The first US Navy warfighting vessels to be armed with hypersonic missiles will be the stealth Zumwalt-class destroyers, the service’s top admiral said, according to USNI News.
While the Navy was expected to field hypersonic weaponry on its cruise-missile submarines first, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said at a Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments event Tuesday that the service intended to start with the Zumwalts.
“Our biggest R&D effort is in hypersonics — to deliver that capability in 2025 on a surface ship and then on Block V [Virginia-class] submarines,” Gilday said, adding that fielding hypersonic weaponry aboard the Zumwalt-class destroyers would be an “important move” toward turning these ships into strike platforms.
The Zumwalt-class destroyers were designed to fight in littoral waters, carrying out land-attack and naval-fire support missions. Their primary weapon was to be the Advanced Gun System, consisting of a pair of 155 mm guns.
Before the Navy can arm its Zumwalt-class destroyers with these weapons, it needs to not only finish developing the weapon but also figure out how to integrate it on the destroyers, which don’t have vertical-launch-system cells large enough for them.
The Navy sent out a solicitation in mid-March asking industry partners for solutions on how the Zumwalts could be reconfigured to carry the larger hypersonic missiles. The sources-sought notice is looking at an advanced payload module capable of carrying hypersonic missiles in a “three-pack configuration.”
Speaking Tuesday, Gilday also expressed interest in using the substantial power-generation capabilities of the Zumwalt-class destroyers to support directed-energy weaponry for defense against emerging threats.