The guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt, left, is underway in formation with the littoral combat ship USS Independence on the final leg of its three-month journey to its new homeport in San Diego. The USS Zumwalt arrived in Ketchikan Saturday. (Courtesy Photo |U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Ace Rheaume)

The guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt, left, is underway in formation with the littoral combat ship USS Independence on the final leg of its three-month journey to its new homeport in San Diego. The USS Zumwalt arrived in Ketchikan Saturday. (Courtesy Photo |U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Ace Rheaume)

Navy’s high-tech warship makes first trip to Alaska, stops in Ketchikan

Trip offers chance for training and public tours.

Ketchikan has a rare visitor this weekend.

The USS Zumwalt, part of the Navy’s newest class of warships, arrived in Ketchikan Saturday morning, and it will be open to public tours 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.

“The point of this stop in port is to engage with the community, and let them see where their tax dollars are going and what the Navy is out there doing,” said Commander Brandon Raile, a Navy Chief, in an interview with the Juneau Empire.

Raile said the last time a Navy ship made a stop at Ketchikan was in 2005 when the USS Ogden was in port, and Juneau was visited by the USS O’Kane in May 2017.

Steve Corporon, director of port and harbors for the City of Ketchikan, said some bigger fenders were needed to make sure the ship would fit at the dock without damaging either the vessel or the dock.

He said the ship’s presence would be a departure from the pre-cruise ship season status quo.

“This time of year everything is exciting, I guess,” Corporon said.

[Calling all beardos, there’s a new club for you]

Raile said that nearly 15-year gap between visits to Ketchikan likely played a role in why Ketchikan was chosen for a visit. Plus, there’s a strategic reason to send the high-tech ship to Southeast Alaska.

The USS Zumwalt pictured here during a voyage to San Diego is in Ketchikan this weekend. (Courtesy Photo | U.S. Navy photo courtesy of General Dynamics Bath Iron Works/Released)

The USS Zumwalt pictured here during a voyage to San Diego is in Ketchikan this weekend. (Courtesy Photo | U.S. Navy photo courtesy of General Dynamics Bath Iron Works/Released)

“From Alaska, for air times you can get to pretty much anywhere in the northern hemisphere in under nine hours,” Raile said. “Another reason is, as we’re all aware, is the changing environment up here.”

He said receding ice in the Arctic is creating water ways that previously didn’t exist and that means “everybody is more interested in the area for trade and other purposes.”

“It’s important that the Navy does more and more exercise up in this part of the world,” Raile said. “We have the opportunity of a ship that needs something to do and something that needs to be done. It works out pretty well.”

[Going to bat for Juneau’s winged mammals]

The trip from San Diego, where the ship is based, to Ketchikan serves as a chance for servicemen to familiarize themselves with operating the 610-footlong ship also known as DDG 1000.

“The purpose of this whole underway for them is training and testing out the new equipment,” Raile said. “This is a very new ship.”

Construction on the Zumwalt started in 2009, and according to the Navy, it is the largest advanced surface combatant in the world.

The future USS Zumwalt, pictured here underway for the first time conducting at-sea tests and trials on the Kennebeck River, made a stop in Ketchikan Saturday, March 23. ( Courtesy Photo | U.S. Navy photo)

The future USS Zumwalt, pictured here underway for the first time conducting at-sea tests and trials on the Kennebeck River, made a stop in Ketchikan Saturday, March 23. ( Courtesy Photo | U.S. Navy photo)

The ship is named for Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., a World War II, Vietnam and Korea veteran, who served as the 19th Chief of Naval Operations.

The USS Zumwalt was launched in October 2013, according to the Navy.

It recently made a similar trip to British Columbia and more travel will be in its future after the stop in Ketchikan.

“I can’t talk about where it is going after that, but back underway,” Raile said.


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


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