Earlier this week the Zumwalt (DDG-1000) began sea trials. The first of a probable three ships, Zumwalt once represented the future of U.S. naval surface warfare. Budget shortfalls, changed priorities and predictable cost overruns cut the projected purchase from a fleet-sustaining thirty-two units to an experimental trio of ships.
Still, Zumwalt represents a technological marvel, including an array of innovations that set her apart from every other ship in the U.S. Navy, and indeed the world. Her value as an experimental test bed for new concepts, architectures and technologies may, over time, exceed her value as a military unit. In this she joins a long tradition of experimental warships, vessels that often had more impact as technological marvels than as useful ships of war. Here are the five most important experimental vessels of the modern seafaring age