally called a destroyer, it actually has the tonnage of a World War 2 cruiser and, similarly, has cruiser-style six-inch (155mm) guns (mounted in enclosed turrets) to complement its cruise missile and anti-aircraft/anti-ship missile armament.
Although the warship does not have a Star Trek-style “cloaking device”, is has been specially shaped to reflect the minimum of radar energy. As such, the stealthy design looks more like a small fishing boat on enemy radar rather than the 600 foot (180 m) long giant that it is. Such stealth technology was previously applied to aircraft and certain military spacecraft to make them less visible to radar.
With its backward raked bow, it also resembles the earlier cruiser designs of World War 1 and before. Its cutting-edge design is obviously influencing others.
It was a tad surprising when a Russian billionaire, Andrey Melnichenko, showed off his new US$300 million Philippe Stark-designed super-yacht in London when he sailed it up the Thames. The ship, dubbed Motor Yacht A, looks surprisingly like a Zumwalt class destroyer. Perhaps designer Philippe Stark was having one of his stealthy copycat moments.
The Russian billionaire briefly parked it next to the real-life World War 2 cruiser and veteran of the D-Day bombardment, HMS Belfast. That venerable vessel has its six-inch guns famously aimed at the Scratchwood service station 18.5 km away on the M1 motorway. This is to emphasise their range, rather than due to any irritation over inflated petrol prices at Scratchwood.
Apart from being involved in the D-Day landings, HMS Belfast also did its bit to help Russia by guarding the Arctic convoys and helping to sink the German battlecruiser, Scharnhorst, in the Battle of the North Cape. Now that really was a warship.